Nonprofit organizations, which are often referred to as charities, encompass a broad area of public relations work. In the United States, which has the most number of institutions working for social cause, there are almost 2 million such groups, according to GuideStar, an organization that compiles information on nonprofits. More than 6.5 million people work in the nonprofit sector. The range of nonprofit institutions is astounding, from advocacy groups to social service organizations, small city historical societies, and global foundations that disperse million-dollar grants etc.
Organizations working under social sector can be broadly classified into two-
I. ADVOCACY GROUPS-
Affecting communities to varying degrees are a number of pressing issues, from social matters such as poverty, abortion, and racism to threats such as epidemic diseases and environmental degradation. Organizations that fight for social causes can have significant impacts, both positive and negative. For example, the environment is prominent on the public agenda, primarily because of vigorous campaigns by environmental organizations. By advocating for recycling, eliminating toxic waste sites, purifying the air and water, and preserving natural resources, such organizations strongly influence our collective consciousness. Example- World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
The variety of public relation tactics that can be utilized in this sector are as follows-
1. Lobbying- Much of this is done at state and local government levels. In just one example, approximately 150 organizations have campaigned for laws to forbid smoking in public places and to restrict the sale of tobacco around the country.
2. Litigation- Organizations file suits seeking court rulings favorable to their projects or attempting to block unfavorable projects. The recent judgement by SC in Naaz Foundation case is a landmark example.
3. Mass Demonstrations- Designed to demonstrate public support for a cause and in some cases to harass the operators of projects to which a group objects, mass demonstrations require elaborate public relations machinations. Organizers must obtain permits, inform the media, and arrange transportation, housing, programs, and crowd control. A small but vocal rally can also generate media coverage.
4. Boycotts- Some boycotts achieve easily identifiable results. Others stay in effect for years with little evident success. For example, one success story occurred when the Rainforest Action Network an advocacy group abroad, boycotted Burger King because the company had been buying beef raised in cleared rain forests; the fast-food chain subsequently agreed to stop such purchases.
5. Reconciliation- Some environmental organizations have achieved good results by cooperating with corporations to solve pollution problems. The Environmental Defense Fund (US) recently joined a task force with McDonald’s to deal with the fast-food chain’s solid waste problem, which eventually led to the company’s decision to phase out its polystyrene packaging and take a leading role in reducing the waste entering landfills.
II. SOCIAL SERVICE INSTITUTIONS-
Social service organizations include social service, philanthropic, cultural, and religious groups serving the public in various ways. Because communication is essential for their success, these organizations require active and creative public relations programs.
Organizations frequently have dual roles, both service and advocacy, and serve the needs of individuals, families, and society in many ways. Among prominent organizations of this type are the American Red Cross, the National Cadet Corps (NCC), and the YMCA.
A number of PR strategies and tactics are used to advance the goals of social service organizations. These are-
1. Publicity- The news media provide well-organized channels for stimulating public interest in nonprofit organizations and are receptive to newsworthy material from these groups. Newspapers usually publish stories and announcements about meetings, training sessions, and similar routine activities. Television and radio stations broadcast important news items about organizations and are receptive to feature stories and guest appearances by organization representatives. Public relations practitioners should look for unusual or appealing personal stories, such as a retired teacher helping Asian refugee children to learn English.
2. Creation of Events- Events make news and attract crowds, offering another way to increase public awareness. Such activities might include an open house in a new hospital wing or an outdoor concert by members of the local symphony orchestra. Novel stunts sometimes draw more attention to a cause than their intrinsic value would seem to justify, but events that offer fun as well as support for a good cause are widely accepted.
3. Use of Services- Closely tied to increasing overall public awareness are efforts to encourage individuals and families to use an organization’s services. Free medical examinations, free clothing and food for the needy, family counseling, nursing services for shut-ins, cultural programs at museums and libraries, offers of scholarships, and many other services provided by nonprofit organizations cannot do anyone any good unless potential users know about them. Written and spoken material designed to attract these publics should emphasize ease of participation and privacy of services. An example of this approach is the Cancer Society’s widely publicized campaign to encourage people to be screened for colon cancer.
BIO- Bhavik Sarkhedi is Author of The Weak Point Dealer & 'Will You Walk A Mile?'