Gates Understands Timely PR

Ebola. It’s a hot word in the world these days. Hot and incredibly terrifying. It conjures up horrors without cure … and with dubious cause. It feels Old World, Medieval, something from a darker, less modern time. And these days, it’s everywhere.

There are countless groups, large and small, out there working to help, to heal, and to find a cure. And Ronn Torossian says these groups would be well advised to add PR to their programs. Consider the recent ALS Challenge. While the jury may still be out on how much the challenge “helped,” there is no doubt that many people know a lot more about ALS than they did a month ago. When it comes to funding movements, knowledge is value.

And now the fight against Ebola has found an ally who knows a thing or three about publicity. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has directed his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to pledge $50 million to fight the viral Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The donation was pledged via a press release that also intimated that it was the “Largest Ever” toward a humanitarian cause.

Gates and his PR team understand very well how much the press loves a “bigger, better, or more” headline. If you can be the best or biggest, or beat the best or biggest, you have a great chance of getting ink.

Another aspect of PR that the press appreciates is timeliness. The Gates Foundation announcement stated that the specified funds would IMMEDIATELY benefit the UN agencies and international organizations involved in fighting the viral outbreak and spread.

Next, the release offered specifics as to what could and would be done with the cash. Medical supplies would be purchased and emergency operations would be conducted. These specifics fit nicely into the press’ 5W format of “who, what, when, where, and why.” Making it easier for them to make a story makes it more likely for you to be recognized.

And then there’s the nuance of the statement. The press appreciates headlines that allow them to use superlatives such as “historic” and “global” and “epidemic.” If you have that reach, keep that in mind. And, if you don’t, consider the superlatives that would jump off the page in your sphere of influence. If you can do something to build those headlines, you will go a long way toward increasing the media’s response to your nonprofit public relations efforts.

Top Nonprofits and what Makes them Great

top-non-profitsMost people working for or associated with a nonprofit organization will tell you that they choose to be a part of that organization because it represents something that they are passionate about. For many people, the mission of a nonprofit is reason enough to get involved. There is more to being a great nonprofit organization than the mission explains Ronn Torossian. According to Torossian, there are countless minute things that top nonprofits do to make them great, and this is what helps the missions of these nonprofits to be successful.

One of the top five nonprofits is the Wounded Warrior Project. This organization’s mission is to help and raise awareness for wounded veterans. People associated with this organization cite one of the reasons for the organization’s success as being fair to its employees in regards to pay and benefits. Employees are not only passionate about their work, but they also feel they are compensated well.

The American Heart Institute is cited as one of the most organized nonprofits, and this contributes to it being one of the top five best nonprofit organizations. Organization and leadership are essential for keeping any organization running smoothly, but it is especially important for nonprofits that utilize countless volunteers each year.

Year Up is a great nonprofit that excels in the area of growth. Nonprofit organizations need to be able to spread their message in order to gain support and further their mission. Year Up accomplishes this by reaching out to benefit the community and communicating their actions clearly.

Finally, the Public Health Institute is one of top five great nonprofits due to excellent planning. While planning is important for any organization, nonprofits need to plan especially well to handle numerous volunteers, charity events, and donation collections.

All in all, each of these top five nonprofits implements similar strategies that have led to them being great. They offer fair salaries and benefits to employees, communicate regularly with anyone involved in the organization, keep things organized, focus on growth, and excel at planning. These strategies are essential for any nonprofit to be successful.

Foundation of Caring targets Human Traffickers

foundation-caringTampa, FL has been ranked as a top five destination for Human Traffickers in the nation. One Central Florida nonprofit is not taking that designation lying down. They are bringing the community together to do something about it. And Ronn Torossian says their successes may provide a template for success elsewhere.

The Florida Medical Clinic Foundation of Caring is not your typical nonprofit. Instead of tackling a single cause, the Foundation looked around at the causes of several societal ills in their community and chose a widespread, multifaceted approach to combating these issues.

According to Foundation of Caring Director Deb Thielen, the Foundation is dedicated to supporting and helping children and families across Central Florida. “Because of our unique situation, we are able to take two and two and get seven. In other words, we can take resources from different places, combine them and create a difference that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

The Foundation has raised millions for countless local charities benefitting thousands of local children and families. Now they have turned their attention on the scourge of Human Trafficking, what survivors call modern day slavery.

Because the Foundation’s greatest strength is bringing resources together, they started their program by doing exactly that. The first call was to a local radio media partner, WUSF. The second was to several local businesses for sponsorships. The result was a very unique community event, a broadcast panel discussion that featured Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, respected survivor advocate Connie Rose, and mental health expert Dr. Maulik Trivedi. The audience in this scenario was just as important. In the room for the panel were not only representatives of several local and national organizations already fighting against human trafficking, but also several local business leaders with the clout and the resources to amplify their efforts.

All of this success stems from effective nonprofit PR. Building support for a cause, getting the word out, bringing together stakeholders and resources, and then giving them access to experts who can help provide direction. Without successful communication at the heart of it all, the effort never happens. Power and influence are vital, but proper messaging is the glue that brings it all together.

Raises for charity employees a hot nonprofit PR topic

social-charityWhen you do a good job, you deserve a reward, right? In a typical corporate scenario, you would get a raise or better benefits or more seniority and responsibility. But in a nonprofit situation, that “easy decision” can lead to some difficult conversations. Ronn Torossian explains how nonprofits can reward their vital employees without damaging their charity PR.

There’s no doubt that, as a charity, you have to be as innovative and circumspect in how you use your resources as possible. Every cent is measured and every expenditure is scrutinized. That’s one reason this kind of work is not for everyone. They tell you to expect to have to do more with less, but you have no way of knowing just how true that can be … until you are in that situation.

So, let’s say you have a handful of truly valuable employees. They are dedicated to the cause, but you know they could get more money in a corporate job. They know it, too. Then someone makes an offer, and the employee, not wanting to leave, brings it to you. What are your options? Do you let them go and hope to replace them, or do you try to find room in the budget to at least give them more than they are getting now?

When it all boils down to money, and that money is coming from the generosity of others who are watching you very closely, what do you do? While the norm for raises in the corporate world might be 3 to 5 percent, even that pittance would be questioned in your position.

But there is another way. If your organization is one that sees peaks and valleys in donations throughout the year, you might want to consider variable pay or “bonuses.” Generally, when your organization just took in a big payday, donors will be more willing to part with extra funds to reward deserving employees. You can choose to distribute these funds immediately, or budget them throughout the year, as a de facto weekly raise.

That way, instead of reporting an across the board raise, you can report a performance bonus for work over and above the call of duty. That’s rewarding generosity with generosity … always a good idea.

Aging and charity – How to Connect with an Older Population

increase-donationsWith more than 1,000 Americans reaching retirement age EVERY DAY Ronn Torossian believes there is an elephant in the room every nonprofit needs to soon address. How to get – and keep – an aging population engaged.

Statistics tell us that boomers, much more than their parents, are looking for fun in retirement, not necessarily just “leisure.” However, they are also looking for ways to volunteer. After all, other polls also prove that the idea of spending your golden years golfing wears thin after about a year for most folks. They want to be engaged, and they want to feel useful again.

There’s a new survey out that, Torossian says, offers some insight into how charities can get older volunteers on board even as society continues to age. Some of this news is not so good.

The current generation one might call “elderly” is extremely generous with their time and their finances. However, the current group of boomers beginning to hang up their day job are increasingly saddled with other concerns. They have more debt than their parents, and more grandparents are dealing with additional parenting duties. Occasional visits are becoming full time jobs as both parents work or more families consist of single-parent units.

So how can you recruit these folks to your cause? Here are several tips for attracting and involving retirees in your non-profit work:

Focus on the social aspect of the work

In most cases, when people retire they also lose a significant amount of their social interaction. Volunteering can be a great way to get that back. So make sure all of your efforts are inviting and encourage social interaction. Everyone loves to go where they have friends and do what their friends are doing.

Invite the guys

Look, it’s a fact that, when it comes to retirees, women outnumber the men by a wide margin. So, if you get the guys there, you can just about bet the women will follow. Plus, if you make your cause attractive to the men, you will often engage couples, getting two volunteers where you might otherwise just have one.

Create challenges and short-term projects

Many boomers are coming from very successful careers in a dog-eat-dog marketplace. They want a challenge, and you can provide it for them. Just be sure to create projects and challenges that are relatively short-term and have obvious success metrics. People of all ages want to be able to “see” or “experience” their successes, but this is especially true for retirees.

As your non-profit looks to continue its work into the future, you need to take these tips into consideration. Fail to do so, and you might find yourself in a very difficult situation.

Increase Returns with Focused Fundraising Efforts

fundraisingRonn Torossian has a question for you. Are you one of them? Week in and week out he talks to charities looking for advice on how to amp up their non profit PR, to get better and more immediate results from their messaging. They admit that their fundraising isn’t getting them the results they are looking for, but they keep doing things the same way … you know how the rest of that story goes.

Is that you … even a little bit? Look, if you are doing things the same way you did last year, you might be keeping the bills paid, but there is no doubt you are leaving money on the table. Your cause may not be “suffering,” but it certainly could be better. Even if you would categorize your fundraising efforts as “good,” they could be better: more impactful, efficient, and generating a better return.

You already know the world is changing. You are aware that people do not get information the same way they did before, but do you realize the extent of this change? You know that there is a new generation coming up that looks at the world very differently, but do you know what those differences are, and how to speak their language?

Maybe you are happy with the status quo, but what will you do when that status quo changes? Because it will. Here’s the thing, changes to the status quo are almost always telegraphed. They actually happen far before the general public realizes it. In fact, by the time most folks begin to notice the changes, things have already been functionally different for a while, and the seed of yet another evolution has already been planted.

It happened twice in the past five years, and most people didn’t even see it coming. First, social media completely changed how people communicate, how they interact, and more and more lately, how they think. Then, smartphone proliferation completely altered the marketplace of ideas. People literally interact with information differently. They experience reality differently, and process information differently. And all that happened in this decade.

So here’s the question Torossian has for you: How have you changed your approach to marketing in the past five years? From your PR to your website to your fundraising campaigns … any differences? Or are you still doing it the same ol’ way?

A child led them, guess who followed

leading-childSometimes, the right thing to do is right in front of us, but we are so busy with all the other things we have going on that we fail to see it. Ronn Torossian says this story is like that … but it comes with a happy ending, and a reminder from a very unlikely source.

Eleven-year-old Mimi Traynham used to walk to school every day and see the same homeless man. On his feet, barely held together by dirt and desperation, were a pair of ragged shoes. Mimi decided she could not just walk past any longer without at least trying to make a difference for that man, and so many others like him.

With her mother Latasha’s help, Mimi organized a school shoe drive that brought in more than 300 pairs of shoes … in only three weeks!

Latasha asked Mimi’s principal if they could put a donation box in the school lobby, and Mimi started passing out flyers to promote the drive. Their initial goal was just 150 pairs of shoes, but they received double that number! The Salvation Army picked up the shoes from Latasha and Mimi’s home and distributed them to local homeless shelters. Now, the generous mother and daughter duo are planning to do another, bigger, drive next year.

So, why share this story when so many other news outlets have? For exactly that reason. If your non-profit isn’t getting press, you need to ask yourself, “why not?” Could it be that you are missing opportunities to do some good that will get noticed? Are you so focused on doing what you do that you never look around for what you COULD be doing?

Now, I’m not encouraging you to branch out far beyond your focus, only that you might be able to make difference right where you are, if you take the Blinders of Habit off. It’s likely that What’s Possible is right out there waiting for you to find it and get it done.

So, be like Mimi, look around you, find something worth doing, and do your very best. You might just surprise yourself!

How Simple ideas can Create HUGE Charity PR Returns

als-ice-bucketIt began with a series of videos. Then it went viral. Random people dumping buckets of ice on their heads in order to get attention – and, hopefully, bring attention to various charitable causes. Those who get doused are encouraged to “pass it on.” As a PR stunt, Ronn Torossian says this trend has feet. What it lacks, Torossian argues, is substance.

Sure, people are going to watch other people doing something fun and a little bit silly. And, yes, other people are going to give it a shot. But then nothing much happens. This presence in place of substance is so prevalent in today’s Video Everywhere culture that it even has a name – Slacktivism. The pejorative relates to simple, purportedly charitable, actions that don’t actually accomplish anything. And they are everywhere. When NFL players are sporting neon pink socks for “awareness,” then you know a cause is in grave danger of jumping the shark.

But that doesn’t mean an idea that might lean toward slacktivism doesn’t have merit. Even the ice bucket challenge can make a difference if applied in the proper context. While a charity cannot coerce people to give, they could create fun ways to encourage donations and volunteering based on activities as simple as the ice bucket challenge. In a world of immediacy and microdonations, you don’t always need massive events to bring in the bucks.

That’s not to say major events are not worthwhile. Statistics bear out exactly how profitable major events can be, and that doesn’t seem likely to change. But there is a large – and largely untapped – generation out there who looks at, and engages with, the world in a very different way. You reach those folks with ice buckets.

Fair Pay for Charity Work?

charity public relationsIt’s something a lot of non-profits don’t want to talk about, but Ronn Torossian says that option may no longer exist. Sooner or later, every charity will have to explain why they give their employees a proper living wage… or why they do not.

In a recent article in The Guardian, it was reported that only about 1% of charities have registered as living wage employers. It was not clear in the article if that statistic only applied to the UK, but it is true that the registration is voluntary and many other non-profits may pay a decent wage without disclosing it. However, it’s fairly clear that this issue is a problem in the charity workplace as a whole.

In the UK, the living wage is defined as a number that “is the minimum needed for a basic standard of living covering an adequate level of warmth and shelter, a healthy palatable diet, social integration, and avoidance of chronic stress.”

Now, all jokes about a “palatable English diet” aside, it is telling that some social benefit organizations provide for others what they cannot or do not offer to their employees. Worse, they are asking these employees to do the actual “providing.” Similar to the cliche of the waiter who cannot afford to eat at the restaurant where he works or the store clerk who cannot afford to shop there, this is somewhat worse, in that people are choosing to give while simultaneously being deprived of basic human necessities.

Again, it’s tough to say just how widespread this issue may be, but there is no doubt that it’s a ticking timebomb for any non-profit trying to maintain a tight budget and deliver optimum services. And it may be legitimately difficult to pay people what they “may be worth” in any given job based on the sometimes staunch standards donors have for charities which they support.


Sooner or later, someone is going to ask why they have it worse off than the people they are helping. If you don’t have an answer, it’s likely those employees will go looking for one … in public.

Cincinnati Charity Offers to House Immigrant Kids

charity-public-relationThe debate about what to do with tens of thousands of Central and South American children who have defected to America and are hoping to receive asylum as refugees continues to rage in Congress, the media, and across our social and cultural lives.

While partisans and interest groups on both sides of the political aisle have chosen sides and drawn lines in the sand, Ronn Torossian says a charity group in Cincinnati, Ohio has offered to provide housing for the children at the center of a divisive immigration debate in America

Recently, Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio filed paperwork for a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in order to house those children. It would be a massive undertaking. Nearly 60,000 children have streamed across the border, mostly from poverty stricken nations such as Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

The charity has released a statement affirming that, if granted, the children would be housed in dormitory style buildings, and would be provided with short-term shelter, education, and counseling.

While federal law requires children be placed in protective care while their immigration cases are brought to a resolution, that may actually work against the charity’s favor. “Protective care” could be interpreted in many different ways, and it may be determined that the facilities being offered by Catholic Charities do not meet federal standards.

But, whether or not the request is granted, the offer itself is a slam-dunk charity PR move for the organization. In one missive, the organization has defined, easily and concretely, exactly what they are all about. They are saying, in effect, “We Help Children and We Meet Immediate Needs.”

In an increasingly crowded and confusing charity PR marketplace, that sort of clarity of mission is vital to achieving the best possible results for any non-profit organization. Achieving increased status may not have anything to do with the group’s request, but it will achieve this result regardless, simply because it has gotten the first rule of PR right – communicate clearly and effectively.