Effective Communication in Public Relations

Five Levels of Nonprofit PR Communication

Being a nonprofit comes with several specific communications challenges you have to overcome if you want to achieve success. What many don’t realize is that each of these challenges can be tied to a particular stage of response to a nonprofit PR message. If you try to “solve” the wrong problem at the wrong time or you direct the right message at the wrong group, you risk alienating both groups.Here are the five stages along with tips on how to engage each of them.


Ignorance may not be bliss, but it’s certain that if you don’t know you won’t care. That’s fairly universal. The temptation here is to dump loads of facts and motivations on people who have no idea who you are and what you are doing. But think about it. When was the last time you responded positively to an info dump about an unfamiliar topic? Instead, do the good work you are tempted to talk about in a way that garners notice. Let third-party affirmations be your bullhorn to the masses.


Have you ever had a pleasant encounter with a stranger? How’d that go? Are there aspects of that scenario you can reproduce in your nonprofit PR campaigns? Your goal in an initial encounter is never to ask a stranger for anything. Instead, you must do something to cause them to walk away thinking: “That was pleasant, I’d like to learn more about that person/organization/cause.”


Once you have your target market curious, you need to make it easy for them to continue learning about who you are. While social media makes this easier than ever before, do not allow the passive engagement of the Internet to be a crutch. You need to create a system that promotes healthy engagement with those who have not yet decided to support your cause or taken the step to get involved.


Supporters are those who have become so engaged, it feels natural to them to support your cause with their goodwill, time, talents or resources. They may tell others about your cause. They may give to your organization and they may offer to volunteer. The communication here should be an endless stream of both appreciation and further opportunities to serve. People want to be involved. Give them opportunity, and make sure to publicly acknowledge those efforts.


Involved people are those who have chosen to give up something else to become a part of what you are doing. Think about that. They have made a conscious decision to choose your efforts over something else. Perhaps even something equally important or viable. Do not ever allow your communication with these folks to appear to overlook that fact or take them for granted. Donations may pay the bills, but involved volunteers are your lifeline.

Understanding each of these stages is vital to crafting an effective series of nonprofit public relations messages.

Ronn Torossian is the founder of 5W Public Relations and the president of the Ronn Torossian Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization.