When Ronn Torossian reads the list of MacArthur award winners, he sees a nonprofit sector hard at work doing some very good things, and a community doing the “business of doing good” very, very well. But what can we learn from the winners? Torossian explains.
Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos is located in Mexico City and has taken on the quixotic task of fighting to reform the justice system in Mexico. This is a herculean task, but the organization has taken to it with intelligence, awareness and gusto. Their eyes-wide-open approach to this enterprise is a credit to dreamers out there who understand they must also be doers.
From major civic causes to individual community focuses, we shift our attention to Firelight Media. The New York City-based company helps minority documentary filmmakers bring their artistic visions to brilliant life. These pictures spur conversation and make certain issues accessible to a much wider audience. By fulfilling the dreams of a handful of creative young people, Firelight has the power to change our national conversation about important social issues.
Speaking of important social issues, FrameWorks Institute, located in Washington DC, has the lofty goal of helping Americans communicate better when dealing with complex social issues. In addition to helping create a conversation, FrameWorks helps guide the conversation in profitable directions. By focusing on the transmission of information, this organization makes difficult conversations easier and more productive.
From multiple social causes to a single issue that impacts countless Americans, John Howard Association of Illinois, based in Chicago, works to increase the fair treatment of incarcerated individuals in that state. While some would simply chooseto lock them up and throw away the key, the Howard Association understands the complex social issues related to the prison industry in this country, and their organization is working to educate people and promote a culture that values rehabilitation, not regression and repeat offenses.
Each of these awarded organizations has unique challenges, but there are several aspects of their work that make them successful from a PR perspective. Foundationally, they focus on an issue and communicate it in a way that both brands the organization and helps potential donors or volunteers know exactly what they do – and why they might care – immediately. This vital public relations skill is one far too many charities – and for-profit ventures for that matter – miss completely, much to their detriment.