Top 5 Non-Profit PR Blunders

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Non-Profit Public Relations

When your funding depends on not offending the people who keep you afloat with their money, it’s important to keep your public relations dealings in check. Unfortunately, these five examples forgot to remember this during their big goofs.

1. NPR

National Public Radio was hit with PR problems from all over when political analyst Juan Williams went on Fox News and made controversial remarks about Muslims. And that was only the beginning! After the public cried foul, NPR fired Williams, only to be hit with others crying foul at his being fired.

Vivian Schiller, President and CEO of NPR, said he was fired for a breach of journalistic ethics. However, some pointed out she had failed to fire analyst Nina Totenberg for a similar breach. Then, Vivian went on to say Williams should have kept his comments between himself and “his psychiatrist or his publicist – take your pick.”

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Now NPR is facing the possibility of having their public funding cut.


The Association of Community Organization for Reform Now advocated for low to moderate income families by working on things like neighborhood safety and health care for 40 years. In 2010, they were forced to close their doors. Why? Videos were leaked in 2009 showing ACORN employees apparently learning how to hide prostitution activities, and avoid taxes. Though the legitimacy of the videos was in question, ACORN’s response was almost nil, and this led to loss of government and private funders.

3. United Way 1992

William Aramony was the CEO of United Way for over twenty years, and helped it become one of the top 4 non-profits in the United States. However, he apparently forgot to keep his head in check in the early 90s.

Rumors of mismanaged funds and inappropriate relationships started to surface. United Way knew the rumors had to be addressed, but instead, Aramony flatly denied any wrongdoing. Soon, he resigned from the organization, and ended up in jail. Many local United Way organizations disaffiliated themselves, and discontinued their contributions and dues to the national office.

4. United Way 2004

Are they cursed? It sure seems like it! CEO of United Way of the National Capital Area in Washington D.C., Oral Suer held his position from 1974 to 2002. The end of his reign came when he was found to be defrauding the organization of several hundred thousand dollars. People began to doubt their money was being used for good at all, and again local chapters of the United Way balked. Suer was convicted and sentenced to 27 months in jail in 2004.

5. Red Cross

Just back in February, followers of the Red Cross Twitter feed were a little confused when a Red Cross tweet stated they were currently enjoying some craft beer and “#gettingslizzerd.” It turned out, of course, one of the social media employees accidentally tweeted from the organization’s account.

But it’s not all bad! Instead of freaking out, denying everything and firing the employee, the company responded with a humorous comment about taking the tweeter’s keys. The public’s response was to chuckle and donate money! The quick and witty reply to the situation worked, and the Red Cross is currently enjoying some free PR.

In the diverse world of nonprofit organizations, effective communication stands as a cornerstone for success. Public relations (PR), often seen as the domain of large corporations, is equally vital for nonprofit entities. This article delves into the unique role of PR in the nonprofit sector and outlines strategies that can optimize its impact.

If you’re involved with a nonprofit, it’s key to realize the importance of and the role of Public Relations in promoting your cause.

The Unique Role of PR in Nonprofits

Building Trust and Credibility

For nonprofits, PR is not just about promotion; it’s about building and maintaining trust. Many nonprofits deal with social, environmental, or humanitarian issues, making credibility a crucial asset. PR helps in portraying the nonprofit’s mission, values, and effectiveness to the public, which is essential for garnering support and maintaining transparency.

Resource Mobilization

As a nonprofit you rely heavily on donations, grants, and volunteer efforts. Effective PR strategies are important tools to communicate the needs and impacts of the organization, thereby inspiring potential donors and volunteers to contribute.

Advocacy and Awareness

Many nonprofits are involved in advocacy work. PR plays a critical role in raising awareness about specific issues, influencing public opinion, and sometimes even shaping policy decisions. It can amplify your nonprofit’s voice, ensuring that its message reaches the relevant stakeholders.

Effective PR Strategies for Nonprofits


Powerful storytelling is a cornerstone of effective nonprofit PR. Sharing your organization’s story, its work, its beneficiaries, and the difference it makes is key to all aspects of your success and mission. This approach humanizes the cause and can create a deeper emotional connection with the audience.

Digital and Social Media

The digital revolution has opened new avenues for nonprofit PR. Social media platforms, blogs, and email campaigns allow nonprofits to reach a wider audience at a relatively low cost. Interactive content, such as videos and infographics, can significantly boost engagement and go viral.

Community Engagement

Engaging directly with the community can strengthen relationships and build local support. This can include participating in community events, organizing workshops, or collaborating with local businesses and schools. Such engagement helps in creating a strong local presence and can foster grassroots advocacy.

Media Relations

Building and maintaining relationships with the media is crucial. This includes not just the mass media but also niche publications related to your field. Regular press releases, op-eds, and even media events and PR stunts can help in gaining valuable media coverage.

Transparency and Accountability

For any nonprofit transparency is non-negotiable. Regularly publishing reports on your activities, finances, and impacts helps in maintaining public trust. PR efforts should underscore the organization’s commitment to accountability and transparency.

Collaboration and Networking

You can enhance your PR efforts by collaborating with other organizations, including corporate partners. Such collaborations can increase visibility, access to resources, and can lead to innovative approaches to problem-solving.

Challenges and Considerations

While PR can significantly benefit nonprofits, there are challenges. Budget constraints are a common issue, as you always need to balance resource allocation between direct service and PR activities. Additionally, measuring the impact of PR campaigns can be complex, requiring a strategic approach to evaluation and adjustment.

NonProfit Public Relations Resources

NonProfit Public Relations

For your nonprofit effective public relations is not a luxury but a necessity. It’s an integral part of achieving your mission, whether it’s through fundraising, advocacy, or building a community of supporters. By employing strategic, creative, and ethical PR practices, nonprofits can not only survive but thrive in their quest to make a positive impact on society.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 8 Shocking Secrets Press Release Distribution Firms Don’t Want You to Know here:

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