PRSA Colorado Members Pay It Forward to Support Local Nonprofits

    By Megan Ryan, PRSA Colorado community outreach committee chair

    A big shout out to the 55 PRSA Colorado members who participated in the revamped community outreach program, PR Paid Forward. The program provided an avenue for members to lend their expertise directly to nonprofits around the Denver metro area that often have limited staff and resources to plan for and implement communications and public relations strategies.

    From fall to early winter, 55 public relations volunteers were paired with 27 metro area nonprofits to tackle communications challenges together. Common communication challenges include raising awareness about the organization and its services, fundraising, and understanding if, how and when to use media relations, social media or community engagement tactics to achieve their mission.

    “The volunteers’ feedback and suggestions were extremely relevant to inform our brand ambassador program launch. It was helpful to have an outsider's perspective in building a strong foundation for our new awareness program,” said Caroline Glynn Neal, communications manager at Denver Scholarship Foundation.

    PR Paid Forward provided support to local organizations like Colorado Open Lands, which works to preserve Colorado’s pristine open spaces; the Denver Public Schools Foundation; and the Rocky Mountain Welcome Center, which helps new immigrants to Colorado thrive (see full list of participating nonprofits below).

    The program, formerly called PR Boost, also included a mentorship component to further the skills and values of the PRSA Colorado participants by pairing newer professionals with seasoned industry veterans.

    “Sometimes our work isn’t the most visible, but effective communication is how people connect on the most fundamental level — and our profession is highly qualified to help under-resourced organizations that are providing valuable resources in our communities,” said Elizabeth Jumel, APR, president of Jumel Public Relations and 2019 PRSA Colorado president.

    Participant Feedback

    Following the completion of the program, surveys were sent to volunteers and nonprofit participants. Nearly half of the program volunteers participated in the survey with the following results:

    • 92% said the program met or exceeded their expectations
    • While some groups had challenges with tracking down their nonprofit partners, 73% were satisfied with the new format
    • 88% of respondents said they’d recommend the program to colleagues in the future

    Of the 27 nonprofit participants, 58% shared feedback as well. All of the respondents said it was likely they would implement the advice provided by the PR volunteers adding comments like:

    “The volunteers have been amazing! Their knowledge, the plan they put in writing and then into action is a tremendous help to us.”

    “Working with PRSA was an efficient way for me to bring in expertise we don't have on our staff or board, and to really shift our work to the next level. I don't know how we would have gotten this level of expertise if it hadn't been for this program, and I have very high hopes for what we'll be able to accomplish using the advice we received.”

    All of the nonprofit survey respondents said they would be likely to recommend the program to other nonprofit organizations. The community outreach committee will definitely take these results into consideration as they plan the 2020 program.

    “I love this program because there are so many nonprofits doing amazing things in our communities that don’t have access to professional communicators. Whether they need strategic guidance or tactical expertise, I’ve always found it professionally challenging and personally fulfilling to provide this type of support,” said Robert Austin, APR, PRSA Colorado board member and public and professional relations manager at Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank.

    The community outreach committee plans to survey participating nonprofits once more this spring to gauge the value of the volunteer support provided by our members to find out if the suggested strategies and tactics have been useful and successful.

    “Thanks to everyone who made the 2019 PR Paid Forward program a success. You made an important difference for these organizations,” said Megan Ryan, community outreach committee chair.

    If you were unable to participate in the survey and have any feedback or suggestions to share, please contact Megan Ryan at [email protected].

    2019 Participating Nonprofits:

    Africa's Tomorrow
    Art from Ashes
    Art Students League of Denver
    CO Coalition Against Sexual Assault
    CO Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
    Colorado Homeownership Coalition
    Colorado Open Lands
    Cornerstone Education and Research Foundation
    Dental Lifeline Network
    Denver Audubon
    Denver Public Schools Foundation
    Denver Scholarship Foundation
    Girls Inc of Metro Denver
    Kapadia Education Foundation
    Karis Community
    Mile High Health Alliance
    Project Sanctuary
    Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
    Rocky Mountain Welcome Center
    Sims-Fayola Foundation
    Sunshine Home Share Colorado
    The Women's Bakery
    Tigray Ethiopian Community Center
    Victims and Offenders Mitigation Initiative

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