Colorado PR Pros Pay it Forward During a Drastic Year

    Amid the extraordinary changes and events of 2020 some unique partnerships formed all around the metro Denver area.

    PRSA Colorado members were matched with organizers and communicators at non-profit organizations in the community outreach program, PR Paid Forward. It’s an effort by professional communicators to provide pro-bono help and expertise to community non-profit organizations. Together they brainstormed ways to keep the spotlight on the much-needed community programs during a pandemic and in a new virtual working world.

    No one knew this is how it would be when the year started. At that time, the PR Paid Forward committee members were readying to send out invitations to metro Denver area non-profit organizations asking if they could use some public relations and communications help. The program, which was reimagined in 2019, had been successful in previous years under the name PR Boost, and always a welcomed resource for non-profit organizations.

    In 2020 with Covid-19, lockdowns and uncertain budgets, 27 non-profit agencies asked for help. Fifty-two PRSA Colorado pros answered.

    “This year, all of our jobs changed, and we needed to adapt quickly. I’m so glad that PRSA Colorado already had the volunteer PR Paid Forward program in place. It made going virtual much easier. But more importantly, tag-teaming with non-profit organizations in 2020 proved to be such a necessary program for our community organizations who were hit hard during the pandemic,” said Megan Ryan, PRSA community outreach committee chair. 

    To start, a PRSA seasoned pro was partnered with a junior-level pro and then matched with a non-profit organization, where they asked, “What is your most pressing need?”

    The non-profits needed help building engagement – 30 percent said that was their biggest challenge, followed by help with branding, strategy and building a robust online presence. The PRSA teams were matched by the non-profits needs and the pros’ expertise. Then they got to work via virtual meetings.

    “I got to work with an extremely interesting non-profit and provide some fresh ideas that I hope they implement,” said PRSA volunteer Liz Viscardi, of LV Events and PR.

    PR Paid Forward volunteers worked with a variety of organizations including Reach Out and Read Colorado, Growing Home, Progressive Health Center, Mile High Early Learning and Black Cube. Non-profits have been hit hard during the pandemic. At Easterseals Colorado, for example, the organization was forced to reduce staff by 46 percent and saw a 60 percent drop in fundraising revenue, compared to 2019.

    “As a new professional, this was a fantastic way to get involved with a new industry and have guidance from an experienced professional to help learn new skills while supporting a very deserving non-profit. I am looking forward to participating again,” said Anna Ritz, PRSA volunteer.

    By the end of the meetings, in a follow-up survey taken by both the non-profit agencies and the PRSA volunteers, 81 percent of non-profit organizations said they are likely to implement the recommendations given by the PRSA volunteers.

    “PRSA did a fantastic job helping our organization with our marketing. We would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for help,” said Brad Ward, executive director at Central Visitation Program.

    More survey highlights:

    • 88 percent of non-profits said they would participate in the program again in the future (59 percent response rate)
    • 81 percent of non-profits said the program met or exceeded their expectations
    • 86 percent of PRSA Colorado volunteers said the program exceeded their expectations (56 percent response rate)

    “We were so pleased that the input was very actionable, and it will have a significant positive impact on our organization,” said Jan Brennan, board member of Spoke N Motion Dance.

    The feedback received will be considered in building next year’s program. For more details on the PR Paid Forward program, email Megan Ryan at [email protected]

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