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Nonprofit HR Survey: Why Good PR Starts With Your Staff

By on Monday, March 17, 2014

The 2014 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey offers some helpful data for public relations professionals working at nonprofits and associations to consider.

The good news – there is job growth across the nonprofit sector – with plans to hire in organizations dealing with international/foreign affairs, health, public and societal benefits, arts/culture/humanities, regional-related/faith-based.

And more good news – they are letting fewer employees go – and they are more likely to hire new staff to support new programs (45% vs. 58% in 2009) than to expect for existing staff to add a new program to their already full plates.

Bad news – one in five nonprofits say employee turnover is the biggest employment challenge they face. The 2013 turnover rate was 16%. Forty-five percent of nonprofit professional report leaving their organizations to work for other nonprofits – fueling speculation that salary is not the only motivator in turnover – but that other factors may also play a major role when employees depart. Thirty-two percent said they could not pay competitively, 19% can’t promote or advance staff, and 16% say they have excessive workloads.

The authors point out in a related blog post that disengagement costs nonprofits money. The authors use an example of a disgruntled intern who leaves an organization and tells others about his or her experiences, and costs the hypothetical organization $1250.

What about the disgruntled staffer who causes a PR problem that goes far beyond impacting a few individual donations?  Overworked and disgruntled employees can also impact public relations and how the nonprofit or association is viewed or perceived by the media, other organizations or agencies, key partners, major donors, etc. They can take way more than some institutional knowledge and personal relationships with them. They can impact who gives money and how the organization is perceived.

The study authors note, “Happy, engaged employees are your best brand ambassadors because they will tell anyone and everyone how great your mission is, how much they love their work, and how effective the team is.”

Good PR starts with your staff. Staff who are enthusiastic about the mission and know they are valued speak authentically about your mission and work when asked. They become valuable connectors who bring in other supporters, volunteers, and donors. Providing reasonable work expectations and not burning out staff can go a long way to building up your staff and volunteers – so they can be your best brand ambassadors. Even if they opt to leave to pursue a new project or advance at another agency – a happy employee who leaves can still help your organization and be a key ally.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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