Having worked in an NGO environment at home here in Barbados, and at the Caribbean and international levels; I know that public relations is one of the major tools in the arsenal of these organisations.
Non-governmental organizations (also known as civil society organizations) are private, not-for-profit, non-partisan (in most cases) organizations that generally perform humanitarian functions. They often directly assist or are part of a nation's infrastructure, contributing to such diverse sectors as environment, education, agriculture, development, health and economy.
Public relations serves many purposes for the NGO. It is often used to attract and retain funding from funding agencies, government and private companies.NGOs need to be able to demonstrate that they have in some way achieved their programme/project goals for which the funds are to be given. Some agencies are so serious about this, that they demand extensive reports, which clearly demonstrate a public relations component; they want to know how many people have been exposed to your programme; basically how many people have you been able to reach with the funds which have been donated to the organization. If this is not enough, they demand (though subtly) that they receive the appropriate public thank you for their gracious contributions.
Let’s face it – nothing in this world is free except salvation. Once you get something expect to have to give in return.
This fact aside, NGOs truthfully desperately need PR to build public awareness about a particular problem. We see many advertisements/public service announcements on our television about living morally, supporting Haiti, supporting children in Africa, donating a dollar for a child in South America, buying a product and saving the wildlife etc.. These are carefully crafted messages, designed to pull at your heartstrings and evoke a response.
No doubt, that behind these campaigns is a skilled public relations professional who has contributed their services to the campaign and the delivery of these messages. In fact the Public Relations Society of America encourages accredited professionals to volunteer their time to NGOs and recognise them for it by giving continuing professional development credits for such work.
Though PRSA is not as popular in the region, it would be beneficial for any PR professional to donate their time and energies to a local NGO. Not only is it personally gratifying, but you have the opportunity to work on projects which are outside of the traditional office scope.
Many NGOs are in dire need of expert assistance in the area of PR; so go ahead and call them up. It might very well be the best professional move you have ever made.
Below are two links to a list of NGOs in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean: