July 28, 2010
By Molly Essell
Account executive, State of Ohio Prescription Drug Abuse Campaign
As hard-working college students, it sometimes becomes difficult to think of a job or internship as something other than a form of income. However, if you can find a niche in the PR world that you feel passionately about outside of the job, I guarantee you will feel rewards greater than any paycheck by using your PR skills to promote their cause.
I say this confidently, because this year, I have had the amazing opportunity to work for a foundation that means a great deal to me in and out of the office. I am currently the Race for the Cure intern at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Greater Cincinnati Affiliate. For those of you who are not familiar, Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures for breast cancer. Before even thinking of a career in nonprofit or Komen specifically, I have been known to wear pink ribbon attire, support their annual Race for the Cure 5k, and purchase products (such as ice cream scoops, socks and potato chip clips) just because they have the pink Komen ribbon decorated on them. Having the opportunity to internally support Komen now is more rewarding than any amount of money I have previously spent for the foundation.
For the first time in any of my jobs or internships, I find myself working hard not because I’m trying to learn a million things at once or be a super intern in the office, but because I believe the work I am doing this summer will make an impact in the lives of many deserving people.
An important lesson I have learned is that working in nonprofit PR does not just involve asking people for money and writing grants, but you get to meet lots of interesting and respected professionals! I’ve met local breast cancer survivors in the committee meetings I’ve lead, I’ve met with executives in many organizations across Cincinnati, such as the Cincinnati Reds and local news stations, and I’ve gotten tons of experience writing all kinds of PR materials. The best part is, it’s all been in support of Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure! Nonprofit PR is really a mix of all sectors of the PR world and can be a wonderful place for gaining experience!
For anyone looking to pursue a career in nonprofit PR, here are a few things I’ve learned firsthand this summer:
The Dos and Don’ts of working in a nonprofit office:
1. DO your research! Make sure you know the ins and outs of what the company does in its community, in the nation, worldwide–everywhere. It is one thing to know the company raises money for breast cancer. It’s another to know that over 100,000 survivors and activists make up the organization and over $1.3 billion have been raised to date.
2. DON’T get your feelings hurt if there are some people who will never be as passionate as you are about the organization. It’s only natural that not everyone will find the need to save lives and raise money for a cause they are unfamiliar with. Use this as a way to spread knowledge and education of what your organization accomplishes!
3. DO show your support outside the office! One thing I’ve learned from my bosses at Komen is they become known in the community for the job they do. Sometimes it’s as simple as wearing their pink ribbon t-shirts to the grocery store or posting pictures of events on their own Facebook walls. My bosses have become women that people all over Cincinnati respect and look up to because of their dedication.
4. DON’T give up if there isn’t an available job right away. The one negative I have found from the nonprofit world is that there are fewer jobs. Because of the nature of the nonprofit organizations, many places hold few positions in their offices, meaning it can be difficult to find an organization in need of a PR pro. However, there are still plenty of opportunities! Be a volunteer. Get up close and personal experience with the organization you’re interested in by volunteering at one of their events, or even contact someone from the organization and ask if they would need any help with PR work. They will very much appreciate your desire to help and it will give you great experience.
All in all, I truly believe nonprofit PR can be the most gratifying experience possible in your career path. If you’re unsure of what your PR calling is at this moment, I urge you to take a step back and think of a cause you are passionate about, and see if that can’t be an opportunity in itself.