Be a Change Agent: For PR Sake… Volunteer!

by PR Coach

PR can make a difference - volunteer!

Volunteering your PR skills is a great way to widen your experience, grow your network, add to your portfolio and make a difference. Here’s how.

An interesting post often starts with an intriguing question from a colleague on Twitter.

Candice D asked: “Do you have advice/resources for individuals interested in providing pro bono PR or freelance services?”

My first thought was how wonderful for a young PR pro to proactively look for an opportunity to volunteer her new skills.

I’ve always believed in being active in community organizations and nonprofits where I could make a difference too. So, I thought the least I could do was answer her question and share it in a post.

As it turns out, April 10-16, 2011 is National Volunteer Week, a perfect time to invite other PR pros to volunteer too.

First, here’s a few impressive numbers about volunteering. In 2009, 63.4 million Americans contributed 8.1 billion hours of service, with an estimated value of nearly $169 billion. I’m sure those numbers compare well to many countries and that’s something to celebrate this week!

The best place to volunteer is usually close to home and close to your heart. For PR people, that means skills that are usually a luxury in most nonprofit organizations.

They include: PR planning and strategy; writing and editing; social media; communication training; media relations and publicity; fundraising advice and materials; communicating to volunteers; multimedia production; website planning and content; and much more.

Then it’s a good idea to look where your interests lie. Maybe you’re a corporate communicator but you have a strong interest in the environment? Perhaps you’re a student with strong social media skills. Or, to balance working in an office all day, you might like to do something that involves kids and the outdoors?

The opportunities are limited only by your personal interests, your initiative and your creativity. I suggest you choose a cause or organization you’re passionate about, do a bit of research and then pick up the phone or go visit in person.

Here are four great places to explore to find just the right place to volunteer your pro bono PR services:

  • Hands On Network – 250 HandsOn Action centers in 16 countries; more than 70,000 corporate and nonprofit organizations participating.
  • Taproot Foundation – 1,500 pro bono projects in more than 1,100 nonprofits; more than 800,000 hours of pro bono service; valued at more than $76 million.
  • CatchaFire – NY-based org that matches professionals who want to give their skills with nonprofits and social enterprises that need their help.
  • Volunteer Match –60,000 opportunities per day; 37 new network partners; and $488 million worth of volunteer service in 2009.

You’re a busy PR professional or student. Why volunteer?

My view is it’s a great way for a PR pro to broaden one’s experience; to network with a cool new bunch of other people making a difference; to build your PR portfolio; to find new professional challenges; and most of all to make a difference yourself.

Who knows? You may just make a connection that opens up a whole new world of PR opportunities. One thing’s for sure. You’ll never see PR in quite the same way after you volunteer to use your PR skills for a cause.

And hey, Candice? Thanks for asking your question! Some organization will be very lucky to have you on board.

If you’re in nonprofit PR or looking for ideas to help nonprofits with their public relations or communication needs, visit our PR Library. We’ve got hundreds of tips and PR resources for nonprofits and more than 7,000 for public relations overall.

If you know of other ways for skilled PR pros to connect with worthy organizations, please drop us a note in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Photo Credit: San Jose Library via Flickr

Author:  Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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