Nonprofits Find PR Work Can Be a Real Gift


Nonprofit organizations don’t have stockholders, but they do have revenue and benefactors, which means they often need professional public relations.

The trick is getting maximum PR bang from minimum budgets.

Communications firms commonly devote time, both pro bono and paid, to nonprofit clients. And while many nonprofits do have a PR professional or two on staff, those organizations tend to consider themselves lucky.

“There’s power in public relations and content marketing, and there are strategies to make it really work for nonprofits who have limited budgets but need to move the needle in big ways, typically financially,” said Natalie Ghidotti. Her Little Rock firm, Ghidotti, has made a specialty of serving nonprofits, and some of that work was rewarded in November with national recognition in PR News’ 2021 Platinum Awards.

The firm took prizes for its Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign for Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, which set a contributions record, and another for its Battle of the Beards benefit for the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation. Though others entered, Ghidotti was the only Arkansas firm to take a prize in the PR News awards.

Catholic High Principal Steve Straessle said that in a crowded educational landscape, Ghidotti helps his school stand out. “Catholic High has a tremendous reputation, but for a mid-size city, Little Rock has a lot of educational options,” he told Arkansas Business in a telephone interview.

Steve Straessle

“Ghidotti Communications has helped us fine-tune the message on what makes us unique, pinpointing the cultural and academic aspects that we may take for granted in our hallways, but can be impressive and enticing to families looking for a school.”

Natalie Ghidotti, who has a son at Catholic High, also became a conduit for pandemic communications with parents and alumni, Straessle said.

“Our communication with people outside the campus ramped up tremendously ... and the tone and clarity of information became vital. Ghidotti did everything from pitching news stories to overseeing our advertising budget to day-to-day PR on how we interact with our stakeholders and beyond.”

Natalie Ghidotti said nonprofit alliances have been central to her agency’s work since she started the business 15 years ago. “The great work our nonprofits do is important to me as well as the people who come to work with us,” she said. “The past few years have proven challenging for most businesses, but especially so for many of our regional nonprofits.” PR and content marketing strategies, she said, can help organizations meet those tests.

Heather Heywood, president of the Little Rock chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, said the chapter often does pro bono work for nonprofits, and she applauded paid work by practitioners helping deliver results on a shoestring.

“Experienced PR practitioners know how to develop strategies and solutions for organizations, regardless of the budget or staff,” Heywood said. “PRSA is committed to public relations and communications professionals who work with nonprofits and associations, and it offers special programs, webinars, conferences and resources specifically for work with associations and nonprofits.”

Christina Littlejohn, CEO of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, another Ghidotti client, said it’s essential for the public to know the orchestra. “Not just that we have concerts and marvelous musicians, but that we’re serving the community every single day.”

Ghidotti and her team publicize the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Designer House fundraiser every other year, and “they know how to help cut through the noise,” Littlejohn said. “We make good music, and we educate kids and engage them in making music, but we need help to be efficient with our communications.”

Bottom line? “We spend our money putting on concerts and music education programs, and we can’t afford a full-time PR person,” Littlejohn said. “We certainly can’t afford PR experts, and that’s what Ghidotti gives us.”

The symphony orchestra employs more full-time performing artists than any other organization in the city, Littlejohn said: 14 full-time musicians, 60 part-time or per-performance musicians, and 14 staffers.

“If we weren’t employing these musicians, they wouldn’t be here. They would be in Dallas or Kansas City or somewhere. Ghidotti helps convey that we don’t just play concerts at Robinson Center. Those are incredibly important, but we want to make sure people know we’re also here as a community resource.”