Posts tagged thesis

PR and Development: Let’s be friends

Thesis update: I just found out last week that I can’t publish any results of my thesis research on my blog if I want to be eligible for future publication in an academic journal. I was looking forward to sharing some of my insights but I guess I’ll have to hold off on that for a bit. What I can do is share some of my secondary research from my literature review and also talk about my process. This Friday I defend my thesis and find out whether or not my work is up to the Honors College standards. My fingers are crossed.


One thing I’ve drawn from my experiences writing my thesis and exploring career opportunities is the absolute inter-relatedness of public relations and development. Although scholars cite development as a function of public relations, it appears not to work out this way in many nonprofit organizations. Instead, public relations and development operations occur in separate departments. In fact, Kathleen Kelly, a highly-regarded researcher in the field, found that subordination of the public relations function by the development department occurred frequently in nonprofit organizations. In other words, development staff were controlling or influencing public relations activities, which could result in an unbalanced focus on donor relations at the expense of building relationships with other valuable stakeholder groups (i.e. clients/customers, legislators, community members, volunteer groups, etc.). Any way you look at it, public relations and development can’t exist exclusively of the other; they are bound to interact because both departments share (or should share) similar goals: building beneficial relationships with stakeholder groups through communication and behavior.

In my personal experience, my public relations education in the School of Journalism and Communication has been questioned or at least misunderstood by a few people in its applicability to development work. To me, it seems a perfect background to prepare me for development work, but others are confused: “Journalism? Don’t you want to work for a newspaper?” some people ask. But if journalism is essentially about communication, and communication is essential to successful relationship building, and relationship building is essential to successful public relations, and good public relations includes the function of development THEN it follows that a PR major is a great tool for going into development work.

Clearly, I’m starting to rant a bit but bear with.

In the end, what I mean to convey is that it’s all about relationships. Not just relationships between different operational tasks (like fund raising, donor relations, media outreach, etc.) but, perhaps more importantly, the relationships we cultivate between various communities. Successful development strategies MUST include relationship building in order to create long-term connections with people. Growing relationships between individuals – who have their own unique needs, desires, motivations, and interests – and organizations is incredibly valuable, nay, essential, to encouraging the sustainability and fruition of nonprofit (and for-profit, for that matter) organizations.

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It’s almost here…

My thesis deadline and defense.

Getting a job!



Moving back to Portland (granted I can find an apartment).

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Probably nothing, because the traffic on this blog has dwindled to next to nothing so chances are nobody’s reading this. Sad. But I PROMISE I will be back (but not with a vengeance) come June. Think of all the exciting things I’ll have to share! Yes, shamelessly plugging my future posts…

(my mind is whirling with thoughts)

Anyway, what’s happening now is I’m editing the first draft of my thesis to submit to my committee on Tuesday. I’m sitting at about 70 or 80 pages – much to my own surprise. I’ve uncovered some really remarkable stuff and I wish I could sit down with each one of you event planner/pr pros/students/anyone who will listen because that’s easier than trying to write it all. Wait, I am writing it all. But, like I said, it’s 70-80 pages and nobody wants to read that. But when I have a second I will post on young professional donors, donor motivations, benefits of special events for nonprofits, relationship management and special events, and so on. Basically, it’s about kick-ass strategies to make friends with your publics/audiences/guests/donors/communities and develop mutually beneficial relationships rather than just asking for money or telling people what they should think, feel, and do. It’s better in the long-term and much more fun.

So I hope the little teaser piqued your interest. Stand by for more.

P.S. The job search is going well; I’ve got my first big interview in 2 days. Thrilling!

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I’m still alive

Things have been getting crazier and crazier, so I apologize for abandoning my blog temporarily. Never fear, my mind is still a-teeming with thought. Unfortunately, much of it is being diverted into my honors thesis. In fact, today I am doing my first interview with the Development Director for a local non-profit – I’m going to pick her brain about how events fit into strategic development plans and address some more specific questions on young professional donors and how events may appeal to them.

I’m nervous! But it’s time. I gotta do it. I’m also delighted to have a great response from other board members and staff from the organization to fill out my case study quite nicely. Like I said, it’s keeping me all rather busy, leaving it hard to find time to blog, look for/apply for jobs, and get everything else in order for my impending graduation. Not that I want to complain. I’m just making excuses for being so dormant on the blogging, because I’m hoping once this is all over I’ll be back with some really exciting new thoughts.

On a rather unrelated note, this past weekend I celebrated my 22nd birthday. I feel much older, in a good way. I had a fun party and spent time with my friends and loved ones. What more could I ask for?

And yes, my mom called last week to say the swallows were back.

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Social entrepreneurs: the next generation of philanthropy?

The word “philanthropy” translates literally to love of humans or love of mankind, but we typically define philanthropy as giving money, providing in-kind goods and services, and volunteering time to charitable causes and nonprofit organizations. Traditionally, charities are held responsible for affecting positive change and meeting needs that government and private enterprise have inadequately served.   

According to a recent article in The Tennessean by Jeff Cornwall,the Millennial Generation (that’s me!) is expanding beyond this common definition by harnessing the power of free market capitalism to benefit relevant social causes. “Social entrepreneurs,” seek to create sustainable, profitable business that are independent from reliance on benefactors but still bring about positive results in the community.

Cornwall cites this generation’s lack of trust in government to solve social problems as one of the main motivators for this new movement:

“Several surveys have found that many people in this generation don’t believe that government is the most effective means to solve many of today’s social problems — the private sector offers more efficient and effective solutions. They no longer believe that massive programs work. Instead, they hope to create solutions that solve one small problem at a time.”

So, what does this new trend mean for traditional nonprofits and charity organizations? As a millennial myself, I can vouch for the lure of the efficiency and efficacy of companies driven by profit-demanding management. However, I also doubt that public trust in the socially-responsible business management of corporations, eroded by recent scandals (ahem, Enron), will be completely restored anytime soon.

In the end, our perceptions of organization value have a lot to do with marketing, communication, and an attention to public-organization relationships; certainly some for-profits give me the warm fuzzies much more than steely and holier-than-thou charity organizations. I admit it’s mostly in the messaging I receive and my personal experiences interacting with the organizations. For-profit companies succeeding with a social mission likely make that social priority clear to consumers and other stakeholders. More importantly, they make that priority clear to others who care as well.

Which is not to say it’s all a marketing ploy. Instead, I see it as the best of both worlds: creating sustainable, profitable businesses driven by philanthropic (and phyto-thropic?) principles for the benefit of the whole community. Nonprofits can learn from this strategy by likewise engaging donors not with a “what you can do for us” message but instead “here’s what we can do for you.” Of course, donors need to be assured that their money is going to a good cause. For some, that’s all they need to know. But many of us, millennials especially, want to have our cake and eat it too. Does it make us greedy or selfish? Perhaps, but I suspect many of us simply want to erase the delineation between socially-beneficial charity and profitable business.

Nonprofits today can take advantage of this trend by exploring ways they can mimic capitalist business strategies while maintaining a mission for social good. In my research for my honors thesis, I’m finding that in the right context, fund-raising events can provide a great opportunity for nonprofits to offer donors unique benefits in exchange for their dollars and time. Capitalist? Maybe a little. Philanthropic? Yes. In every sense of the word.

Thanks to Sam Davidson, in his post “Millenials and Social Enterprise” for directing me to the article.

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I can’t escape my thesis any longer


Alright, I admit it. I’ve been stalling on my thesis for the Honors College here at the U of O. I’ve spent the last 4 years dreading it and doing quite well at putting it off. But the time has come and I am finding myself piled elbow-deep in stacks of books and papers. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I have discontinued my long-cultivated habit of procrastination. In fact, I have found this blog to be an excellent way for me to simultaneously avoid working on my thesis and still feel as though I’m being very productive. It’s like I work for the Ministry of Silly Walks – I’m expending a lot of energy, but I’m not really getting where I need to go.

In case you’re curious, my thesis topic is still somewhat smushy in my mind, but pretty much it has to do with relationship management, nonprofit fund-raising, and the use of special events as a method of cultivating young professional donors. I think it’s cool.

If all good things come to an end, then my time of blissful dalliance seems to be up. I’m making a promise – I’m going to get my rear in gear. Please, for my sake, hold me to it.

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