4 Nonprofit PR Lessons from Pope Francis

Pope Francis is in the United States, and at Nonprofit Hub we are obsessed by the Pope’s ability to hold a position that has the power to be incredibly controversial, yet he continues to gain support from people from all walks of life.

The Pope stands firm in what he believes, without ruffling too many feathers; he tends to make friends wherever he goes. Your organization that lives in the big mix of the nonprofit sector shouldn’t be any different. Whether he knows it or not, (we’re guessing he knows it) Pope Francis is quite the PR genius. I mean he’s got his own Twitter Emoji for heaven’s sake. Here are four lessons about stellar PR from Pope Francis that you can apply to your nonprofit.

Be Accepting

The Pope has made some big waves among the public, both inside and out of his religion. One of his tips on a happier life is, “live and let live.” There is no reason to spend time combating other people on who is right and who is wrong.

In the nonprofit sector, we’re here to serve others and we have the capability to serve each other. A healthy sense of competition is okay, but letting things get out of hand hurts all parties involved. There are ways you can support other organizations without giving up too much of yourself, or simply stay out of their way and let them thrive on their own even if you disagree with what they stand for.

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You Don’t Need Big Money for Big Results

It’s a common misconception that in order to be successful you need money. Money helps. But in the words of Pope Francis, you must “be giving of yourselves to others” to be truly happy in life, or in our case, successful in our industry.

The best mentality when it comes to funding is that “money has to serve, not to rule.” That is, with great funding, you can do a lot of things, but it should not hold you back from doing great things when you don’t have it. Be resourceful and do what you can with what you have.

You Must Appeal to Millennials

Is engaging the younger generation important to your organization? Well…is the Pope Catholic? Pope Francis has been able to stick to his age-old beliefs, while still delivering them in a healthy way that engages new crowds.

“A healthy sense of leisure” is one of his top five tips on living a happy life. Who doesn’t want a happier life? Oh…and we get to have fun with it? Of course. Your organization must find a way to uncover what it is about your mission that excites millennials and shape your message to appeal to them.

Transparency is Your Friend

Let’s be honest—there have been scandals in the past among both nonprofit organizations and previous Popes. I’m not saying that every organization has the power to avoid every single scandal, but being as honest and transparent as possible will benefit your organization. Pope Francis has done a good job at fighting for transparency to make his faith more tangible and relatable. Nonprofit organizations are no different. Be honest with your funding and make public any information that is acceptable to be public. Being an ambiguous figure makes it hard to be relatable and will make it more difficult to get people to support you.

image via Flickr


Nick Small

With specialties in content strategy and creation, social media engagement and digital marketing optimization, Nick brings a depth of experience in nonprofit marketing. He’s also helped hundreds of nonprofits with their online presence to improve donor retention and attract new audiences, and he still has time for a good glass of whiskey, round of golf or new adventure.

September 24, 2015

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