Role And Function Of Public Relations In Non-profit Organizations

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Over the past years, there has been an outburst in the number of non-profit organizations globally. This is an outcome of rapid changes in environmental, social and political factors. For instance, the impact of climate change and global warming on living organisms. According to Sargeant (1999), non-profit organizations aim towards the enhancement of society. Therefore, such organizations are driven by mission rather than profit. The difference between businesses, government and non-profit organizations is what they do (Drucker, 1992). Non-profit institutions do not sell items nor controls regulations but focus on improving individuals. Non-profit organizations have a variety of different terminologies and is referred to as the voluntary sector. The success of the WWF is due to having a strong Public Relations department. Public relations is a communication process that builds relationship between the organization and the publics in order to achieve goals and have a positive reputation (Gilaninia, Taleghani & Mohammadi, 2013). The purpose of the paper is to identify the function and role of public relations in a non-profit organization, namely the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The International Classification of Non-Profit Organizations (ICNPO) consists of twelve groups including an environmental group (Mittila, 2003). According to the World Wide Fund Organization (2019), WWF was founded on April 1961 when a group of passionate individuals received the Merges Manifesto. This is an international declaration concerning the degradation of the planet. The WWF is the largest existing conversation organization where it began in Morges, Switzerland and over time expanded with offices in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the destruction of the natural environment envisioning a peaceful state in which humans can live in. This is achieved by massive research and partnering with governments and local communities to find solutions, for example, building conservation homes to protect species. Furthermore, WWF is operating in a growing competitive environment. Two of the competitors include The Nature Conservancy and Green Peace.

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The WWF focuses on six major goals: forest, oceans, wildlife, food, climate and energy, and freshwater by addressing three main problems: the transformation of the international market, avoiding inappropriate methods of finance and unfair government system. The first goal is working towards solving threats towards forests for instance, illegal logging. This is done by designing rural energy programs that rely on fuel rather than wood. The second goal focuses on controlling overfishing to sustain marine life. The third goal is to manage the consumption of water as it is an unrenewable resource; this is by partnering with an influencing institution like Global Environment Facility. The fourth goal is to protect species like whales and rhinos that are threatened of extinction through the community-based department in WWF. This focuses on increasing awareness of individuals and encouraging them to help the environment. The fifth goal is to increase food availability in a country specifically sustainably produced. The WWF creates educational campaigns to inform citizens and business owners on wise consumption and promoting sustainable food solutions for food companies. Finally, WWF is advocating individuals on the use of renewable energy in order to avoid the rapid changes of climate. This is done by heavy research on species and ecosystems to be able to prepare for climate change (‘WWF – Endangered Species Conservation | World Wildlife Fund’, 2019). Thus, it is clear that the public relations department is incorporating corporate social responsibility in the organization and advocacy groups are working towards fixing social issues through public education.

There are two types of public relations: Internal and External and the publics include: customers, media, sponsors and stakeholders. The function of public relations is to build a strong image and have positive relationships with the public and maintain it. This is crucial as the reputation of the company is what makes customers want to donate to the organization. WWF is able to develop relationships due to the communities it creates on social media. For example, individuals are interactive with Facebook posts by sharing and reacting to them. Moreover, there are several functions that the public relations are responsible for which is done through a four step process: Research, Action, Communication and Evaluation. First off, research is about finding what the main problem is. Second, action involves planning a program to solve the problem. Thirdly, communication is about using the right medium to send a message. This has a significant influence on the organization and the public. The final stage is evaluating whether the goals have been achieved and whether the organization was able to change the mindset of the public. These four factors are interconnected and essential to use them all to be successful. For instance, WWF has several projects to solve problems related to the environment, and use a variety of mediums in order to spread their message and awareness. It is clear that they are successful in changing the mindset of the public as they receive donations and fundraisers.

Non-profit marketing in WWF suggests that it markets their cause rather than a product. It is crucial to inform the public about the organization in order to gain financial support. The organization targets everyone, specifically schools and university students, In the WWF, individuals are ready to provide support to take part in the activities of the organization due to its strong image. Furthermore, the organization is able to maintain a strong image due to the excellent working conditions for workers. Although the finance is invested in programs, the workers are provided with training and are able to attend international meetings where they are able to exchange knowledge. The WWF has a marketing department which manage the designs and advertisement production. WWF rely on the internet, newspapers and magazines for promotion. The main form of media used by individuals is tracked by the organization. The Internet is a significant tool that the organization heavily relies on due to its low cost in comparison to other forms of media and increased number of internet users. Moreover, the institution has alliances with newspapers and magazines that allow it to advertise for free. As they maintain a low price, this makes all individuals feel that they are able to contribute. For instance, the donation starts at only 3 Euros and there are special prices for students which strongly appeals to people. Furthermore, the organization does not rely on event organization instead it aims to achieve most of the donation through donators. Through word of mouth, more people are encouraged to donate. However, this financial constraint leads to lack of repetitive promotion on television due to its high cost. Also, the radio is not used as the WWF care about showing images of the animals in their advertisements. Another popular method used is direct mail. Through mail, individuals are invited to choose among 6 species to adopt; Panda, tiger, Sea turtle, Caretta-caretta, dolphins and howl eagle. WWF keeps frequent contact with donators by sending newsletters on the animals adopted, a monthly magazine and a website where its values and donation opportunities are provided (Blery, Katseli & Tsara, 2010). Furthermore, non-profit organizations are able to gain money through fundraising – which is organized by public relations. The WWF website has a downloadable fundraising guide where they encourage people to set up events where individuals collect money and donate it to the organization. The guide involves a variety of ideas such as baking. Moreover, the websites have clothes which is a form of donation when purchased (‘WWF – Endangered Species Conservation | World Wildlife Fund’, 2019).

The advertising strategy used by the WWF is known as persuasive advertising. The first factor used to persuade the audience is the creation of emotions such as fear to force individuals to change. For example, WWF published an advertisement where an enormous beer can destroying New York City. This was to remind people that citizens are responsible for the destruction of the environment. The second factor is the use of photographs and art to grab the attention of the audience, usually the photographs are taken by the public relations. For example: photographs that showcase looks of despair in the face of animals create the emotion of sympathy. Moreover, WWF strongly engages the audience in their advertisements. For example: an advertisement where a man is morphed into a fish with the caption ‘stop climate change before it changes you’. This gives individuals the sensation that humans and nature are one. Furthermore, WWF uses ethos as an advertising strategy. As they are not making any personal profit, they should be trusted and supported. For example, WWF receives support from Ford Automobiles although its mission is completely different that the WWF’s. This suggests the likability of the institution. Another method used is facts and statistics. For example: ‘’Every year hundreds of wild animals are killed for their skin’’. This is important as humans cannot argue with facts yet will cause shock. The advertisements are simple and are followed by a call for action which guides individuals to donate (Adler, 2002).

To conclude, non-profit organizations including the WWF focus on improving society rather than making profit. The organization is trusted and supported by humans as it raises awareness on issues that are often ignored such as the environment. As more people are becoming cautious towards the environment, the WWF will continue to grow. Although the number of competitors is increasing, the WWF has a unique feature of adopting from a number of six species rather than just one or two. Moreover, it is clear that the company uses effective advertising strategies to get their message across globally. Without having a strong team in the public relations department, the strong image of the WWF and its likability would not exist. The organization relies on volunteering, educating public, donations and fundraising to be able to design and implement beneficial programs. The WWF is a company that gives a voice to the unvoiced creatures.


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  3. Drucker, P. (1992), Managing the Non-Profit Organization: Principles and Practices. NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
  4. Gilaninia, S., Taleghani, M., & Mohammadi, M. (2013). The Role of Public Relations in Organization. Nigerian Chapter Of Arabian Journal Of Business And Management Review, 1(10), 47-51. doi: 10.12816/0003699
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  6. Sargeant, A. (1999), Marketing Management for Nonprofit Organizations. N.Y.: Oxford University Press Inc.
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