In home communities, offices and industrial areas they come on with verve, reflecting the enthusiasm of the PR volunteer. That enthusiasm plus professional PR skills explains their ability to meet ever-increasing needs.
Community volunteers engage in three types of annual fund raising, the local United Fund, health research organizations, and campaigns for building and capital funds.
All of these private endeavors are PR children. We shall look briefly at the research units first. Each of these tends to say: Please help tell this story. Their purpose is to awaken awareness of the need among workers. Their organizations have impeccable credentials.
The most important drive, of course, is for the United Fund, the one accepted form of joining forces to make up the operating resources for social welfare, health agencies and for other member agencies supplying civic and public: services.
In the office, factory or the home community, its annual drives bring out the best local PR people. Likewise, in the community the real leaders roll up their sleeves, collate the enclosures, boss the teen volunteers and send Boy Scouts to mail the packets. Business leaders miss travel and meeting schedules to attend planning meetings: all the top people work together.
The roster of aides includes Fund professionals, the entire roll of business PR; paid PR heads of hospitals; state and regional health education and welfare directors as PR workers; associations, and community PR chairmen, some elected for their third, fourth, or tenth year.
Each community determines its own United Fund membership. As community activity planners, PR volunteers should work with Fund professionals year round to encourage streamlining. A large number of PR-minded chair-women volunteers, after the drive, wind up as paid PR employees.
In the business community professional PR has developed a pattern that does not interrupt work and business during days and weeks of meetings and rallies. The home community committees that plan and execute the annual Fund drive have dramatized everything that community relations are all about.
A neighborhood United Fund activity is similar to a good company or institution PR-directed community program. The prime mover, the practitioner setting the plan in motion, does not long operate alone. His technique is to uncover common interests. That is the basic technique for forming all community activities. To do this, he must attract all types of citizens. Professional PR practitioners must take orders from elected chairmen. Church groups drop favorite activities to release their volunteers for the Fund drive. Public office-holders love to see such civic rapport; they welcome lending a hand. How do you get them? Let's write them some letters.
July 1 Dear Mr. Mayor:
As you know, November 21 to 30 is United Fund week. We have taken on a 50 per cent quota increase here in Oakwood. Because you are so popular with our members, we are inviting you to be our speaker for this year's Kick-Off Dinner to be held on Friday, November 2, in the Field School cafeteria at 7:00 P.M.
Please let me know that you can be with us.
Now you must start getting your crowd. This is one approach:
It seems we just finished our last report on the Fund, but here it is again. I am writing now because I am depending upon you as our PR co-Chairman. You did such a wonder-fid job last year that I can feel confident of success again this year, if we can have you on our team.
Mayor Jones is our speaker for the Dinner on November 2. The Drive dates are Nov. 21 through the 30th.
Could you please come to our investiture meeting at noon, October 15, Friday? It will be held in the Club dining room. Everything depends on our all being at these first meetings.
Let us suppose that Nellie is asked to round up all of the professional PR assistance she can get. She studies the roster of the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and writes to those who live in Oakwood. Also, she sends
a letter to a dozen PR practitioners in institutions, offices and bigger stores in Oakwood, as follows:
Dear PR Professional:
In my role as the Oakwood United Fund drive PR chairman, I'd like to invite you to be a member of our PR committee. This year's drive quota is set at 50 per cent more than last year. We are going to need some real high-class PR help: yours for instance. We're counting on your help.
Our organization meeting is set for October 1, two weeks before the investiture meeting for the new officers and seven weeks prior to the drive date: Nov. 21 to 30.
We will meet at the YMCA cafeteria at 8:00 P.M. With an agenda in hand, we will move along quickly, so that by 9:30 everyone will be on their way home.
I will ask you, and your Oakland colleagues, whom we also are inviting, for a little advance help:
Would it be better PR to hold off announcing the committee members for the operating committee till a week or so before the drive? Or should we space them out from mid-October until the drive opens? Our meeting will be time enough to give an answer, if we can depend upon you coming. We are fortunate in Oakwood having some of the nation's best PR people (Joe King, city ed., told me that). I know how busy you are, but please squeeze in an hour Friday, October 1, 8:00; Y cafeteria. Many thanks.
As the reader has observed, the letters are informal. If your first efforts lack that quality, do them over again until you gain it. Amateur letter-writers often feel that letters should be like national advertisements. On the contrary, letters should be spontaneous and private. Keep in mind that the reader is holding the letter in his hand. Perhaps his secretary has underscored the salient points: dates, places, etc. He reads it twice because you ask him a question he alone can answer. You must be careful to tell him others are being invited: letters fail when such matters are handled ambiguously.
Industry wide and In-Company Fund Drives Planned Year Round
At the year's start, the business PR budget-making department had penciled in the early Winter United Fund drive on his projection calendar/schedule submitted for planning. Actually, the business PR budget does not show "company giving," unless he has "membership and gifts" as a function. The chief officer or financial officer determines the company gift.
The business PR role will include: liaison with the Fund central office to arrange for company-loaned executive services to the Fund for divisional and industry solicitation committee plans. The earlier PR asks for loaned executive time-allotments the easier it is to get them. Also, the concurrent planning for in-office and plant employee campaigns can start once the company executive participation is settled.
Announcement Policy of Company Should Be Determined in Advance
Many companies determine their gift amount and depend upon the Fund professionals to announce it. These companies also may conduct their employee canvass and simply turn in the results. It is desirable that a clear-cut policy on announcement technique and timing should be established beforehand. Unless there is an established local yardstick, such as per employee, or per dollar, representing company size, no comment should attend the announcements.
In industrial operations, the personnel director usually is Fund Drive chairman. Alternatives are the plant manager, or manufacturing head: in short, the boss who controls people who are paid by the hour. In offices where most employees are salaried office managers, financial or sales heads would be the top executives. PR might discuss with the general manager such departmental roles, but the role of directing a major in-company activity should go to the proper officer.
The company PR department works out the in-company canvass schedule with the executive who has been named chairman. Usually, a staff personnel or office member will take on the physical work after the sub-structure formation is decided. Suppose the office has 100 persons: 25 are in production assignments; 20 in financial; 35 in marketing; and the other 20 are secretarial related to management. Each of these becomes a unit. When the first Drive is conducted, the chairman selects a unit-chairman in each section. Then he sets up four meetings, one with each group. Using the campaign kits supplied by headquarters, the teams are set up and will be at a breakfast set for the morning of Nov. 21.
PR Withdraws from Employee Drive After Planning
With the internal drive all set, the PR head writes the first Drive announcement for the general manager's signature:
To all Employees:
The time is approaching when the Superba Company makes its annual appeal on behalf of the United Fund to support the charitable and worthy agencies that administer medication and care to our sick, poor and needy. Tuesday, Nov. 21, is the day when the drive opens and each of us is asked to pledge whatever he feels to be his share in sustaining this noble work that is so essential to the community and to needy families.
I would like to ask each member here to dig a little deeper this year. I can tell each of you that we expect to continue on the high plateau of business returns for at least the first half of next year. Our quality has been excellent and our marketing force most effective. It has worked out well for everyone. Please consider these things when you sit with your family to decide your share.
As in the past, the company will take the responsibility for turning over to the Fund whatever weekly amounts you designate on your card. Every one of us is in a campaign unit: your leader will be around; please give him an answer as promptly as is convenient. May I extend my personal thanks for your consideration.
Yours very truly,
The general manager letter goes to the home with name-addressed envelope. No personal names should be on any Fund letters directed at personnel within your business organizations. That is pressure: bad.
Each supervisor's name should go on a letter to his unit, at home. PR prepares that and delivers it to the chairman with the offer to provide copies for the required number:
Dear Fellow Employee, Unit 12:
We in factory accounting and related units will report our individual contributions to this year's United Fund canvass through my office. Please use the large Manila envelope, scaled, when you make this report. Under no circumstances should it be left unless Miss Savage, my secretary, is at her desk to take it and place it in the locked cabinet. Each member's contribution is private.
As Mr. Smith said in his letter, each of us makes his own decision in keeping with personal conscience. We did a good job last year: and it would be nice if we could do even better this year. It's strictly up to you people. The sign-up time is Nov. 21: we will provide time for captains to go to each desk or station at the time of the 9:45 break. For second shift people this will be at 6:00. Enclosed is the material that you are asked to take home to show your wife and family before you attempt to assess the amount to give. If you need further information come in at any time.
In writing to employees (or anyone else) who get more than one letter from different levels upon a specific subject, be doubly careful to start your message from a different viewpoint. Readers don't like to read the same message a second time: the quickest way to lose a reader is to support the suspicion that an identical letter has been read before. Length of letter; Immaterial, up to four pages. Letter experts suggest framing and shaping propositions to require two-page letters, but the nation's biggest-selling letter writers (book clubs, travel groups, premium mail sellers, etc.) all are sticklers for the four-page letter. Of course, one-page short letters are all right if that is all the proposition requires.
Now the Drive needs a letter aimed at the community:
You are among those neighbors and regular supporters of the United Fund whose card was assigned to me at yesterday's meeting when the roster of our social welfare and health agencies' needs was reviewed for the coming year.
Enclosed for your convenience is the list of member agencies starting with the Acorn Hill Orphan and Foster Home Agency and ending with the Worth Street Boy's Club. Each does some vital service that has given Oakwood a unique name among the state's cities.
The enclosed envelope takes your contribution directly to the First Federal National Bank where it will get tallied. I have only one personal favor to ask: Will you please discuss this at the dinner table with your family before you decide what to do? It was said in the meeting that one reason Oakwood does an outstanding job each year in taking care of its social welfare needs is that our people consider it a privilege to have their own private and local control over what it feels is needed. If we don't, who does? one member asked. When you have talked it over, mark the ballot and drop it in the box: the postal box, that is. Best regards to all,
The above letter is patterned after one written by the author years ago that became a perennial. At the outset the community involved was far from exemplary in its giving: with only one letter each year, always a variation of the above, the community became a model of adequate support of ongoing social and civic agencies through its Fund.
The value of the above letter is that it commits the reader at the outset by labeling him a regular giver. It may occur to the reader that he is not likely to think that the "Dear Friend" means that he is the only recipient. Please take this based on faith based on long experience: Givers give more to community projects when they are not identified and addressed by name.
The only reason for using "Dear Friend" instead of just starting the letter blank is that it must evoke a personal awareness. Everyone has multiple communications experiences: newspapers, magazines, billboards, TV and on and on. The only private message anyone ever gets is in letters. It has been tested and proven that, when you are not selling a service or project, the Dear Friend appellation is equal to or more fruitful than "Dear Name."
Building Funds Are Something Else
Gifts for building funds are available only from constituents (members) and the able-to-give. Do not expect a neighborhood group to obtain money for anything except youth facilities or other benefits to everyone having children.
Constituents are also known by such names as "alumni," "former patients," "former members" and "members."
When soliciting, or forming a committee or group to conduct a campaign, you must be sure to evaluate all who are "able to give." That means individuals or institutions who can give what you want and not have it affect other things they do or want to do. If an elderly couple is planning a world cruise and you ask them for a gift and they respond, "We would be glad to do it any other time, but just now we would not have the extra funds for your worthy project," that is a valid response. If they send you a gift saying: "Herewith is our check. We had been planning a world cruise but this cause is so much more worthy," they are slightly balmy. Such cases have been known, but no one has ever explained them. Count only on gifts that people can make without changing anything in their lives. If you keep that in mind your letter will be more effective.
It is estimated that 90 per cent of the money given to worthy non-member causes-by persons able to give-is given as the result of mail solicitation. A good letter is much more effective than a poor reason given in person.
When your reader has your letter in his hand you have his attention. Do not say anything to bother him. No jokes; no rhetorical questions; no monkeyshines with red type and the like. Just tell him why you are writing to him. Be sure you do not start with the pronoun "We." Say You- everyone at least will read what you are saying about him.
Please keep in mind: everyone who gives to the United Fund gives because he can. It does not strap him. He wants to do what is expected of him, if he understands what it is for. Your letter mentions that it is for "social welfare and health services." People think of social welfare as widow and children cases; and health services as the sick. Next you say "from foster homes . . . Boy's Club." Boy's clubs are not for the alienated or dissident youth: these are boys who are good, but poor. You must calculate the social values of your prospect. Keep those things in mind and your letter will be a winner.
Institutions Have Rules on Gifts for Building and Capital Funds
For sustenance or ongoing need gifts every business institution is a prospect. The greatest challenge is reaching the right person. In almost every case that is the chairman. For building or capital fund gifts the chairman is the only one worth writing to. Or, you might write to the PR director and ask him to pass it along to the "proper officer" and: "we would appreciate your personal support." Most corporations are not permitted to give building or capital gifts by their bylaws. They are worth a try, though.
Fund drives are PR "children." They aim to tell a story in a way that will create positive action. The United Fund is the prototype of all community relations based on elements of "common interest."
PR professional company policies will determine announcement of business contributions.
PR techniques are crucial in letters to employees and members of the community to start successful drives.
People give because they can.
How can Funds solicit and use local PR professionals for the volunteer help?
How should the letter to a community member be addressed, and what word is important in the first sentence?