Cause-related Career ‘Case Study’

  SONIA M. TORRES:  ‘Spinning’ for a Cause

I fell into PR by a fluke – literally. I had just graduated college without any idea what my next move would be. Law school? No thanks.  Grad school? Not just yet. As most stories go, I knew someone who knew someone who was looking for someone to fill a position. In my case, it was at a boutique marketing and PR agency. I had no idea what PR was exactly, but I enjoyed persuasive discourse and had received a degree in it, so I figured why not?

That was almost 10 years ago and one thing has remained true: I enjoy doing PR. What has changed is how I’ve applied that skill set to a career that challenges me to “be the change I want to see in the world.” (Thanks Gandhi!) 

I am by no means a tree-hugging-Kumbaya-singing-goody-goody who thinks everyone should leave their lucrative corporate careers to work for social causes. Far from it. All I knew then (and now) was that I didn’t want to end up in a job I felt was a “soul suck.” I had tried corporate and government communications positions and experienced enough to know they weren’t right for me; I felt neither inspired nor effective in either sector. That’s when it hit me. What was stopping me from combining my passion for PR with my passion for education (a cause which I had been devoting much of my extracurricular time)? I decided to steer my career to doing, as I saw it, “communications with a purpose.”  Since then, I’ve worked with nonprofits big and small, doing in-house PR and external consulting.

Today, I work with a fantastic group of people at an organization I consider to be the poster child for efficiency and effectiveness: Room to Read, a global nonprofit that is enriching the lives of millions of children in the developing world through the power of education. Room to Read’s model is a unique hybrid of corporate business practices and social entrepreneurism. It’s the best of both worlds. Sure, there are days when I question my commitment to the cause or I can’t see the forest through trees. But then I stop and realize that I’m using my skills to raise awareness and support for a greater good (and my personal passion):  global education. For me, that’s the definition of professional fulfillment.

Thinking about a career in nonprofit PR? Here are the tips I can offer:

  • Volunteer for a cause or organization that you are passionate about to get a sense of how they operate and whether it’s a fit for you. 
  •  Nonprofits range in size and scale, so do your research – is the startup grassroots group for you or is the larger, established organization where you belong?
  • Be prepared to wear many hats and don’t be surprised if you, alone, are the communications department. Resources are limited at nonprofits so teamwork is key. 
  •  Not convinced in-house PR is for you? Explore PR agencies that cater to a variety of nonprofit clientele – you’ll get the exposure without transitioning into the sector.
  • Last but not least, remember that working in the nonprofit sector is a lifestyle choice – say goodbye to cushy expense reports and hello to karmic fulfillment!

Sonia Torres is the Senior PR Associate at Room to Read, an innovative nonprofit group dedicated to promoting and enabling global education. Sonia has over eight years of experience in communications with an emphasis on strategic planning and media relations. Previously, Sonia worked with Social Planets, California Charter Schools Association and Hispanic Scholarship Fund.  A graduate of the University of California at Berkley, Sonia received her bachelor’s degree in rhetoric.

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