This study explores the theory of prosocial public relations as proposed by Wakefield, Burnett, and van Dusen (2011). The propositions put forth by the theory are that in gaining visibility and support for prosocial causes, an organization will engage in non-confrontational (prosocial) public relations by building up internal resources, reaching out to target publics, and making connections with those publics related to the cause. This single-case study explored the public relations and communication tactics of a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide aid and service to the poor. A Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul located in the Western United States served as the case. Observations from this study were made through analysis of documentation and archival records and were supported through interviews with key staff members of the Society and field observations. The findings support the theory of prosocial public relations in that communication and public relations are vital aspects in the work of the nonprofit as it strives to gain visibility and support for the cause. Observations from the case study support that the Society builds up, reaches out, and connects with key publics. In addition, based on data, a fourth element of prosocial public relations, nurturing relationships, is proposed. This study begins to establish some of the public relations methods of how a successful prosocial nonprofit organization can build up, reach out, make connections, and nurture relationships through communication.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





Public relations, activism, prosocial, nonprofit, prosocial public relations, case study, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul



Included in

Communication Commons