MacGyver is a Nonprofit

Business Communications, Life, Public Relations

A World of Tools for MacGyverYes, that MacGyver, the one that can create a bomb out of a paper clip, some lint, and maybe a ketchup packet if he’s fortunate to have such luxuries around.  For anyone seeking a trip down memory lane, or context for some of my younger readers, be sure to check out the original geek adventure hero online and have some fun with the SNL spoofs too.

Aside from a good retro laugh, the real prompt for this post was chatting with my friend Arik Hanson who is working with a couple of Minnesota nonprofits in the digital space.  He commented on how dedicated the staff and leadership of these organizations are and how much of themselves they truly put into their work.  The comment Arik made that hit home with me is “this is their life; they don’t leave the job when they go home. It’s part of them.” 

I’ve been fortunate to work with so many outstanding people from a variety of nonprofits and it’s a spot on comment.  As you may know, I  work for a nonprofit so I am commenting as an “insider” but have also worked for a global PR agency, a Fortune 500 medical device company, and a small specialty pharmaceutical company.  I can tell you (relatively objectively) that nonprofit staff invests themselves in their work just as much as any corporate or agency pro…maybe more. 

However, I believe that many in the PR world view nonprofits as a second-tier job.  It doesn’t carry the status that some in our industry want on their resumes which is too bad because nonprofit pros are MacGyver-like problem solvers.   They’re working on addressing major community challenges with limited budgets, increasing demands for accountability, typically lean staffs, and doing it all for less pay and prestige.  So next time you’re at an industry get-together, keep an eye out for some of these smart MacGyvers in the room.  I bet you’ll meet some great new friends filled with passion and creativity.


Noted below are some great contacts if you’re interested in learning more about smart nonprofit thinking and other communications pros working to help their communities and important causes.

  • Beth Kanter who has a great blog and a ton of ideas around nonprofit leadership
  • In Minneapolis, for my local contacts, be sure to check out Ashley Schweitzer who is a constant advocate for nonprofits
  • My inspiring pal up north, Danny Brown with his outstanding 12for12k social media/charity efforts
  • Or maybe Katya Andresen focusing on marketing for nonprofits on her blog

5 thoughts on “MacGyver is a Nonprofit

  1. MacGyver was (still is?) one of my favorite shows. I had a cat named MacGyver in 5th grade (wait, did I just admit that?).

    As with many careers in our society, the most prestigious often aren’t in the nonprofit sector. But those “prestigious” roles are often not nearly as important in the grand scheme of things as the work that nonprofits do.

    Nonprofit PR pros are great at balancing – their work often goes well beyond PR as they have to wear many hats and serve as spokesperson, speech writer, lobbyist, project manager, event planner, human resources rep or fundraiser all in one. Their ability to adapt and do so much with such limited resources makes them some of the most talented pros in our field – and ones that for-profit PR professionals can learn a lot from.


    1. All good observations Amy- especially on the wearing of multiple hats. Many of the pros I’ve seen are able to easily switch from communications needs right into the operations or HR issue of the day.

      Also, your love of MacGyver probably taught you a number of outstanding lessons that help you to this day. =)

  2. Hey there Dave,

    Haha, any post where 12for12k gets mentioned in the same breath as MacGyver gets my vote any day of the week! :)

    The funny thing is that NP work can actually teach you much more – PR, marketing, advertising, etc – than “traditional learning” in these spheres ever could. Something more folks could do to take a look at.

    Cheers for the shout, appreciated fella!

  3. While I don’t know a ton about nonprofit PR, I have had experience with small business PR. I’d imagine there can be a lot of cross over between the two in the sense that many have to come up with MacGyver-like strategies under a smaller budget.

    Either way, I’m looking forward to learning more about this area through your blog.

    Thanks, Dave!

    1. Thanks Katie and you’re right about small business being in a similar spot as many nonprofits. Really anywhere that allows, or mandates, that you expand your skillset without expanding your budget provides a sink or swim environment.

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