National Capital Chapter

Volunteer Service Strengthens the Profession and You

Kate Perrin, 2021 Hall of Fame Honoree

By Kate Perrin

The most amazing thing happened as I reached the end of my traditional work life: the Public Relations Society of America – National Capital Chapter (PRSA NCC) inducted me into the PR Hall of Fame!

And, frankly, I was flabbergasted. Although I have nominated others for this recognition, it never once crossed my mind that I could be considered for inclusion. After all, I didn’t have a track record of amazing PR accomplishments that furthered the goals of clients and worthy causes.

When I said as much to PRSA President Lauren Lawson-Zilai, she explained that the Hall of Fame is about more than that; it also recognizes and rewards volunteer service that strengthens the profession and fosters the careers of others.

And, just like that, I felt seen and appreciated.

My path to success and my approach to leadership have both been through volunteering. Each time I’ve said yes to a request to work on a project, to speak to a group, to mentor students, or to chair a committee, I gained insights, knowledge and skills, as well as additions to my network and opportunities to be a visible part of the community. I always gained more than I gave, because each experience equipped me for a future challenge.

I joined Washington Women in PR (WWPR) in 1987 when it was still a fledgling women’s professional group. Women were beginning to enter the profession in significant numbers, but they were not finding a lot of support or resources. So it meant the world to me to connect with other young women in PR and soak up their guidance and valuable programming. I gladly agreed to a number of small volunteer activities and the chance to connect with colleagues.

So when WWPR’s president called in 1990 and asked if I would organize and produce the first WWPR Woman of the Year Award luncheon — and, oh, by the way, find a way to have it raise funds for our pro bono client, the DC Rape Crisis Center! — I suppressed my terror and said yes.

We made a profit, and we created the initial excitement and buzz for an event that continued to grow annually. It was a big, stressful project, and, in addition to the joy of success, I later realized how important it had been for me personally. I built solid new skills in event organization, logistics, fundraising and team management. And I became visible to a wide segment of DC’s PR community.

I joined the WWPR board and was its president a year later, and thus began a new chapter in my career.

For years, I have appreciated how much PRSA NCC impacted my business. I found PRofessional Solutions’ first PR temps through a chapter networking group. I met and talked with prospective clients and temps at meetings and mixers. The chapter never fails to recognize its sponsors, so PRofessional Solutions’ name and logo appeared on all promotions and materials. And I was given frequent opportunities to serve on or moderate panels, participate in programs, and contribute items to the blog — invaluable visibility opportunities for me to represent my business.

Now I see that an appreciation for and understanding of how volunteerism builds success — for the beneficiaries and the providers — is ingrained in PRSA NCC. It is a value we share, and one I urge even the busiest people to embrace and practice, both in your professional and personal life.

The skills I honed as a communicator benefitted Dress for Success during my three years on its board, and I came away with a deeper understanding of fundraising as well as the needs and difficulties faced by part of my community.

Now, as I move from my traditional work life into one of philanthropic volunteerism, I am engaged and enriched every day by the friends I make and the satisfaction that comes from giving time and value to the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and the Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital.

So, my advice for others who hope to gain skills and recognition and become leaders is simple: Get involved. Participate. Share what you have to offer. And welcome the benefits you’ll reap.