A retainer is a fixed amount of money paid each month to secure the services of a PR agency or consultant.
PR agencies and consultants like retainers as it guarantees their income stream, but retainers are not usually in a charity's best interest. Retainers force a charity to spend money on PR each month even if they have nothing to publicise. Agencies often end up publicising a weak story purely to make up the hours, which typically gets little coverage and is wasting the charity's resources.
Retainers also make PR unaffordable for small charities as the minimum spend is too much for charities with a modest income.
When shortlisting PR consultants, try to find one that doesn't charge a retainer.
Acorn PR offers charities are more flexible approach and is happy to work with charities on one-off projects. With ongoing PR, I work to the charity's annual budget, and decide together how much to spend each month by looking at what stories the charity can publicise. For information about my approach, visit the About me page.