Public charities, or 501(c)(3) organizations, are fundamentally different from private foundations. They depend on support from multiple public sources, including individuals in their communities. If your nonprofit isn’t reaching out to and engaging its broad donor and prospective donor base through the media, it probably needs to revise its PR strategy. Consider these best practices.
Often Rather Than Occasionally
You can raise your nonprofit’s profile by putting out news releases often rather than just occasionally. The addition of a key staff member, an operational milestone, a new grant you’ve received or the kick-off of a fundraising campaign can all warrant press releases. In general, focus on outlets that are most likely to use your press releases, such as local television stations that cover community news. Get to know producers and editors and their broadcast and publication schedules. By taking the time to do this, you can pinpoint the most suitable outlets for your news.
Social media platforms are especially useful for publicizing news less formally — not to mention quickly — because you have complete control over when you post and what you post. Keep in mind that social media doesn’t require you to write long pieces. Just post captioned photos from a recent fundraising event or awards ceremony to remind followers that you’re seeking their support.
Human beings are naturally attracted to compelling narratives and are more likely to remember stories than disconnected facts. Work with your communications team to craft a story that dramatizes your nonprofit’s challenges and features real constituents. Your story will resonate if you focus on situations many people have experienced — such as mourning the death of a family member or struggling to find a new job.
Providing a local angle on an issue of national importance will increase your appeal to the media and immediate community. Whenever possible, offer an expert source from your organization who can talk knowledgeably about the local impact of a national story. By positioning your nonprofit as an authority, you can build trust and, ultimately, increase support for your organization.
Of course, when it comes to good publicity, timing is critical. You can increase your odds of coverage by submitting requests to certain media outlets, such as print and online magazines, at the start of new publication cycles. Or think about hosting an event or releasing an important announcement on a typically slow news day.
Stretch Your Budget
Public charities must be accountable to the public, so communicating effectively with a large audience via the media is essential.