Although the holiday season is prime time for charitable giving, it’s also an opportune time to consider how organizations can promote their missions and attract donations throughout the year through nonprofit public relations efforts.
Nonprofits are particularly well-primed to do so through public relations due to several factors:
- They are seeking media coverage that will hopefully lead to more social good (as opposed to more consumer spending).
- Relevant journalists will have some level of connection to what they do and who they help.
- They have plenty of sincere human interest stories, and plenty of sincerely passionate sources, to offer.
But regardless of these advantages and however heart-warming your cause, simply sending a press release and asking the media to write a story or conduct an interview is not enough to generate coverage.
So without further ado, here are five of our PR team’s creative ideas – including practical examples – for how nonprofits can break through the competitive media landscape:
1. Leverage a Not-So-Obvious Milestone
While pitches for business anniversaries are a dime a dozen, many nonprofits have at their disposal a wealth of facts and figures that can be used as eye-catching news hooks – if they take the time to consider how interesting they might appear to a general public that’s not “in the weeds” of daily activities. A library, for example, could develop some pretty headline-grabbing pitches announcing its 10,000th book loaned, 1,000th library card issued, or highest fine.
2. Carry Out a PR Stunt
At a time when almost everyone has a smartphone at all times, anyone can become a newsmaker by taking and immediately sharing images and videos. A PR “stunt” seeks to capitalize on this fact by capturing the public’s attention with a share-worthy planned event that then captures the media’s attention. An anti-tobacco nonprofit, for example, could fill a highly-visible public area with a cigarette butt for every person that dies from lung disease each year. On a more positive note, a hunger-fighting nonprofit could attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the biggest bowl of pasta ever made and serve it to the homeless.
3. Develop a Human Interest Story
The National Center for Charitable Statistics reports that there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations – and therefore more than 1.5 million missions – in the United States. They do all have one thing in common, however: an overarching goal of helping people. As with facts and figures, nonprofits can take advantage of this by offering a compelling story of an individual whom they’ve helped (even if he or she remains anonymous). A nonprofit that seeks to expand awareness of and ownership of life insurance, for example, could pitch the personal story of someone who purchased a policy due to its assistance and was able to put his or her kids through college, stay in his or her home, etc. after the unexpected death of a spouse.
4. Offer Media an Exclusive Experience
With newsrooms constantly shrinking and news beats constantly expanding, convincing a reporter to physically attend an event that you’ve invited many of his or her peers to is a very tall task. Offering them a unique, exclusive experience that they can write about, however, is a different story. A nonprofit that focuses on historic preservation, for example, could offer a behind-the-scenes, one-on-one tour of a soon-to-be-completed project that would be hard to pass up.
5. Share Your Expertise
Even media coverage that doesn’t directly focus on your cause can gain valuable exposure for your organization (and yourself!), and connecting your expertise to a timely or seasonal hook can be a great way to get it. For example, if your nonprofit hosts an annual winter coat drive you might consider pitching your list of “most under-donated winter essentials.” Or if you work with the military, you could suggest “the top five items soldiers would like to see in their care packages.”
Consider and put unique tactics like these to work – whether on your own or by partnering with an agency with in-depth nonprofit experience – and you’ll be well on your way to generating both coverage and contributions throughout the year!
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