How do you communicate your nonprofit’s story with the public?
If you’ve been working in the charitable sector for a while, I’m willing to bet you’ve put out your fair share of press releases.
Getting your charity’s story in the news is a cost-efficient way to raise awareness and build your brand. You don’t need to invest a tonne of money to get journalists to pay attention to you. In fact, grassroots charities sometimes have an advantage over the bigger fish with larger PR budgets. Local media outlets sometimes prefer working with and featuring smaller charities whose stories are more relatable to or have an impact on their local audiences.
But the story is where we often get stuck. We’ve talked to nonprofit workers who struggle to get journalists to pick up their press releases, and it typically comes down to the story they’re telling – or not telling. Some stories are really just not worth a journalist’s time.
Here are 5 things that are simply not newsworthy:
1. Your anniversary
Close that Word document. I beg you, do not write a press release about your 50th anniversary. In all likelihood, the media does not care about your anniversary (and I hate to break it to you but your donors probably don’t care either). Anniversaries are lovely internal milestones. Unless you’re using your anniversary to launch something new and innovative, there’s really no reason to tell everyone that you made it to 10, 25, 50, etc. In fact, sending this kind of press release might even be detrimental if not much has changed in all the time that you’ve been doing your work.
2. Your fundraising event
Fundraising events are not news and yet journalists get invited to cover fundraisers all the time. The press release inviting media to your gala is probably sitting in an inbox crowded with releases about other galas, charity runs, and fundraisers. Don’t waste your time reaching out to the media unless your event is really outside the box.
3. Your new Executive Director
Leadership changes at organizations all the time. Your new Executive Director or CEO is news you can share internally and with your donors and stakeholders. It’s not news that a journalist is likely to pick up without an additional story angle.
4. That donation
Putting out a press release for a donation is a common recognition tool that fundraisers use, but it’s not always the most effective at getting your organization in the news. If you’re putting out a press release to announce a donation there are a few questions you should ask yourself first:
- Is the donation amount significant or precedent-setting in your sector?
- Does this donation make it possible to launch, expand or somehow improve a program?
- Does the donor have a great story? If not, is there a client who could connect their story to this gift?
5. Important issues that aren’t news
Here’s something to keep in mind: not all important issues are news. For example, breast cancer is always an important issue, but that doesn’t make it news in and of itself. Media outlets will be more receptive to telling stories about breast cancer when it’s already top of mind – like when a public policy changes or a high-profile research development takes place. Those kinds of events can turn an important issue into a newsworthy one – one that your organization might have the expertise to comment on.
Co-Founder, Charity Savant
Ashleigh Saith is a fundraiser and nonprofit leader with years of experience working in small- and mid-sized nonprofits. She’s passionate about nonprofit marketing and leadership, and found herself with a shocking knack for finance. While out running, Ashleigh thinks about new ways that Charity Campus can help nonprofit staff and volunteers grow, learn, and connect with each other.