Janet L. Falk
According to a political consultant acquaintance, there are three types of people:
- Those that are with you and will always be loyal;
- Those that are agin’ you and will never pay attention;
- Those that are in the middle, undecided and under-informed.
As a nonprofit professional who cultivates a base of supporters, you must keep them up to date, as well as reach out to that large group in the middle.
So, consider getting a news story about your nonprofit’s achievements to attract their attention.
- Being in the news can generate support, both financial and in-kind donations, plus create alliances with like-minded groups;
- Media coverage may also advance your advocacy work on an issue on the legislative agenda or under the budgetary review process;
- Writing an opinion column can also build awareness of your successful initiatives.
Here is the key to pitching a reporter and sharing your nonprofit’s accomplishments with the broader public in order to spark greater interest in your work.
- Reporters will ask two basic questions: Why YOU and Why NOW.
- Answer the Why YOU question by establishing the presence and authority of your organization to address an issue in the community.
- Respond to the Why NOW question by referring to a current or time-sensitive issue.
Here’s a game plan:
- Start with an action step for the reader or viewer. What do you want her to do after reading the news about your nonprofit or hearing your perspective?
- Visit a website to learn more
- Sign a petition
- Make a phone call to an elected official
- Write a check
- Give in-kind donation
- Buy a ticket to an event or fundraiser
- Once there is a clear action step, prepare the background. Assemble the reasons why this person should care about taking that step. Consider how your nonprofit accomplishes one of these goals, whether for individuals or for society at large:
- Save Time: As an example, when displaced workers attend resume preparation workshops, they accelerate their success in getting hired and off the unemployment line;
- Save Money: Rehabbing the home of a senior makes the residence safer and lessens the chance the person may fall and need hospitalization;
- Make More Money: Parents whose children attend afterschool programs are more productive at their workplace; they are not worried about their child’s safety, nor interrupted by phone calls from home;
- Bring More Joy to Lives: Arts and culture groups inspire those who attend their events and view their exhibitions and performances.
- Now, prepare five to seven sentences about an issue that the nonprofit addresses and why readers or viewers should pay attention.
- Create up to five bullet points to support your discussion.
- Tell the reader or viewer what to do next.
- Finally, frame this in a letter to a reporter/editor for the local newspaper, TV or radio station, perhaps as a story idea to prompt an interview with the Executive Director.
- If you suggest an Op Ed or offer to write an authored article, ask the newspaper for the word count and deadline.
- Propose a topic on a local TV station’s Point Taken segment.
- Include a related photo or video of program participants in action, not simply smiling for the camera.
By starting with the reader and why she should care, you increase the scope of the discussion beyond a self-promotional Look at Me request or an All About ABC Nonprofit article that may never materialize as a news story.
When successfully executed, this impact-focused approach raises your profile for a broad swath of readers. These are the individuals, among the uninformed people, who might be prompted to become interested in your achievements, if only they saw or heard more about your successes in the community. Plus, they will know exactly what they have to do to show their interest and lend you their support.
Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research provides Public Relations and Marketing Communications services to nonprofit organizations. She helps nonprofit professionals connect with the media to build relationships with donors, elected officials, business and community leaders, allied organizations and the general public.