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Getting the media to cover your organization's fundraising campaign can help you reach new donors, garner larger donations, and become a well-known, trusted entity in your community. But working with the media is tricky, especially if you don't have a dedicated marketing or press relations person on staff.
However, a little media know-how can help you get some attention for your campaign. After years of being on both the press side and the PR side of the media game, here are some of my favorite tips for elevating a fundraising campaign.
I have read — and written — hundreds of press releases in my 10 years of professional work. I've read some truly terrible press releases (think really long, ALL-CAPS, and lots of exclamation points!!!) as well as some amazingly crafted ones that were more narrative than advertisement. Journalists are busy people, and they do not have time to read through an essay about how amazing your nonprofit is. If they can't figure out what you're pitching in the first paragraph, they're going to hit delete.
This article from PRDaily offers some really useful tips on crafting a press release. My favorite tip? "Remember that nobody cares." It might sound harsh, but it will challenge you to come up with a click-worthy subject/headline and an introduction that will draw a journalist in.
At TechSoup for Libraries' July webinar, we featured two libraries that had wildly successful crowdfunding campaigns. The Northlake Public Library, in particular, got an incredible amount of media attention for its fundraiser. The idea was to catch people's attention with the Hulk statue and also raise money for a new "creation station" with a 3D printer, an iMac with a drawing pad, software, and other tools. So really, it was a Trojan horse campaign: a fundraiser for tech hidden within a Hulk statue!
Because the library led with the Hulk statue, it was able to garner a lot of media attention from entertainment publications like Entertainment Weekly and tech websites like TechCrunch. Read more about the Northlake Public Library's tips for success on TechSoup for Libraries.
While you might be tempted to hit up the big media outlets, like your local news station or paper or even USA Today, try starting small for your first fundraising campaign. Seek out neighborhood or local bloggers and tell them about your campaign. If your campaign is tied to an event, like a kick-off party, that will give them even more reason to want to share your event, because lots of people read neighborhood blogs to find out what's going on in the area. Many neighborhood blogs have event calendars as well.
Getting a mention in a neighborhood blog is as easy as contacting its editor directly about your event. When I wrote for a neighborhood blog, we took almost all submissions as long as they were relevant to the area.
If directly contacting media outlets doesn't get you any pickup, you can try using social media to amplify your campaign. You could post about your campaign and tag news outlets or post directly to their Facebook pages. Just try to not be too aggressive with this tactic. A more subtle way might be to send the outlet a message and politely ask them to share your campaign or event.
Study the press releases and media centers from big corporations, foundations, or other media-savvy organizations. If you're trying to get consistent media pickup, you might consider having a designated page on your site for the press.
This web page could host images of various resolutions and sizes, text about your organization and its mission, and press releases about your various upcoming events.
Also, make sure to have press contact information so journalists can reach out in case they have questions or need more images. Something that makes journalists go utterly headdesk is when they want to write about a topic and there's nobody to talk to about it.
Do you have other tips for media pickup? Share with us in the comments.
Image: gilly youner / CC BY-NC-ND
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.