According to a recent report from TopRight Partners, nonprofits have very distinct marketing and fundraising
departments that rarely interact with one another. That’s unfortunate because both teams target the same audience groups—signaling opportunities for messages to align better and sharing those messages across communication channels (e.g. TV, radio, social media) where audiences are. In addition, both departments focus on reaching donors and other partners who they wish to communicate the benefits of their organization, the good work they’re doing and encourage them to take a specific action (e.g. to donate).
Your communication efforts can support and align goals of both marketing and development teams. Here’s how:
The Importance of Media Relations in Donor Outreach
Sharing your impactful stories and results with your target audiences is the first step any nonprofit should take to generate awareness and exposure for the organization. Media outreach is about creating an emotional connection with your audiences so they understand:
- what you do and for whom
- the impact you have in the community
- why your organization is essential to solving an important social issue
Development teams and nonprofit boards spend a lot of time prospecting–trying to identify companies, groups and individuals who might respond to the organization’s message, and over time, make a significant contribution. But there is a lot of time and energy that goes into prospecting and nurturing current donors. One of the best things nonprofits can do today is invest in a solid media relations strategy that gets the organization“out there” in the community and generates positive, reputation-building public awareness.
- Builds trust and credibility among donors
Media relations can support fundraising efforts by building public trust and credibility of your organization. Securing third-party endorsements shows that your organization is 1) credible; 2) doing good work in the community; and 3) worthy of donations. When you land a good story that highlights the best aspects of your organization, you are reaching prospective donors – as well as potential board members, volunteers and other community partners – who learn about the organization, why it matters and, as a result, they become interested in what you do and want to get involved…and possibly donate!
- Raises awareness among donors
If prospects don’t know your organization exists and aren’t hearing about the good work you’re doing in the places they are already consuming information (e.g. news outlets, Facebook, etc.), you are missing out on the opportunity to reach a larger audience that may be interested in contributing their time, talents and money to your nonprofit. Good press coverage raises general awareness about your organization so the next time you are prospecting, people start to remember who you are.
- Creates emotional connections with donors
The most memorable stories are the ones that tug at people’s heartstrings. Emotional connections positively impact people’s public perceptions of your organization. Securing media stories consistently, over time, that speak to those positive, heart-warming impact stories is a reputation-building initiative that can help build buzz among your community and encourage donations so you can continue to fulfill your mission. Current donors will continue to donate and support your initiatives knowing that your organization is being endorsed by others and that you are making an investment to be a constant presence in their community.
Furthermore, if you have a specific fundraising campaign or upcoming event you are trying to promote, media coverage can be a great way to get the word out. For example, if you have a landing page that encourages people to donate or a kickstarter campaign that needs some attention, you can include calls to action in your media interviews and bylines (if appropriate) that invite readers, viewers and listeners to donate and get involved.
Fundraising and marketing are symbiotic. One cannot exist without the other’s support. Organizations needs funds to continue doing good work in their communities–and organizations need media coverage to generate trust, build a positive reputation and create emotional connections with prospects…so they will be motivated to donate and get involved.
The bottom line: if prospective donors don’t know you exist, how can they learn about you and make a conscious decision to invest in your organization? They can’t. Getting your impact stories covered by local and national media outlets positions your organization in a positive light, allows you to share your mission with the general public and directly puts your mission in front of people who care are about causes like yours.
Rhiannon Hendrickson is the founder and CEO of Orapin Marketing + Public Relations, which helps purpose-driven businesses increase visibility, expand the reach of their message, and become sought-after industry leaders. She has worked with organizations of all sizes across myriad sectors to develop memorable and effective communications programs that generate awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, support for those that are making a meaningful impact.