We direct all of our fundraising advice at the 3rd party/amateur fundraiser. Those intrepid, resourceful, and slightly-off individuals who put it on the line by asking their friends and family for money, do all sorts of crazy things to raise money for their charities. After reading this, you will know as much about how to use fundraiser press releases as any “professional” fundraiser does.
Your fundraiser press release can be an important tool in your communications strategy for your event. But it should be only one part of your outreach plan. Don’t forget the more grassroots outreach – things like flyers, brochures, emails and other communications tools. Grassroots outreach is one high level tactic and can be effective but is always very labor intensive. Media Outreach is another high level tactic that you should employ to get the word out for your event. The fundraiser press release is one of the tools of media outreach.
The best way to get your story covered by media outlets is to do their job for them. This means figuring out what is newsworthy, writing well and giving them accurate information and instructions.
3 main tools for media outreach
- Press releases go out several days before your fundraiser event to give the press some notice.
- Media advisories go out the day before the event and give media the basic information they need to get there.
- Finally, public service announcements (PSA) can be used in advance to encourage ticket sales or close to the date to encourage people to donate or attend your event.
Let’s focus on that press release for now. We’ll cover the other two another day.
A press release has all the essential information for a news story and serves as a reference for reporters as they write up their story about your event. It should also contain some background information on your personal reasons for getting involved and your nonprofit organization.
A press release is a succinct account of your story (usually one page) and should cover the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the story.
Your press release should represent just how you’d like the news story about your event to turn out. In some cases, a small, understaffed paper may even print your press release as their story rather than assigning a reporter to cover your event. Newspaper editors often use portions of press releases in their stories.
Writing a good press release can be a little tricky the first time you do it— RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING and be brief yet informative.
Organize your press release information from most important to least. Lead with all the important information and leave details for the end. That way, if the editor only has time to read paragraph one, she will still get the gist of your story. Follow this simple format :
- The Lead: Answer who, what, where, when, why and how. Cover all the bases very briefly.
- The Bridge: Provide a link between the lead and the details to follow. Use this chance to explain anything that didn’t fit into the first paragraph. Use this section to explain more about why you’re doing this.
- The Body: Further explain the information given in the lead. Include quotes from relevant people—perhaps one from a member of your team and one from the Executive Director of your nonprofit.
- The Closing: Convey any additional contact information, tell the reader how to participate in your event, and refer to your NPO’s web site for more information.
Fundraiser Press Release Do’s
Good fundraiser press releases should:
- Fit on one page (if it absolutely cannot, put “MORE” at the bottom of the first page and at the end of the release, type “END” or “###”
- Be single-spaced
- Include (top right) a contact name, phone #, email address in bold print
- Begin with a short but compelling headline
- Include (top left) the date for the story’s release
- Be written on your nonprofit organization’s letterhead or include the logo in your email
- Include the summary paragraph on your nonprofit organization
- Avoid technical words or jargon. If they are necessary, be sure to define them
- Contain no spelling or grammatical errors
That was the easy part.
Distribution of your press release
What do you do now that you have a great press release? I’m assuming you wisely chose the publications that you hope will run an article for you. If you’re like most third party fundraisers, you are organizing events and fundraisers that appeal to you so just hit the publications that you normally read. Hopefully you will reach others like you. No need to get too scientific about it.
Then find the email for that publication and send your release to the attention of the reporter who writes about the human interest stuff.
Then call that reporter, before noon, if you can. Remember that these people have deadlines everyday. If you called me 10 minutes before my essay was due to talk about your essay, you probably wouldn’t have my full attention so plan accordingly.
If you get into a voicemail – be succinct. Who, What, When, Where, Why, How. Try to rehearse your message before making the call.
If you do get someone’s attention and they call you back just be honest and explain why you think the story is compelling. And call back quickly if they left a message – remember the deadlines.
The rest is out of your hands. Hopefully, you had a chance to strike up a decent conversation with the reporter so next time you try this they may recall who you were.
Fundraiser Press Release Don’ts
- Write an advertisement instead of a press release. Focus on the specifics and the compelling story.
- Disregard the impending deadlines writers face by not returning phone calls quickly.
- Write a really long release
- Write an incomplete release without the who, what, where, how and why info
- Target the New York Times for a story better suited to your local paper
- Use poor grammar and spelling. You don’t want to come off sounding like an idiot. Even worse, you’re not giving the writer something they could just cut and paste. Make their lives easy and you’re golden
- Be afraid. So they so no. Who cares. Find someone else who will use your story.