By Janet L. Falk
The staff at nonprofits with a budget of less than $2.0 million often focus on programs, operations and fundraising, and not Public Relations or Marketing.
It may be difficult, but not insurmountable, to execute campaigns that advance advocacy, drive clients to programs, attract donors and generate media coverage, even without a trained Communication colleague, Board member or volunteer leading the effort.
Here are four Essential Communication Tools that a nonprofit without a dedicated Communication specialist must have to support the organization.
Virtually every nonprofit should have a website. Take a brutally objective look your organization’s website. If it is not something to be proud of, and if it was designed prior to 2011, it’s time for a refresh.
So many websites use a WordPress format that it has almost become an industry standard. Not having that clean, fresh look marks the website as out-of-date, and, by extension, the organization appears out-of step.
A nonprofit may hire a web designer or work with a volunteer on the re-launch of the website. Perhaps a professor at the local community college teaches a web design class and requires students to gain experience by working with a nonprofit. Select a designer and move ahead with this project with all due speed.
If necessary, remind the Board that internet visitors seeking information, reporters, donors and staff of like-minded organizations building alliances will remain longer and explore more pages on a contemporary-looking website.
Press Release Template
A Press Release is the standard way to announce something an organization thinks is important. It is distributed by email to reporters at local, regional and national publications and broadcast media.
Here is the basic format:
- First paragraph: Summary of the key news information in two sentences;
- Second paragraph: Additional details that support the summary and inform why this is newsworthy NOW, plus HOW, WHERE and WHEN the topic will have an impact;
- Third paragraph: Quote from the Executive Director, staff or Board member most closely tied to the subject;
- Fourth paragraph: Details of date, address, price to purchase tickets, sale of refreshments, how to register and similar specifics;
- Last paragraph: About Name of Organization. This paragraph, known as the boilerplate, summarizes the organization, its mission and the population(s) it serves. The final sentence is: For more information, please visit www.nonprofitname.org.
The website PRWeb.com is a Press Release distribution service. Before writing a Press Release about an event, new program or new professional staff member, search on the PRWeb.com website for a similar announcement. Consider this website a source of inspiration to draft and insert similar language into the Press Release template.
After the Press Release is approved by the Executive Director, copy it and paste it in the body of an email, which reporters prefer to an attachment. If there is a photo, note the caption and credit to the photographer, which may be the nonprofit itself, at the bottom of the Press Release; then attach the photo to the email.
Executive Media Profile
Unlike a Press Release, an Executive Media Profile introduces a nonprofit professional to reporters as a potential source to opine on issues. It establishes credentials and answers the questions “Why YOU?” and “Why NOW?”
An Executive Media Profile focuses on several hot topics that reporters should be aware of and that are issues the nonprofit addresses. The Executive Director or other professional staff may offer a new perspective and serve as an authoritative and insightful observer.
Here is the format:
- Summarize the person’s areas of expertise. Focus on a few themes without listing degrees and former positions. Three sentences in no more than six lines is sufficient.
- Include the nonprofit professional’s name, title, email and phone above this paragraph to have contact details easily available.
- Create a bulleted list of three to five hot issues for readers of that publication. Be specific and keep each idea to one line, to the extent possible.
- Indicate the contact person’s name, phone and email: To speak with Executive Name, please contact Jane Doe, 212-555-1212 or email@example.com.
Copy the Executive Media Profile, paste it in the body of an email and attach a photo, if available.
Assemble a list of the relevant newspapers, blogs, television and radio stations in the nonprofit’s geographic area; add magazines in the national nonprofit sector. Many publication websites list reporters and their beats by name, email address and phone number. Enter this information in a contact management database or a document where it is easily accessible for merge mailing and tracking follow-up activity. Periodically check the press list; find a reason to re-connect with the reporters, at least once a quarter, in addition to sending the Executive Media Profile and any Press Releases.
With an updated website and an active press list to which the nonprofit sends Press Releases and the Executive Media Profiles of key staff, nonprofit professionals who are novices in Communications will move ahead on solid ground. These essential Communication tools build awareness of the organization, its impact and its successes to potential clients and visitors, volunteers and employees, donors and reporters.
Janet Falk of Falk Communications and Research provides media relations and marketing communications services to nonprofit organizations. She helps nonprofit professionals be quoted in news articles to attract new clients and donors, and drive attendance to events.