Over the past months, many of us have been moved by the images coming from Louisiana. Scenes of submerged homes and people being rescued from cars overrun by floodwaters illustrate the toll of the human tragedy. Despite these images, fundraising to help the victims of the flooding has lagged behind that of other recent disasters, such as Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.
There are many potential causes for this, several of which can be traced back to media coverage of the floods, which by most accounts has been less than previous disasters. This could be due to the seemingly increased frequency of natural disasters, the area affected and, probably more than anything else, the media time allotted to covering the presidential election.
Whatever the reason, the Louisiana floods offer an important lesson for fundraisers. Public relations, whether on a local, state or national level, play an important but often overlooked role in fundraising efforts.
Before supporting any nonprofit, donors must perceive that there is a need or challenge their gifts will help address. Public relations provides an independent, objective and credible source to shed light on issues that may be overlooked or may not be top of mind for your potential supporters. Once the need is established, you can focus on explaining why your organization is in the best position to address it.
But you shouldn’t wait until a disaster to establish this need and credibility. An effective public relations strategy will keep your organization at the forefront of potential supporters minds, helping your non-crisis fundraising efforts and ensuring your organization is the “go-to” when a disaster does strike.
So where do you start? First, assess what is newsworthy about your organization and the needs it addresses. Perhaps it’s a special event or any number of national weeks or months highlighting your cause. Remember that the goal may be to highlight the challenge your organization is addressing, rather than the organization itself. Start to develop relationships with the media channels that reach your potential donors. They can provide important insight into how to get your stories covered.
Just like marketing, it’s important to have a public relations plan. One newspaper article is not sufficient to get your message across. You need a steady, consistent presence to stay top of mind for your potential supporters and show the importance of your work. Acquiring new donors is critical to any fundraising effort, and a well-executed public relations plan will make your direct mail, email and other campaigns that much more effective.
Shocking Statistic: When U.S. adults were asked where they often get news, 57 percent responded television, 38 percent web, 25 percent radio and 20 percent print newspaper (Pew Research, 2016).
AMPERAGE Fundraising Advisers is a full-service fundraising company whose mission is to move the needle for our clients. For more information on Amperage Fundraising Advisers or to make a recommendation for a future blog post, contact us today!