Nonprofit PR Marketing With a Mission

If you’re the executive director of a nonprofit organization, you come to work each day with two things on your mind. First, how can your agency best fulfill its mission, and second, how will you get the funding you need to fulfill your mission. The two are intertwined, a Catch-22 if you will. While most nonprofit leaders love doing the work of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, educating the uneducated or even furthering the arts, many heads of nonprofits dread the never-ending yet unavoidable task of fundraising.

There are many routes to fundraising. The obvious and perhaps most predominant one is writing grants for foundation funding. But there are many others including government assistance, nurturing private donors and creating special events.

There is no secret to effective fundraising, but it is clear that the most successful nonprofits have an easier time raising funding when they have an effective and ongoing marketing and public relations program in place.

The reason is obvious. First, funding is more likely to come the way of an organization that has an image and that people know or at least have heard of. Second, donors prefer giving money to organizations that are successful, not appearing as through they are teetering on closing their doors. Nobody wants to donate money to an operation that may not exist tomorrow to carry out its mission.

That’s why so many nonprofits are creating and implementing campaigns to brand and position themselves. And most of all, every nonprofit rightfully seeks positive media exposure

Getting the media to profile your nonprofit is not an easy task. In fact it is tough. There are hundreds of thousands of nonprofits in America, each seeking media exposure. How many of these organizations can get profiled on a national television program? How many can get a feature story in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times or any other major metropolitan newspaper?

Too few.

So how is it done? Can it be done? Yes it can.

First, determine how your nonprofit is different from all the others who seemingly do the same thing you do. Yes, every nonprofit agency is different, you just have to look close. Second, think how you can market your differences and make them interesting -- no fascinating -- to the average reader or TV viewer. Third, define how your work is changing lives for the better. You are, aren’t you? Fourth, look for anecdotes, real-life examples of people whose lives your agency has changed.

Take all over the above, put together a list of media targets that you believe may have interest, and craft an email selling your story. You may not like the term, but it is a sales job and if you believe in your nonprofit, as I’m sure you do, you should have no problem touting yourself.

Certainly this is an oversimplification of how to get media exposure. That’s why public relations professionals exist who have the experience and knowledge to help you craft your message and deliver it to the right people in the right manner.

But if a PR pro is not in your budget, try it yourself. The reporter may say no at first, but don’t give up. Sooner or later you’ll likely come across a story the media will find irresistible. And when you do, take that story and send it to as many donor prospects as you can so when you solicit them for funding, they will know who you are and what you do.


Harvey Farr is founder and president of Farr Marketing Group (FMG), a Los Angeles public relations and marketing firm.  FMG specializes in issues and causes marketing and public relations and is known for its experience marketing non-profit organizations.  FMG also represents financial institutions, attorneys, law firms, accountancy firms, and labor organizations.

Areas of expertise and services include strategic planning, media relations, crisis communications, special eve...

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