Get Press Coverage for Your Nonprofit: A How-to Guide

December 7, 2016
4 minutes

Whether you're out to promote a fundraising initiative, seeking nonprofit programming awareness, or trying to get general news about your organization heard, maintaining a good relationship with the media can be quite beneficial. Getting your nonprofit's causes picked up by one or more journalists is not as hard as it seems, but be forewarned, it will still take a bit of persistence and effort.

Pitching your nonprofit to journalists does not always guarantee that they will publish your story. It is hoped the following tips below will help you get that journalist to publish your story!

Pick What Your Pitch Will Be In Advance

Before you dive into it too deep, you need to first need to know what you will be pitching to the media. Will you be pitching for a fundraiser? Perhaps an event your organization is holding? Define what it is you want to promote; it will help you decide which media outlets to target and which journalists would most likely pick the story up.

Finding the Right Outlets and Journalists

Now that you've got your pitch ready, you can begin your search for media outlets and journalists (don't forget influential bloggers). This is the time to pick whether you want to target national, local, or even hyper-local outlets. Most nonprofits do well with local and hyper-local outlets and publications.

Writers who have reported on similar topics in the past are your first, best bet. As an example, a journalist who has previously written on education would be a great fit to write about a nonprofit that runs a kids book lending library, or even a food writer might work if you run a food bank.

The key point here is not to stop at one or two journalists. Your list should show several possible writers. While you do not need to send each one a pitch, it does not hurt to have a deep list of backups, just in case.

Do your research

This will be different research from the one you just did above. You will now need contact information for each journalist or person that you've identified as a possible writer. Some will be easy to find, others, not so much. Various google searches will help, including business platforms, such as their employer's website or LinkedIn as well. Don't forget; you can still call the publication and introduce yourself and ask who the best point of contact would be.

Compile this list in a spreadsheet. You will need this for use later when it's time to send out your pitches.

While on this topic, don't bother sending pitches to generic or general email addresses (editor@ or ideas@). It is highly likely your pitch will drop off the plate quickly of whomever reviews the emails coming into those accounts.

Reach out in Advance

Before you send your formal pitch, it's a good idea to touch base with the people on your list beforehand. You can just send a quick email introducing yourself and maybe include a small elevator pitch. You can also request a quick call if time allows for it.

It is good to establish this connection as having a quick conversation via email or over the phone increases the chance you will be remembered when the pitch lands on their desk or in their inbox.

Personalize Your Pitch

Don't feel obligated to stick to a set formula when completing your press release. In your pitch, you will tell your nonprofit's story and answer the "who" and "why" questions. Who are you? Who benefits from your nonprofit's cause? Why does your nonprofit do the work you do? The goal is to make them care about the work your organization does. Include any pertinent photos and videos if you have them.

While in the efforts of saving time, you may be tempted to make the pitch standard for all recipients; it won't nearly be as effective as when you personalize each one to the journalist/writer you plan to send to. While you do not need to make an entirely new pitch to each one, personalizing each one will go a long way. Show them that you are aware of what they have written about and how it resonates well with your organization. If you can, please comment on a recent piece they had written. 

When writing your pitches, be mindful of the subject line in the email. This can dictate whether it gets opened or instantly deleted. Make it captivating but not sensationalized, avoiding things like hyperbole ("How we got the biggest donation ever!"). Instead, try something closer to "How we raised $2000 for Smith Elementary School in just one day."

Time to Send the Pitches

It's time to proofread your personalized pitches. Check for the following:

Is the journalist's name spelled properly? Is their title accurate?

Do you see any typos, punctuation, or misspellings? Is the grammar ok?

Is the contact information of the journalist visible?

Did you have another person read the pitch and verify the above points?

Typos can be the death of even the best of pitches, so please pay particular attention to the last bullet point and have a colleague review your pitch.

Time to Follow-Up

While you may be eager to hear back right away, it may be a couple of days before they are even able to begin reading your pitch. Wait about 2-3 business days before sending out a gentle email reminder.

Go back to your spreadsheet and include the dates you sent the pitches and each time you followed up to avoid multiple follow-ups to the same person.

Try Again in the Future

There will be numerous reasons why you did not hear back from a journalist or writer following your pitch. They may have a full schedule, they may have gone on vacation at the same time, your pitch doesn't align with their work, or something came up unexpectedly. It never hurts to try again in the future.

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