You have been asked (or you volunteered) to help generate publicity for your non-profit organization’s next fundraising event. Your group doesn’t have professional public relations help. What do you do next?
From my experience with small non-profit organizations, typically there are two objectives for securing publicity for a fundraising event: to help increase attendance (pre-event publicity) and to gain exposure for the cause or organization at the event itself.
First things first–plan ahead.
Creating a buzz can take time. Plan accordingly so you don’t miss opportunities, such as the deadlines of monthly publications.
Submitting your event to listings online and in print publications is one of the first things to do. Ideally, you’ll already have access to a list of the listing places! In addition to your daily newspaper’s community or events section, here are some other sources to keep in mind: neighborhood/weekly newspapers, websites of local television stations, cable companies, city/around town guides, and publications specific to your non-profit “sector,” i.e., pet-related, senior citizens, children/families, health, outdoor/sport-related.
You’ll need to list the “who, what, where, when and why,” as well as contact information. Some media will welcome a photo. I typically use a photo from the prior year’s event. For weeklies, I localize information by submitting a photo of volunteers or supporters who live in that neighborhood with a caption that says how residents so-and-so are preparing to attend this year’s fundraising event.
Prepare radio PSAs. Submit basic copy for the on-air announcer to read in 10/20/30-second segments. Remember to repeat the contact phone number and/or website.
Don’t forget to list the event on your own website, chat boards, Facebook or other social networking sites, and encourage everyone to spread the word.
Determine if there are events or gatherings being held prior to your event at which you can legitimately promote your fundraiser by handing out fliers or posting a notice.
Marshall the Troops
Prepare fliers and recruit volunteers to distribute them. Have a flat version to post on bulletin boards at supermarkets, bookstores, colleges and storefront windows (with permission!), as well as a folded version that fits in holders in shops and professional offices related to your cause.
If appropriate, provide incentives to volunteers who spread the word or recruit sponsors or donated items for the event. Making your volunteers and existing supporters feel involved and excited is your best way to succeed at word-of-mouth marketing!
If possible, create a mini event about a week before your big fundraising event to which you can invite media: volunteers at work, preparing costumes, people practicing for an event competition, etc.
If a pre-event isn’t feasible, try to schedule in-studio interviews on your local television stations during the week prior to the event.
Handling Media on Site
Close to the event, send out a Media Advisory/Invitation to Cover to local media. Make sure you have a press kit with basic information on site, and that the registration or welcome staff know to alert the designated media contact. Remember to keep copies of any media exposure and recycle the coverage in your own communications so all your constituents share in the publicity.