How to Get Your Press Release Noticed

Securing media coverage for your nonprofit organization can be frustrating, especially when you take the time to send a press release and never hear anything back. But journalists are on a tight deadline and don’t have the time to respond to every pitch. In order to make your press release stand out, follow these three simple strategies: pitch a relevant story angle, write like a journalist, and add a personal touch.

1. The number one question newsroom editors ask before covering a story is, “Why should I care?”

To make your story matter it needs to have a timely angle or tie into a local/national trend. For example if you are promoting water conservation, lead in with a startling statistic about California’s drought or an upcoming event like Earth Day. Another strategy is to pitch a follow-up piece on a story the journalist has covered in the past. If the reporter did a story about overcrowding at an animal shelter, suggest they meet with your no-kill nonprofit about how to get more cats and dogs adopted.

2. It is also important to make the information in your release easy to find.

“Put the contact information right up top followed by a sentence or two summarizing what it’s about,” recommends Danny Willis with the Bay Area News Group. Business jargon or over-the-top statements are red flags for media professionals. The easier you make it for journalists to cover a story, the more likely your story will be picked up.

3. Finally: When you are ready to submit your release, send it to reporters or producers personally.

Journalists rely on a handful of interview contacts for most stories, so the goal is to get on their short list. Reporters are always looking for passionate experts locally, who are willing to be interviewed at a moment’s notice. Build relationships with journalists in your city and then follow-up with them personally after sending a press release. If a media organization does reach out, never turn down an interview request because as the old adage goes “any publicity is good publicity”.

For other ideas about how to get press coverage, visit GreatNonprofits’ Social Media and Marketing Kit here.

The preceding is a cross-post by Brittany Freitas from the GreatNonprofits Blog. Brittany is a media professional, with 5+ years of experience producing and reporting local television news. You can reach her at

Community Foundations: How Organizational Change Results in Positive Community Change, Part 2

This blog is part of a series of conversations with executives from leading community foundations who are stepping out of their traditional, risk-averse roles and stepping up to affect positive social change. Watch your email for an invitation to join us for an interactive GuideStar webinar with these community foundation leaders.

Federal Appeals Court Affirms Mandatory Filing of Unredacted Donor List by Charities Registered for Solicitations in California


Reprinted from Venable LLP

On May 1, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion in Center for Competitive Politics v. Harris, upholding a California regulation requiring charities that are registered to solicit contributions to file an unredacted copy of IRS Form 990 Schedule B. Schedule B of the Form 990—which is required to be filed with the IRS but which is not subject to public disclosure—requires a listing of certain donors and donation amounts to tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations.

Motivating Boards to Raise Money

When I work with boards, we inevitably get around to discussing the issue of fundraising. "How many of you really like asking for money?" I ask. On a great day, one-third of the hands will go up. On an average day, one-fourth or fewer. The others groan, smile with embarrassment, and then tell me why they don't like to ask for money.

Although their reasons are understandable, they beg the question. Boards are responsible for raising money, as I make clear in my books, The Ultimate Board Member's Book and Fundraising Mistakes That Bedevil All Boards.

If only a handful of people are willing to ask, what roles should the other board members play? How do you create a cohesive fundraising team? How do you get everyone engaged in developing donors and funds for your organization?

Drawing from my experience of working with thousands of board members over three decades, here's my prescription for motivating volunteers to raise money.

  1. It is my tough duty to reiterate to executive directors something they already know; getting 100 percent board member involvement in fundraising isn't going to happen. But I assure them that all is not lost.
  2. Board members who wince at the idea of fundraising can get fully engaged in donor development—which leads to an increase in fundraising. Strategic organizations can develop a process that provides opportunities for all board members—no exceptions—to be active in developing relationships with donors that will lead to gifts.
  3. The donor development approach relieves board members of the anxiety they feel about asking for money, and gives them opportunities to do things they feel confident about. Increased board engagement often follows. You'll also find that board members who had previously declined tend now to get involved in the overall fund development program—even in asking.
  4. Because I believe that systems liberate, I developed a program I call "AAA"—Ambassador, Advocate and Asker—that helps you level the playing field for your board's involvement in donor development and stimulate your overall success in fundraising. All board members agree to be trained ambassadors: no exceptions. A board member who's unwilling to speak accurately, positively, and enthusiastically about your organization shouldn't be on the board.

    Although only a few ambassadors may ever ask for a gift, their work in building relationships—the heart of fundraising, as you know—is the strongest piece of your development program. Ambassadors need training, coaching in the "elevator speech," and they should have a dynamic tool kit of information (including YouTube segments) about your organization. Typical ambassador activities are taking people to lunch, inviting them to events, hosting events—nothing that board members haven't been asked to do before.
  5. Advocates make the case. They accompany executive directors on calls to local government, foundation, or other institutional donors where a "sell" isn't required—just informed advocacy by someone who is adept at handling objections and is focused on results. Advocates are also skillful board recruiters and may be part of a speakers' bureau or perform other related tasks.
  6. Askers ask. The ways in which they ask include writing letters, adding notes to letters, making phone calls, or meeting donors face to face. One of the key points of this overall AAA strategy is that all board members receive training in the ask—even those who would rather, as one board member told me, have a root canal.
  7. Understand, AAA isn't an add-on to your already full plate. It's a simple tool that organizes the tasks of donor and fund development so that everyone on your board can play a role. Too often we make assignments based on what we believe volunteers should do, rather than on what they're motivated to do. I hear from board members all the time that they're "never asked to do anything." Our mistake is making things too broad: "help with fundraising," "help with the gala," "help with the annual fund"—without breaking down the tasks into doable actions.
  8. Successful board engagement also depends on acknowledging the roles each board member plays. Great ambassadors and advocates should be given equal recognition with effective askers. The result: total engagement by your board in donor and resource development.

How useful did you find this article? Give us your feedback

Kay Sprinkel Grace
© 2015, Emerson & Church, Publishers

Kay Sprinkel Grace is author of The Ultimate Board Member's Book, Fundraising Mistakes That Bedevil All Boards (and Staff Too), and Over Goal! For more information about AAA, e-mail Grace at

Data's role in your nonprofit storytelling strategy

In both its volume and accessibility, big data has had all kinds of implications for the way nonprofits operate—from internal processes to volunteer recruitment to fundraising. But what I find most interesting (maybe unsurprisingly, considering my title) about data's integration into the nonprofit world is the way it can be used to augment that most powerful of marketing tools—the story.

Ask Andrea: How do we know if we're ready for a capital campaign?

5 Ways for Board Members to Support Fundraising (Without Making an Ask)

Rachel Muir

Community Foundations: How Organizational Change Results in Positive Community Change, Part 1

This blog is part of a series of conversations with executives from leading community foundations who are stepping out of their traditional, risk-averse roles and stepping up to affect positive social change. Watch your email for an invitation to join us for an interactive GuideStar webinar with these community foundation leaders. To read Lori's articles on How Building Community Knowledge Can Facilitate Successful Organizational Change and Community Impact for Community Foundations, click here and here.

4 Easy Tips to Jumpstart your Donor Data Cleanup

The annual appeal sent to a home where the donor contact is recently deceased. The call made to the prospective major donor … who just spoke with someone on your fundraising team last week (and told him no). The volumes of direct mail pieces sent out with no response.

The GuideStar Blog: We’d Love Your Feedback!

Image source: NPR

Partner to Solve Social Problems; Stop Acting in Silos

Does this look like a 21st century nonprofit to you?

Cyber Security for Not-for-profits

When you think of cyber security and data breeches, large government, financial, and retail entities typically come to mind. Since we tend to only hear of breaches with big-named, for-profit entities, many in the not-for-profit space tune it out, thinking these are problems only businesses experience. The reality is that data breaches can occur with any organization. Analysis of data breaches continues to highlight that more and more not-for-profits are being targeted.

Community Foundations: Building Knowledge to Facilitate Successful Organizational Impact, Part 2

This blog is the second in a series of conversations with executives from leading community foundations who are stepping out of their traditional, risk-averse roles and stepping up to affect positive social change by increasing the dollars and impact of effective philanthropy in their communities. To read Part 1, click here. Watch your email for an invitation to join us for an interactive GuideStar webinar with these community foundation leaders!

Fundraising Training Exercise: Planning a Fundraising House Party

Excerpted from Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money

At some point in our lives, most of us have organized a party. This strategy takes something we already know how to do and adds a fundraising component. House parties are fun, relatively easy to organize, and a good way to recruit board members and other volunteers to help with fundraising. As with anything else, good planning saves time and aggravation, increasing your odds of success.

Is Your Brand Healthy? Four Steps to Give It a Checkup


Reprinted from the Big Duck Blog

When it comes to branding, it's easy to get caught up in building your identity—the debates over your new name or logo, the fine-tuning of your color palette, the wordsmithing over your mission statement and elevator pitch, and the back and forth over your shiny new website. But while the creation of your brand is both exciting and intense, keeping it consistent and relevant over time can be just as essential to your reputation. Just like it is important to check on your own health every year, so too is the need for a periodic brand audit or checkup.

On Living Out your Nonprofit’s Values

I’ll be honest- I’ve always been a little leery of organizational values. Frequently, these seem to be HR-driven campaigns to increase employee excitement, and, to be honest, they can sound more than a little cheesy. After all, who has time to spend thinking about what we value internally as an organization with pressing time-sensitive projects to complete?

Q&A with James Lum: GuideStar’s Impact Calls Deliver Results-Based Information to Stakeholders

Monday, May 11, 2015, at 2 p.m. EDT, GuideStar CEO Jacob Harold, CFO James Lum, and Vice president of Strategy Mizmun Kusairi hosted our second Impact Call of 2015. To listen to the full recording and access the slide deck, visit our Webinar Archives. During the live discussion, Harold highlighted several of GuideStar’s partnerships and detail how they build sustainable collective impact. He also discussed last quarter’s organizational and financial achievements, progress toward GuideStar's $10 million transformational capital campaign, and more. The following is a cross-post by Alex Parkinson from The Conference Board's April 21st article of the same title. To read the original article, click here.

Two months ago, I listened in to GuideStar’s first quarterly “Impact Call” for 2015. The idea intrigues me. Impact calls make sense—after all, companies discuss results with their primary stakeholders through quarterly earnings calls. Why wouldn’t nonprofits use the format to discuss their primary performance measures with key stakeholders?

James Lum, GuideStar’s CFO

James Lum, GuideStar’s CFO, helped me understand more about the calls and what the organization has learned from hosting them. Q: Can you walk us through one of your typical Impact Calls? What are you trying to convey, and what are you hoping to learn? A: The nonprofit sector highly values transparency but our idea of transparency is often relatively opaque compared to that seen with publicly traded companies. Our Impact Calls are an attempt to bring that same level of timeliness, rigor, and openness to the nonprofit sector. The calls are structured like earnings calls in three sections. In the first part, our CEO highlights programmatic and operational milestones, focusing on our impact rather than our business results. In the next section, I discuss the previous quarter’s financial results. Lastly, we open up the call to our audience with a Q&A session. Our goals with our Impact Calls are to get results-based information to our stakeholders in a timely, interactive, inclusive, and comprehensive manner. It is our way to have a direct conversation with our audience, receiving their real-time feedback. Q: How did you determine what impact metrics you should collect and share? A: Measuring our impact ultimately links back to our theory of change, which is based on three imperatives: broad and deep information on nonprofits, interconnected data systems, and mechanisms for feedback and learning with constituents and partners. Right now we are focused on measuring and reporting on the first two layers, data and systems, and we are developing tools to measure results at the third feedback level. Q: How much interest have you had in the Impact Calls? Who is your typical audience? A: Interest has far exceeded our original expectations. We only dared to hope for a handful of participants; our last call topped 1,000 registrants! This is one of our most popular virtual events and audiences have come from nearly all 50 states and even included over a dozen countries around the world. We’ve had people from both small and large nonprofits, foundations, customers, members, the press, and many others join us for the calls. And they come from all levels of their organizations. We welcome anyone that has an interest in our organization and mission to join us of our next call on May 11. Q: How have funders responded to the idea? A: Our funders were important collaborators from the very outset and helped guide our initial thinking about audiences and applicability to other nonprofits. Their support has been very positive and we even had two as presenters on the calls themselves. Mari Kuraishi, our board chair and president of Global Giving, introduced the concept at our first Impact Call and we also had the pleasure of Victoria Vrana, from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, share the news of their $3 million grant to GuideStar. The Impact Call seemed like a natural place to publically announce the grant and Victoria was excited to respond real-time to questions after the announcement. The Impact Calls have even been accepted by one of our funders as a replacement for our standard required reporting narratives. Q: What are some of the key lessons you have learned from the Impact Calls so far? A: The first lesson we learned was that our audience really enjoyed that we made a point in each call to recap our “lessons learned” from the quarter. Being open about our mistakes was important to our organization and it turned out to resonate with our audience. Also, I was surprised by the level of courtesy from our audience. I had anticipated more scrutiny and questions about our operations and finances, similar to the more pointed dialogue on traditional earnings calls. So far we haven’t faced much examination from the audience. For now, our audience just seems happy that we are sharing real-time results and financials with them. Q: How do you want your Impact Calls to evolve from here? A: Improving our ability to track and quantify impact is one of our biggest challenges and mirrors the experience for many other nonprofits. As we move up the learning curve, we hope that the discussions during and outside of our Impact Calls will become much more robust. Hopefully our Impact Calls will also serve as a catalyst for a deeper discussion on the meaning of transparency. Ultimately, transparency is not the end goal. I see transparency as the first step towards, and a prerequisite for, the real end-goal of accountability: accountability to ourselves, accountability to our funders, and, most importantly, accountability to all our diverse stakeholders. The impact calls are our voluntary invitation to everyone to scrutinize us, question us, and tell us what we are doing right and what we should change. The success of Impact Calls depends less on what we do and more on what others do with what we’ve done. Q: Would you advise other nonprofits to follow your efforts? A: Yes! About James: James Lum is GuideStar’s first full-time CFO, responsible for orchestrating multi-million dollar financial turnarounds in cash flow and operating income over the past two years. He responsible for coordinating strategic and financial oversight across the organization and also heads fundraising. James brings extensive experience in content management, distribution, and subscription economics for media companies including the Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones, MTV, John Wiley & Sons, Sirius Satellite Radio, and ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliate stations. About the author:

Alex Parkinson

Alex Parkinson is a Researcher in the Corporate Leadership division of The Conference Board. He specializes in corporate philanthropy and sustainability. He is the Executive Editor of the Giving Thoughts blog and monthly publication series and Framing Social Impact Measurement, a compendium report on the practice. Before joining The Conference Board in September 2013, Alex worked as a Senior Consultant in London and New York for corporate social responsibility (CSR) consultancy Context. He has advised some of the world’s leading multinationals on CSR communications and strategy development. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexParkinsonNY.

Community Foundations: Building Knowledge to Facilitate Successful Organizational Impact, Part 1

This blog is the first in a series of conversations with executives from leading community foundations who are stepping out of their traditional, risk-averse roles and stepping up to affect positive social change by increasing the dollars and impact of effective philanthropy in their communities. Click here to read Part 2. For more articles on how organizational change results in positive community change, click here and here.

3 Surefire Ways To Identify Major Gift Prospects

Major gifts and major gift donors are defined in various ways. Suffice to say, they are the backbone of any major campaign and of virtually all giving for every nonprofit relying mostly on fundraising funds to sustain their budget and mission. This is especially true when you consider that 12% of donors provide 88% of all dollars given.

  New research reveals nonprofit transparency leads to increase in contributions. Click to learn more.