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#NewsRelease411: Non-Profits Get Creative to Attract Volunteers and Donors

#NewsRelease411: Non-Profits Get Creative to Attract Volunteers and Donors

This is post 5 of our 5-part blog series, “#NewsReleases411: The Who, What, and Why of Using News Releases.”

As you drive through the burbs on a Sunday afternoon you come across a large group of walkers – all wearing the same shirts. If you guessed it’s a walk for charity, you’re right. Events like this happen throughout communities everywhere and are a great way to raise awareness and funds for worthwhile causes.

How do people learn about these events and get inspired to participate? One of the most common ways is through news releases issued by sponsoring non-profit organizations. Releases zero in on media that reach target populations in local- or market-specific communities across cities, states, nations – and even internationally. The news is picked up in community newspapers and often on TV and radio as well as on online sites and search engines, and it’s shared through social networks.

In addition to inspiring people to join walks, news releases help non-profits in a myriad of ways, such as encouraging healthy lifestyles, volunteerism and donations. Check out how some of our non-profit clients use news releases to promote their causes.

ScotiaBankAIDSWalkThe annual Scotiabank AIDS Walk for Life is Canada’s most important HIV/AIDS fundraising and awareness event. Held each September, cities and communities across the country host Walks to raise funds for local services and programs to assist those who are living with, affected by or at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Publicity is a key element of the walks’ success, since each walk needs to attract donors, participants and volunteers. Scotiabank and the centralized AIDS Walk for Life organization issue national press releases to publicize the walks across Canada, while cities keep their communities informed and encourage participation in local walks. If you click on any of the city names listed in this media advisory/photo op, you’ll see how each location personalizes its message and adds content specific to location.

JDRF VideoThe Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) helps to raise awareness and funds toward finding a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and its complications by hosting stationary bike-a-thons. To publicize the rides JDRF uses news releases like this one that promotes its Annual JDRF Ride for Diabetes Research – be sure to check out the entertaining video that gets people excited about participating.

The company publicizes its rides nationally, distributing its releases simultaneously to traditional and social media, and it uses targeted media lists to reach specific journalists and bloggers. In addition, the non-profit targets social influencers who share and amplify their news. JDRF and the American Diabetes Association also partner in their cause – in this case, a joint news release promotes their new book about juvenile diabetes diagnosis and treatment.

Chickapea PastaEarth to Kids, founded by mompreneur Shelby Taylor, delivers food parents can feel good about – food that is good for kids – like Chickapea Pasta, a non-GMO and gluten-free product made up of fiber-rich chickpeas and super food chia. Charitable food donations are a big part of Shelby’s campaign and she leverages the full capabilities of today’s news releases to fully bring her product and mission to life.

Take a look at this Chickapea Pasta news release. Video and images personalize the Earth to Kids story and illustrate its products. Hyperlinks to supportive websites and links to Shelby’s Chicapea Pasta Twitter handle and Facebook page encourage sharing and engagement, allowing people to track the progress of her campaign and get involved in her organization’s products and venture. Her focus is mom-targeted marketing and she uses news releases in conjunction with promotion to mommy bloggers, mommy groups on Facebook and physical gathering places for sampling, general social media, and ad campaigns.

HeartStrokeFdnThe Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada focuses on preventing disease, saving lives and promoting recovery through educational empowerment. Toward this end, the organization’s news releases perform a much-needed public service by including a wealth of  valuable, actionable information. You’ll see an abundant use of multimedia in this news release on the Stroke Report 2015 that directly illustrates what’s discussed in the text.

Through video, a stroke victim discusses how her experience affected her entire family and emphasizes the importance of making lifestyle changes as well as donating to this worthy cause. A foundation researcher helps viewers identify the signs of a stroke through a simple-to-remember acronym. which is also made available through a downloadable PDF.

Make-A-WishMake-A-Wish® Canada, an affiliate of Make-A-Wish® International – the largest wish-granting organization in the world – brings hope, strength and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions. One way it supports its fundraising goals is to use news releases to directly connect people with campaigns that support its cause, like this news release announcing the launch of the organization’s national signature fundraising event, Make-A-Wish® Rope for Hope, Presented by Canadian Western Bank. Make-A-Wish® links to a high-impact promo video, which encourages participation in the rappelling event and outlines how the public can register.

According to Deborah Waines-Bauer, Officer, Marketing & Communications, Make-A-Wish Canada, “News releases have been an integral part of our fundraising campaigns. They not only get our messages to our targeted audiences and industries, but also create visibility and drive action across a broad cross-section of people online and on social channels, helping us more successfully reach our goals.”

What we can learn from non-profit news releases

Whether or not you’re creating news releases for a non-profit organization, there’s a lot to learn here about how to make a release work harder. Although each of the releases featured in this article varies in purpose and content, all embody elements we can incorporate in our own news releases to make them more successful.

  • Create headlines that compel people to read further. The headline is often a ‘deal breaker’ – meaning if it doesn’t instantly grab reader attention people move on.
  • Make your content heartfelt – tell an authentic story to create human interest and motivate people to take action.
  • Use pictures and sound to support your story. Video and images are compelling and often make the difference in your release getting seen and your message acted upon.
  • Incorporate links to your social accounts to further engage people and encourage sharing. And tap into the power of hashtags to propel your news into relevant online conversations.
  • Begin to think of your news releases as content marketing vehicles. They’re a great way to distribute valuable content that positions your company as an industry thought leader – one that people turn to when making a purchasing decision.

Do you know of other creative ways non-profit organizations leverage news releases to further their cause? If so, we’d love to see them.

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