Fundraising Publicity

Guidelines for Working With The Local Press

Fundraising Publicity

Getting your fundraising publicity right is so important

There is little point in coming up with great ideas for fundraising events if no-one knows about them.

To do things properly you really need to be considering how your event will work, and how you are going to go about advertising it, right at the beginning of your planning process.

All too often as everyone gets busy with organising a great fundraiser the publicity is left right up to the last moment - and to be honest that's often when it is too late to make the most of your opportunity.

There are really two types of fundraising publicity:

  • Before a fundraiser - The purpose here is to flag up a forthcoming fundraising event to attract supporters, participants, spectators and attendees.
  • After a fundraiser - The purpose here is to report on and celebrate the success of a fundraising event.

The other thing that both will deliver is promotion of your cause or charity and a report in the press is often also a nice recognition of the hard work put in by your volunteers and supporters.

So how should you go about attracting good publicity for your events and fundraisers?

The trick is really to think about what you are doing and what your local media are looking for.

Getting publicity

Phil Hewitt is Group Arts Editor for Sussex Group Newspapers who produce a range of local newpapers in the South of England.

Phil's job is to edit together the entertainment and local "What's Happening" pages.

Here he kindly shares his experience and offers a great set of guidelines for how amateur fundraisers can best work with the local press:

Guidelines for working with local newspapers

I think it must help your cause if you try to get to know and understand your local newspaper.

Do remember, though, that most local papers will have quite small staffs, many of whom will be covering several different areas.

Journalists receive vast quantities of information all the time. Every day I receive hundreds of emails. With the best will in the world it is not always possible to include everything, and for everything that gets included some people will be disappointed especially in these tough times when papers are smaller than they used to be.

But if story or event is good and is interesting, then of course we will try to include it. After all that’s what makes for a lively, worthwhile, local paper.

But we also have to produce a newspaper to a deadline. Try to be aware of when our deadlines are if you are hoping to submit things regularly.

And remember that a newspaper deadline really is a deadline.

It’s not about when we’d like things to be done.
It’s when they have to be done.

Also, sorry, but follow up emails to see “if we got the original email” are a real pain!

So how to make your fundraising press release hit the right spot-

Writing a press release

Find out who at the paper you should be contacting. This information will either be in the paper itself or on their website.

Over time try to build up a rapport with that person. Journalists prefer to deal with people who are straightforward and understand what is needed. Respect the journalist’s professionalism and try to be as professional as possible yourself.

Study your local paper and look at the stories they are covering….and how. What are the stories and what are the details that are making it into the paper?

Your event or news should have a clear local angle for a local paper. National or regional issues won’t get in. Local newspapers really do have to be local.

Understand the deadlines the paper will be working to. Supply your information / copy in good time. I work on a weekly title and like to see material 1-2 weeks before publication date.

Things to include in your fundraising press release

The name of your organisation.

The date

A clear title – don’t try to be clever but simply allow the journalist to see quickly what the press release is about. The music industry, for instance, is awful for the amount of pretentious waffle it puts out. Be clear. Be precise.

Think in terms of the five w’s.

  • Who – is doing something?
  • What – are they doing?
  • When – are they doing it?
  • Where – are they doing it?
  • Why – are they doing it?

Use this as a simple checklist.

Every paper has its own house style, concentrate on supplying the simple facts and let the journalist write the article.

Keep it straight and simple, let the event/news speak for itself. There is no need to dress it up. For instance, if someone is world famous, you really don’t need to say that they are world famous.

Include all the relevant facts and check that nothing is ambiguous. Journalists will call you back if things are ambiguous, but it’s best not to be ambiguous in the first place!

Also, think what needs to be included.

Ironically, considering the aim of fundraising publicity, a really common mistake is to omit details of where tickets for fundraising events can be bought!

Always include a quote.

This can be from a participant, or from a senior person at your organisation. Nothing grand just a chatty line or two saying how pleased they are or why something is important.

It breaks up a slab of text if there is a line saying: “I am really delighted....”

Again, make it chatty. At our paper a quote came in the other day from someone saying “We are overjoyed that this acquisition will facilitate the development and furtherance of.... blah blah.” Does anyone really talk like that. I don’t think so!

Always include people’s full names never just use initials.

Avoid using a lot of weird fonts and fancy formatting – it only has to be changed by the journalist.

End your press release with a clear contact number or email address of someone who can supply any further information if needed.

Fundraising publicity pictures

If you supply pictures these should be good quality and reasonably high resolution – 300 pixels to the inch and about 1MB is best.

Think about your picture’s composition carefully. We receive so many that are totally unusable with half heads, stray hands, shadows etc.

fundraising publicity pictures

Try to avoid straight line-ups. These are known as “firing squads” in some newsrooms!

Similarly come up with something a bit more imaginative for your fundraising publicity than yet another picture of a cheque being presented! We no longer use cheque presentation pictures. They are so dull.

Caption all photos clearly and include the full names (no initials) and job titles if relevant, of anyone pictured, left to right.

Getting the best fundraising publicity you can is a vital part of running a successful fundraiser.

Following Phil's guidelines will make sure you get it right every time!

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