donor relations

How to Communicate with Year-End Donors in the New Year

Whew—you made it! It was a crazy, busy season, but you crossed the threshold into the New Year. Congratulations!

So, once you’ve wrapped up your year-end giving, you can sit back and relax come January, right? Welllll, not quite. I realize you could probably already use a vacation, but one of your best bets for building momentum and donor retention in the first quarter is to build on your efforts in the last one.

And while I sincerely hope that your nonprofit reached or surpassed your end of year giving goals, these strategies can be implemented even if you didn’t. Either way, they’ll set you up for better months ahead.

How to Communicate with Year-End Donors in the New Year

Make Good on Your Promises

First of all, it’s incredibly important to make good on any promises from last year. Leftovers tend to start stinking, am I right?

This could include reports, updates, or any other documentation that you owe your donor base. For example, I’ve seen annual gala sponsorship levels that include quarterly reports to major sponsors and donors. If you’ve got something like that on your plate, take action now before another, “more important” task comes along.

And if you didn’t release an annual report as part of your year-end fundraising campaign, this can be another great tool to start the New Year. Show off the impact your work is having, while highlighting opportunities for growth and engagement.

Keeping and fulfilling any promises you made to donors, sponsors, and partners is just one more way you can prove that you’re trustworthy, responsible, and deserving of their time and investment.

(Tip: If at all possible, never let them have to ask you for this information. That looks bad. Do everything you can to put the information or resources in their hands first. If there’s going to be a delay, communicate that so they don’t have to wonder or, worse, think you forgot.)

Send Those Shout Out’s, High Five’s, and Horray’s

Don’t forget to celebrate those victories! As someone who can easily dismiss an achievement, especially a small one, and move on to the next thing, I encourage you to take the win every time.

Better yet—share it with your fan base! If you met your fundraising goal and are now able to provide more products and/or services to those who benefit from your work, let everyone know! Send out an email blast, post it on social media, host a Facebook Live, release carrier pigeons, shout it from the rooftops, or do whatever you need to do to let your fans and followers know they played a part in getting you there.

This is your chance to say, “We did it!” And when you tell them exactly how those funds will be used, you not only instill a sense of pride in your contributors, but you’ll subconsciously encourage them to give again!

But let’s say you didn’t meet you goals. What then? Well, don’t take that as your cue to forego any updates. You still need to do that, but you’ll obviously need to tailor the message. You can send out a thank you, and tell people what’s on the horizon. Remind them of what’s at stake, and how you plan on serving people this year. Get them excited for the future, and state how they can be a part of your incredible work.

Keeping your fans in the loop is one sure-fire step toward donor retention. When people don’t know how their money is used, don’t know who is being served, and don’t know what’s going on, they are far more likely to take their hard-earned money to someone who can check those boxes for them. So, stay in touch!

(Tip: If you’ve been lax on your marketing and communication in the past, use these kinds of updates to get you back on track in the New Year. Update, rinse, and repeat. Make it a habit you’ll keep going forward. And if you’re not sure what to send them, I’ve got a few ideas.)

Pencil In Your VIPs

Always strike while the iron is hot, as they say, but particularly when it comes to your largest contributors. Take a look back at the previous year (or years), and identify who gave the most, either in dollars or in-kind. Then, get these people on your calendar.

If they’re local, take them to coffee or lunch. If they’re not, opt for a phone call, or even better, a video chat where you can look them in the eye. But make these interactions personal on some level, and don’t just lump them in to a mass email.

Use the opportunities to say thank you, and let them know what’s been going on, especially if it’s been a while. Ask for their input, or get them involved in a deeper level with your organization. If they gave a substantial amount, it’s likely they are very moved by your mission and would be thrilled to hear how they can further meet your needs.

(Tip 1: Don’t leave the conversation without what we in the marketing biz refer to as a call to action. This just means you’ll be asking them to do something. It could be very simple or a bigger ask, depending on the relationship, conversation, or needs. Examples could include setting up a follow up appointment, making an introduction, becoming a larger donor, or a spot on the board. The point is to make the most of the interaction.)

(Tip 2: Create reminders to follow up with these people throughout the year. Whether you’re just personally emailing to say hello or sending them some sort of update, check in with them at least once a quarter to let them know your nonprofit values their relationship. This will also take some of the stress and pressure off of having to squeeze everyone in at the end of the year—bonus!)

How will you communicate with year-end donors in the New Year?



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One of your best bets for building momentum and donor retention in the first quarter is to build on your efforts in the last one.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


11 Simple Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving

You’ll notice the title of this post is “SIMPLE Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving,” not “EASY Options . . .” Because we all know there’s a big difference between simple and easy! Simple is focused, minimal, and uncluttered. Easy is typically done in a short time period and with little work.

Simple is Joanna Gaines decorating a room effortlessly and beautifully. Easy is me picking up her decor at Target rather than me trying to design a room on my own. (Thanks, Jo!)

And I’m not trying to pull a bait-and-switch on you here. You’re too smart for that. So, while some of these ideas will take more time and effort than others, all of them will help you improve your nonprofit’s fundraising campaign this season.

People are feeling charitable (and tax-deductible) this time of year, so let’s make sure your cause gets their attention.

11 Simple Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving

1. Ask For Only One Thing

Chances are, you’re going to be asking for donations. If that’s the case, ask your tribe to show you the money. Don’t also ask them to follow you on social media, watch your latest video, join your Facebook Group (<— Oh, hey! I have one of those!), sign up for something . . . and, well, you get the point. Keep your emails and communication focused on the one, main thing you want them to do.

The exceptions to this rule would be something like a contest where they have to take multiple actions for an entry. Additionally, you can still leave some of these smaller asks in secondary spaces like footers. You can also still make some of these requests occasionally on your platforms.

However, when you are sending an email, posting about your campaign, or presenting to a group of people, keep it simple. Ask for only one thing. Don’t clutter your message.

Let’s look at the facts. According to Nonprofits Source, “30% of annual giving occurs in December.” So, this is no time to confuse people on what you want them to do! Giving them too many options or actions may even result in them taking no action at all. Yikes.

2. Evaluate Your Website For Optimal Giving

Even if people typically donate to your nonprofit through social media, text, or an app, get your website’s house in order to optimize year-end giving. Many people still give through websites, and if someone is new to you or your cause, they may check out your site before giving through another avenue like texting.

Make sure your campaign is front-and-center on your homepage, your donate button is easy to see and ideally in the top right corner, and evaluate any other pages where giving should be mentioned.

You don’t have to only designate one or two pages for fundraising efforts. Don’t bombard people, of course, but it may be appropriate to create an “event” for your campaign on your calendar page or add it to your About page. Additionally, you can create a banner at the top of your site that will display on all pages. (See mine in red at the top?) This is done through the “Hello Bar” plug-in on Wordpress and the “Announcement Bar” in Squarespace.

Want more of an explanation? Take a look at my video on how your website is less like IKEA and more like a mall.

3. Increase Your Promotion Frequency

There’s a tricky balance to this, and I explain it more in this video, but you definitely want to increase your email/social media/video/promotion frequency leading into year-end giving. This practice holds true with any launch, but especially because you’ll be dealing with a lot of competition during the holidays. Other nonprofits will be combing the interwebs for more donations, too, and lest we forget about all of those unbelievable sales at your favorite retail stores.

The takeaway here is that you shouldn’t send an email in November and December, post the campaign on social media a couple of times, and call it a day. You are going to have to work hard for that money, as the song goes. And you’re going to have to see it through until the end. Give Back Nation states that 12% of annual giving occurs during the last three days of December!

The caveat here is for my friends who’ve been so busy working that they let all their marketing and communications efforts fall by the wayside. Is that you? No judgement, but now’s the time to rev up those engines. Start now by sending your audience an email on what’s been happening, posting the latest on social media, and having general update conversations with people. This way you aren’t only going to send them a bunch of requests for money. That’s no bueno.

4. Offer Multiple Ways to Give

Give your people multiple ways to give. This goes back to the basics of knowing your audience. If you have a younger audience, consider adding the ability to donate via text. Check out these compelling stats from Mobile Cause, including the one that says, “96% of donors use a mobile phone as their primary device.”

If you have an older audience, you might want to consider hopping back on the snail mail wagon. There is no perfect answer here. There is only the answer that works for your tribe. Again, you always want to make it easy for them to give by removing any barriers in their path.

5. Add a Bonus

If you’ve got merchandise on your hands, you may want to give donors a gift in exchange for their contribution. You could even have something created just for this purpose, like a mug, tumbler, t-shirt, or jewelry.

People who are invested in your organization and your cause will be delighted to receive swag for their support. Plus, then they’re carrying your message around with them in public.

6. Get Up Close and Personal

I don’t need to go in-depth on this one, but a face-to-face interaction will always be your best bet. It works better than any sponsor presentation, email, video, or social media post. Get on the calendar of your biggest donors to date, or potential big givers, and make your case over lunch or coffee. Maybe even pay for it!

Another option here is to at least email people personally and start a conversation. Don’t rely on the mass emails that come from your organization. Write specifically to them, and make sure they know it’s coming straight from you. (For the right people, phone calls or video chats are also a good option here.)

Don’t have time? This is potentially the most powerful of all the ideas you’ll read here today, so if you don’t have time, I suggest you make it.

7. Get Everyone on Board

Year-end fundraising is an all hands on deck situation! Make sure your board, employees, volunteers, and any other key stakeholders are carrying the banner.

I talk about this topic a lot on the blog and elsewhere as it relates to launching, but this is a big deal, so it shouldn’t be left to the development or communications department. Everyone needs to be involved!

(For more, read this post.)

8. Go Outside

Yes, it’s getting chilly outside, but this may be the prime time to get out there and start cultivating more donors at events, whether you’re hosting them or not. There’s already plenty happening this season!

It’s easy to leave all of the fundraising to your digital marketing strategy, but shaking hands has a powerful impact on people. In fact, this study shows that “a handshake preceding social interaction enhanced the positive impact of approach and diminished the negative impact of avoidance behavior on the evaluation of social interaction.”

A handshake and a smile can put people at ease, and give you an open door for talking about your cause. Someone may not be ready to give during that first interaction, but you’re paving the way to a future relationship, which is a big win overall.

9. Participate in #GivingTuesday (At Least to Some Extent)

Some of you probably love #GivingTuesday, and some of you don’t. Some of you may even be new to the “holiday” as a whole, since it’s been around less than a decade.

Now in its seventh year, this unofficial holiday occurs the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and celebrates ways people can contribute to causes, whether monetary, through volunteering, or some other type of involvement.

A few of my clients have participated in #GivingTuesday in the past, but most haven’t. What I suggest to them all, however, is to jump into the mix in some way or another. There are tens of thousands of charities participating each year, so why not be a part of the conversation?

You don’t have to come up with a specific campaign for this purpose, but I think it’s a great idea to send an email on this day, post on social media about your campaign, and anything else that keeps you in front of your audience while numerous other nonprofits are out there seeking for donations.

Even the most generous of us still only have so much money to go around, so make sure you’re getting a piece of that pie.

10. Ask Partners to Promote

If you are lucky enough to have influencers, partners, sponsors, and the like who rally around your cause, it may be time to call in a favor. You may, of course, need to do something for them in return (or at least offer), but if there’s someone who can help you get your message out in the world, this could be a great time to rally the troops.

Let me sing my song again, though: Make it easy for them. Don’t just say thanks, and leave them to put together their own social promotions and emails. It’s less likely to get done, or the messaging may not be what you want. Always offer to create whatever resources they may need. If they don’t need you, great! But if they do, you’ll be the hero!

11. Recruit Someone to Match Gifts

I’ve left this one for last because it’s potentially the hardest. In fact, because we’ve crossed the line into November, it may even be too late. But depending on your resources, maybe not! I’d certainly give it a try. If it’s an option you need to table for now, make it one of your 2019 priorities.

And let me clarify. This section could include workplace charitable giving with a matching option, or one of those, “Give by December 1st and all donations will be matched up to $50,000” kind of campaigns that is instigated by one generous donor.

According to Double the Donation, “Mentioning matching gifts in fundraising appeals results in a 71% increase in the response rate and a 51% increase in the average donation amount (and that’s prior to receiving matching gift funds).” That stat makes it a big deal!

So, determine your heavy-hitters as well as your corporate partners, and see what it will take to move the needle in your direction. This could be a huge win for your nonprofit!

(Not sure where to start? We have a resource that may be a huge help to you, and it’s releasing in a couple of weeks! Stay tuned!)

What else has helped you haul in those end of year donations?



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

People are feeling charitable (and tax-deductible) this time of year, so let’s make sure your cause gets their attention.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors


Today’s guest post comes from Amy Crowell, a fundraising pro if there ever was one! Her company, Next Stage Advisors, helps nonprofits through event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Amy and I go way back to the days of when I was at a hospitality PR firm and she was at a little ol’ org called Share Our Strength. Yep, that one. During her time there, she raised more than $3 million dollars for their No Kid Hungry campaign, so she definitely knows her stuff.

Below, she’s boiled down donor communications to a few, main points that you should be aware of. If you’re strapped for time and resources when it comes to talking to your donors, make sure you at least cover these five bases.

PS: These same ideas work for social enterprises, too!

5 Essentials You Should Be Communicating to Your Donors

Nonprofits, no matter their mission or size, are always on the lookout for more donors. But some organizations aren't event sure how to start the process of engaging new people into their mission, never mind actually turning them into donors.

Donors come in all shapes and sizes. Your donor may be someone who writes a small or large check, but they could also be a volunteer, committee member, special event attendee, board member, or a donor of products or services that your organization needs.

No matter what type of donor you are talking to, nonprofits need to consistently communicate with donors, while at the same time targeting the specific message that prompted the donor to initially become engaged. Keeping everyone informed may very well graduate them from one level of supporter to another. Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.


Essential 1: Who or What You Help

This is a no brainer, right? Of course you are going to tell your potential donors who or what you help. However, it’s more than that. Yes, donors need to be told specifically who you are helping, but they should also be informed of the numerical statistics for the problem in your community you are helping.

Specific and detailed information about the problem you are working towards solving will show that your nonprofit is one that needs to be supported. For example, if a local organization tells you that the teen pregnancy in your state was triple the national average and then explained how they were helping to solve that problem, a donor would be much more likely to support them than if they were merely told that they help cut the teen pregnancy rate.

Tell your donors the specifics, such as:

  • How many people in your community deal with the issue that your nonprofit is trying to solve? Is it increasing or decreasing? How quickly?

  • What progress have you made so far?

  • What innovative methods are you using to fulfill your mission (especially if they are more successful compared to similar organizations in your community)?

  • When you accomplish things that work toward your mission, what changes?

  • How is your community a better place because of your organization, its mission, and successes?

Essential 2: Real Stories About How Your Organization Has Made a Difference

Showing your passion can go a long way to creating a new donor. Most donors give to an organization because they feel an emotional connection. Help potential donors feel this connection by telling them true stories about the work you are doing. Share success stories about people you have served.

Do you have video testimonies from parents or principals that have firsthand knowledge of how your program changed a child? Stories about how your organization extended the life someone, allowing them to attend a major life event of their child or grandchild? Examples of how someone you helped felt less stigma about a problem they had, which helped them to build their self-esteem and have a more “normal” life? Or perhaps you can take them on a tour of your facility to show your organization at work.

If you are looking for new donors, you should have a set of emotionally-driven stories that demonstrate your work in action and the benefits to those you serve.


Essential 3: Why Your Organization is Different

Many organizations look similar on paper—potentially serving the same type of person, geographical area, or otherwise. It’s important to differentiate yourself from others that may appear similar. Why would I give my money to you when XYZ nonprofit down the road does the same thing?

Donors want to know what your organization does that makes you different and worth investing in. Do you tackle the same problem in a new way? Does your program go a step further in that it follows people for six months after they leave, ensuring they continue their path to success? Are you the only organization serving X in this zip code? Do you address something that other similar organizations don’t? Perhaps your organization has more of a “teach a person to fish” versus a “give them a fish” philosophy? Tell your donors!

Essential 4: What Their Donation Can Accomplish

Whatever donors are giving—time, money, services, or products—they want to know how it is helping your nonprfoti fulfill its mission. Even though every organization needs non-restricted funds to pay for expenses like rent, utilities, and supplies, most donors would prefer that their donation be connected more directly to the mission they are supporting.

This is where equivalencies come in. Being able to tell donors that $1 connects a child to 10 healthy meals, $500 pays for a month of diapers for a previously homeless child, or something similar, goes a long way to help visualize what a donation can accomplish and how it helps those you serve.

These equivalencies can be used in multiple places, including online donations, special events (ex: live or silent auction, fund the need campaigns), or challenge/matching grants. Being able to show specifically what dollars can provide is important and will bring more donors to the check writing stage.


Essential 5: Share Your Organizational Goals

No different than deciding which mutual fund you want to invest your retirement savings in, donors want to see long-term goals and a healthy organization working toward them. They want to see an ROI on their investment, such as increased growth towards the overall mission.

Share with donors where you want your nonprofit to be and when. Do you want to reach 85% of your target market by the year 2020? Increase the hours you are open by 10% this year? Hire a new staff member?

Talk about both short- and long-term goals so that donors feel like they are part of your progress and that their money is actually an investment not only in your organization, but to the people or problem you are trying to help. Communicating a high-level vision and what it takes financially to get there will make donors more invested overall, potentially moving them from a one-time donor to a reoccurring one.

These “5 Essentials” can go a long way towards building a pipeline of supporters that can help you not only have increased donations, but also fill other important roles your nonprofit needs such as board members, volunteers, special event attendees, and more.

Be sure each essential is documented so you can share them with all the key stakeholders in your organization—especially staff and board members. Once you have them, you’ll likely find that not only are they helpful when speaking to supporters, they can also be used in other communications such as your website, newsletter, grant applications, and more.

Don’t have all five in place? Add the missing pieces to your priority list to increase success in the future.


Amy Crowell, Next Stage Advantage

Amy Crowell, founder of Next Stage Advisors, has more than two decades of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, event management, and strategic and financial planning. She has overseen numerous nonprofit fundraisers, including grassroots campaigns, events of all sizes, and national multimillion-dollar corporate-sponsored programs.

Amy helps nonprofits meet and beat their fundraising goals via event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your nonprofit’s reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Write Press Releases and Gain Exposure

As we’ve been learning lately, public relations is pretty essential for your business, especially if it’s a small business. People need to know what you’re doing and why they should care. And they can’t know until you tell them! So, how can you get your message out simply, effectively, and widely? Press releases.

Press releases are powerful marketing tools. If done correctly and distributed well, they can make a huge difference and boost your business tremendously. They are a way to get your name out to potential donors, partners, sponsors, and customers. They add to the credibility of your social enterprise or nonprofit and raise awareness for what you are doing.

Of course, writing press releases may be something you never thought to do, let alone how to do it. Don’t be intimidated! Follow these step-by-step guidelines and tips and you’ll be ready to showcase whatever you have to offer to the public—which is a lot!

First off, let’s talk about how to structure these babies. This is important, so take note!

caffeine-coffee-cup-891674.jpg

Your headline should be short, sweet, to the point, and grab your audience’s attention immediately.

This is pretty much true for any headline out there, as you probably know. No one is going to choose to read something that has a weak, boring, or vague headline. This is arguably the most important part of your press release, because not only does this have to grab the public, it has to grab the journalist or the publication you want to help you distribute the release. If it doesn’t, it’s going straight into their trash. So make it good!

Think about who you’re trying to appeal to and cater it to them. You want to make it stand out and be captivating, but also capture the point of your release. Choose your words wisely and sparingly. Use strong words. Emotional words are beneficial to draw someone in and make them want to read more. Here’s a list of different emotional words you can use in your headline to evoke whatever action or feeling you need to. 

Kristi also showed me an amazing tool that analyzes and grades your headline. It shows you exactly what you need to adjust to make it better and more effective. It’s fantastic. I find it’s much easier to write the entire thing first and then develop the headline, but it’s all preference! You can also add a sub-header with a bit more details if you think it’s absolutely necessary.

Now let’s move onto the juicy stuff…

 

Your first paragraph should contain your most important information and every detail your audience needs to know.

Don’t make people search for the point because they won’t. You need to make the point very clear and right off the bat. This is the time to give the who, what, when, where, why, and how. All details need to be clear and concise. What are you doing? Why is it important? Why should we care?

Set the scene for whatever it is you’re announcing. Don’t add any extra fluff. People can tell if you’re going around in circles or explaining something in five sentences when it could’ve been explained in one.

It’s also a good idea to have someone read this for you before you release it (really, they should read the entire thing, but especially this and the headline). If they can’t answer those questions when they’re done, you have more work to do.  

In your next few paragraphs, you can include relevant and important quotes from relevant and important people only.

The body of your press release after your first paragraph should all just be support, but don’t get fluffy. Still keep it all short, sweet, and relevant to your main point. You don’t need quotes necessarily, but a one or two good ones can strengthen your narrative and make it interesting and credible. So use reliable sources!

I’m talking experts here—actual knowledgeable people. Don’t use a quote from your friend who’s only social media knowledge comes from her own personal Instagram use. Get a quote from a social media manager or specialist at a major company. They need to be powerful.

Focus these quotes around whatever message you’re trying to convey, too. It all needs to lead and connect to the same place. Don’t lead your audience on a wild goose chase for the point.

Remember these are still optional. Only use quotes if they strengthen your release and message. If you do use quotes, I would advise to only use one to three max in your press release. We’re going for quality over quantity here, so don’t get caught up in worrying about the length. Two pages maximum for this entire thing, preferably one.

If you don't use quotes or following your quotes, continue to expand on your first paragraph with supporting material. Start with what's most important or interesting, and work your way down. You only need a couple of paragraphs here.

 

In your last paragraph, you can provide some background information on your company and whatever it is you’re trying to spread the word about.

The least important information goes here, obviously. These are just some additional details that could be useful to people, but that won’t kill them to miss. You still want to only add what will strengthen your release.

You can include how the product/website/fundraiser/etc. was developed and how it will impact the future, if relevant. You can highlight additional resources you may have used or a website for purchases or more information. Just make sure you’re (say it with me now!) not adding fluff just to fill up the page.

 

Last but not least, your boilerplate is the very last component of your press release.

What is a boilerplate? In press releases, it’s a small, short paragraph that summarizes and tells the readers about your business. Think of it as a bio for your company. This should be the same for every press release. You will write this once and just tack it on the end of every one. Sounds easy, but don’t take it too lightly. It’s still important.

Keep this clear and straightforward, just a few sentences. Tell your readers who you are and what you do. It supports your credibility and can also boost your visibility on the web if you use key phrases, so make it count.

You also want to link to your website or other important platform in your boilerplate. For example, your last sentence could be, “For more information, visit: (insert your link here).” You should also include your contact information.

That’s the meat of your press release. Here are the other details you should include in formatting:

  • Your company letterhead and logo at the very top of the page

  • Underneath that, you should write “NEWS RELEASE” in bold on the left side of the page, the date under that, and “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” underneath that

  • On the right side of the page you should include your information. Name, title, phone number, and email

  • The headline should come next on it’s own line, then the sub-header if you have one, then a space before the body of your release

  • In the first line before you start your first paragraph you should include a dateline in AP format. You can find how to correctly write a dateline here

  • If your release extends past one page, write “- more -” at the end of the first page

  • Use pound signs # # # # (yes, I said pound signs not hashtags! Am I really a Millennial?) to indicate the end of your press release.

Here’s a good, simple visual on all of that information:

So, now that you know how to format and write your press release, how do you distribute it and when? There’s no real rule here, but...

 

You should only try to distribute a press release when you have something actually important and newsworthy to share!

Some examples of things that are legitimately newsworthy are events, fundraisers, new product launches, product updates, website launches, or awards. It has to be meaningful, and not just to you but to the public.

In terms of how you should release it, you should start by posting it on your website, blog, and all social media platforms. You should also email it to local news publications and specific journalists. Do some research to find these. You want to send it to people and publications who cover your specific industry. Relevance is key!

Here are a few online press release distribution sites to help you get started.

See, not too scary, right? You got this! I promise you, once you get it down, you’ll have it down forever, and you’ll gain so much more exposure for your business. Come back next week to learn more about how to build and form relationships with the media—more super important tips to grow your business and spread your mission!

 

Read all the posts in this PR series:


Megan Westbrook

Megan Westbrook holds a B.A. in journalism with a focus in public relations and a minor in Spanish from Georgia State University. An aspiring writer, her interests reside in blogging, social media, content creation, design, and photography. She is also a passionate social justice advocate and interested in nonprofit or cause-focused work. Megan is currently a receptionist at Servcorp in Atlanta, Georgia. 



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How to Write Press Releases and Gain Exposure

Kristi Porter, Founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.

How to Woo Your Fans and Supporters

It’s the final week of our “business resolutions series,” and I hope you’re already making big progress on your goals this year! Before we dive into today’s topic, let’s recap, shall we? First, we talked about seven simple tools that build a strong small business foundation. Then, we talked about how to gain authority and trust at your organization through internal communication. To wrap up, we’ll discuss wooing your fans and supporters—and those who could be—through external communication.

You have to actually talk to the people who support you, right? Yes, of course, you do. However, too many small businesses that I speak with know that they should communicate with their customers and donors, but they don’t actually do it.

Marketing and communications usually gets shoved to the back burner, often because it’s just not prioritized. But to retain current fans and attract new ones, you’ve got to reach out. And to begin, you don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to get started.

So, while there are undoubtedly lots of ways to communicate with your customers, donors, and the people who could be, I’ll just highlight three areas that I think you should focus on for maximum impact.

How to Woo Your Fans and Supporters

Email Should Be Your Top Priority

Email, email, email. I can’t stress this enough. For talking to your previous and current customers and donors, this needs to be your top priority. Unless you’re sitting down over coffee with these lovely people, there’s no better way to communicate with your fans.

Don’t believe me? Think social media should be your numero uno? Did someone tell you email is dead? Consider two arguments.

First, how many companies, either for- or non-profit, do you readily give your email to? And how many more do you follow on social media? Yep, there’s no comparison. We’re all getting more and more stingy with our emails, so when someone willingly hands over their email, you should treat it as precious. You have a direct line to their hearts and minds.

Second, think about it this way: you own your email list. With social media, we’re all at the mercy of the ever-changing algorithms. The majority of our posts are filtered out, meaning only a fraction of the people that follow you see what you post. And even if you do get the hang of it, the algorithm will change again in a few months. Plus, we all know that some platforms are here today, but gone tomorrow. MySpace anyone? However, for better or worse, email has been our constant companion the last few decades.

As a marketer, this is frustrating, but as a human, I have to remember the “social” aspect of social media.

So, now that you’re thinking email might be a good idea, here are two ways to handle it:

  1. If you don’t already have an opt-in on your website, you need to think about adding one. An opt-in is simply something you give your list in exchange for their email. Examples include e-courses, lists, e-books, insider access, coupons, and more. This tactic will help you build your list, drawing in potential customers and donors.

  2. I’d like you to email your list at least once a month, and be consistent. We’re all creatures of the out of sight, out of mind variety, so you need to remind people that you’re still here and open for business. You may want to email them more frequently, which is sometimes recommended, but it sort of depends on your organization and other factors. Most people, though, send emails every couple of months, and only when they need something. Yuck! This is not the way to treat those precious emails and the people they represent. So, aim for monthly communication.

Social Media is Important, But Not Everything

People online are currently freaking out over the new Facebook changes that were recently announced, stating that content by companies will be less visible in news feeds. And, I agree, it’s a little scary. I also just dinged social media in the section above. But, no matter how you feel about social media (I have mixed feelings myself), it’s still important and necessary.

So, while I think you should focus on your email list, that won’t always help you reach those who don’t yet know about you. And you probably don’t want to email those who already love you every day and get a bunch of unsubscribes. Enter social media. It’s still an effective way to get your name out and keep it out there, but we’ll all have to try a little harder. But who has the time? This is why I switched to a social media scheduler.

While it’s true that posts sent by schedulers get less play than real-time, “native” posts (typed straight into the platform), for me, it was a matter of what would actually happen. I could have great intentions about getting on social media every day with new content, but the reality is that may not happen. I have too many other things to do, and so do you. This is why I went with a social media scheduling tool, and you can read all the details, as well as my review of 13 popular platforms, right here.

Definitely jump on social media and post in real time, interact with people, share pictures, and generally live it up when you can. But for those times you can’t, consider a scheduling tool. I’m glad to know that if my head is down, and I’m working on a writing project for a few days, my social media posts are still going out the door without me having to press any buttons. I’d rather have a few people seeing my posts than none at all.

Another social media option to consider is Facebook groups. There are millions of them out there, for everything under the sun. My suggestion would be to find a few that contain your target audience, and get active. Be helpful, make connections, and follow their rules for self-promotion. They definitely take time, but are a great and personalized way to build new relationships.

By the way, my friend Jennifer, who is a social media manager, will be talking all about these new Facebook changes, how to stay in front of your audience, and alternatives worth pursuing in my Facebook Group tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. EST. Join us!

Networking and Events Never Go Out of Style

We’ve covered a couple of online options, but you already know there’s no replacement for good, old fashioned face-to-face connection. So, it’s time to get outside your office and shake a few hands. This is still a terrific way to meet potential customers and donors, or even make deeper connections with those who already know and love you. (Bonus: It's also a great way to invest in yourself!)

For us introverts, this may or may not be a welcome suggestion. Me? I love being at home, but I also love attending events. But if you’re the kind of guy or gal who would rather have an email exchange than coffee with someone, then I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to push yourself for the good of your organization. #sorrynotsorry

You may choose to be an exhibitor, an attendee, or even a speaker, and all can be effective. You’ll likely need a combination over time. Obviously, you’ll get the most attention from a larger audience by speaking, but exhibiting and attending can allow you to have more meaningful and personal conversations.

But before you show up, I suggest doing a little event prep work:

  1. Follow the event’s social media or hashtag to start making connections ahead of time.

  2. Make sure your social profiles and website are updated.

  3. Don’t forget to bring business cards or handouts about your org.

(You can read more about each of these items here.)

The important thing is to make the most of the event. Of course, you’re probably showing up to learn, but if you can snag a few more fans, even better! Oh, and in case you’re looking for some cool, cause-focused events to attend, check out this list by Cause Artist.

 

Read the other posts in this series:



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Marketing and communications usually gets shoved to the backburner, often because it’s just not prioritized. But to retain current fans and attract new ones, you’ve got to reach out. And to begin, you don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to get started.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.