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How positive media can help you win more grants

Positive media accounts of success stories at your non-profit do not just make you and your staff feel great. These coveted stories are validation to anyone that your non-profit is worth extra funding. Sometimes, busy non-profit leaders feel that generating puff pieces for the local media is not worth their time. Here’s why a few minutes a week can improve your grant profile, and a few tips and tricks to help journalists find you and sing your praises.

THE BENEFITS OF POSITIVE MEDIA

Media helps funders find you. Raising your profile in the community can help foundation staff and grant committee members get more data points on your work. Some corporate grants, especially during the Holidays, are driven entirely by employee recommendations. Get out there and get noticed.

Media showcases your expert staff. Experts offer unique and even transformative insight into the mission of your organization. When you highlight the qualifications of your best staff members, it raises your star in the community. You can even sign up to be a source for reporters on deadline at helpareporter.com (HARO). (Preview their guidelines first – there are rules for sources.)

Media can help you advocate for your mission. The needs assessment in the grant application might only be 500 words…or even 500 characters. An insightful front-page story in a major local daily provides needed context, and perhaps even added emotional punch to the huge needs your staff encounters daily.

Media generates individual donations. Increasing attention to the needs you address and the successful programs you run leads to more donors. Foundations like to see nonprofits with wide community support and varied income streams. So, make sure you have a link to an online donor platform and clear donation buttons on your website.

Successful media proves you can generate positive press releases. Many funders require some kind of public mention of their generosity after awarding a grant. Recent success with placing articles in print or online shows that you can announce a grant, perhaps even beyond a funder’s expectations. Great media skills can’t replace a solid grant proposal, but it might tip the balance in your favor when funders have to make hard decisions.

HOW TO GET MORE MEDIA ATTENTION

Find “your” reporter: Newspaper reporters generally have a “beat,” like sports, business, or local news. Read the newspaper you are targeting. Who is writing articles related to your non-profit’s mission? That’s “your” reporter! Try to connect with them via networking.

Connect to “on-air” personalities. Television spots are usually written by a producer, who then feeds the script to the on-air reporter. Sometimes it is one person doing both. Try to find a friend internally at the station. People, even reporters, write about people they know.

Write a tight press release. Don’t just put out ‘news’ with boring quotations that the journalist will ignore. Use short sentences that succinctly give the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why) in the first 150 words, and insert both a compelling picture with a caption, and a quotation that is insightful, not predictable.

Overworked, and under deadline: Journalists (both print and online) must produce content FAST. Your job is to be helpful. So, if a reporter calls, CALL THEM RIGHT BACK. For press releases, only share phone numbers of responsive persons who can speak on behalf of your organization. If you know your CEO will not do this, don’t list the CEO as the media contact. Be responsive!

Tie your story ideas to current trends and news: The reporter has to justify why it’s news that your organization got a grant or started a new program—and so do you. For each detail in a release or story idea, ask yourself, “Why should I care?” (And do not be offended if the reporter says that to you.)

Provide source information: Include data and facts and hyperlink your sources right into your press release or social media post so that reporters can independently verify your information. If reporters get relevant, mission-focused metrics about your community, not just internal success stories from your organization, they will be more likely to use it.

Share relevant statistics on social media. Sharing important articles and new statistics on any social media platform can reach more people. If your online feed regularly posts above-average content on your mission, you may become a trusted source of data and context.

Participate in community calendars. Add events (even virtual ones) to the social calendars of your local newspaper, radio stations, and television outlets. Often, a link to a Facebook event listing is required, or to a landing page on your website for more information. Set that up first. (This might be a great volunteer opportunity.)

Use free media spots on radio. Newspapers and websites are not the only choice. Most radio stations have free spots for non-profits where you can share a 10 or 20 second script. Your public radio station might even have an interview-style show to provide information on community problems.

Share events and community needs on television. Television stations also offer free community service spots for local non-profits. Network to find the right staff member who is the gatekeeper, and be persistent. Once you land the gig, wear one bright color – and come prepared to focus on ONE aspect of your mission.

So busy with grants that you have no time for media? Contact us today to see how we can help you win more grants with less stress.

Kristen West McGuire
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November 10, 2020

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