Nonprofits spend months planning for the annual end-of-the-year giving season.
But smart organizations are also planning ahead for another year-end tradition: increased coverage of charities during the holidays.
When the first Salvation Army bell ringers start setting their kettles outside of local shopping malls, their chiming bells seemingly send a signal to editors and reporters that they should be covering what’s happening in their nonprofit community.
For many outlets, the holidays are the perfect hook for sharing heartwarming stories about people who are making a difference or for checking in to see how the local nonprofit community is faring with its fundraising. Some newspapers and TV news programs even take the step of running series that profile local heroes or charities.
This rush of coverage during the holidays offers some great opportunities for nonprofits that are looking to tell their stories through the media.
But to maximize your chances of earning some of these headlines, you need to be proactive.
Here are four things you can be doing now to help your organization get a leg up on getting its story told during the holidays:
1. Identify an Inspiring Volunteer
Does your organization have a volunteer who goes the extra mile to deliver meals or who has overcome adversity to give back? The holidays offer a perfect opportunity to recognize one of your inspiring supporters and call attention to your mission.
News outlets are often looking for interesting human interest stories during the holidays — and, in some cases, year-round. If you have a particularly colorful or interesting volunteer, turn that example into a pitch.
2. Recognize a Generous Donor
If your organization received a landmark gift — or if it has a longstanding donor who continues to make a difference — the holidays could offer a perfect hook for getting the media to pay attention.
Not all donors want their name in the newspaper, though. If you are looking to pitch a donor story, it’s important to speak with the person ahead of time and gain permission.
3. Spotlight a Trend
Are conditions worsening for low-income families in your community? Are donations fleeing a part of your city? Are charities working together to tackle an important problem? If there’s a trend that impacts your community or your nonprofit, this is a perfect time to turn it into a story pitch.
4. Show Your Impact
Has your nonprofit achieved an important milestone with its work? Have you solved or made progress toward solving an important community problem?
If you have achieved tangible results, chances are you have a great story to tell.
Any of the above topics can be easily turned into a compelling pitch that has a strong chance of attracting the attention of a reporter or editor who is on the prowl for a good year-end story.
When making your pitch, make sure you put the spotlight on the story you’re trying to tell — on the person you’re profiling, the trend you’re revealing, or the result you’ve achieved — rather than on your organization.
Unfortunately, too many pitches put the organization center stage. If you can avoid falling into that trap, your pitch stands a better chance at shining.
Journalists who are looking for a year-end story want to see something with a human angle or an interesting outcome. They’re not necessarily looking to profile your organization.
But make no mistake — getting coverage for your inspiring volunteer or donor will get attention for your organization.
Even if the media doesn’t bite, the time you take to find these stories will not be wasted. Profiles of amazing volunteers and selfless donors can easily be repurposed for your organization’s blog, social media channels, annual report, newsletter, or for another communications channel.
Peter Panepento is principal at Panepento Strategies, a full-service content, digital, and social strategy firm for nonprofits and socially-minded companies. He was formerly an assistant managing editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy and a senior vice president at The Council on Foundations. He also serves as Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s adviser on public relations.