Using PR to boost your fundraising strategy
by Lisa Pettifer, Amazon PR
Fundraisers can often overlook the role that good public relations (PR) can play in their work, whether it falls within their responsibility or is handled by another team. Now more than ever, communication is fundamental in enabling a charity to stand out from the crowd. So, itís important to ensure that youíre using every available tool. The following points should help you establish how PR can play its part.
Potential supporters or donors need to know their money will make a difference Ė and that it will be spent appropriately and responsibly. Using strong case studies that illustrate the impact your services have had to generate media coverage will inspire and reassure the people youíre targeting.
Itís an often held misconception that PR and fundraising are intrinsically linked Ė that if your organisation gets media coverage your income will go up. In reality, there are a number of stages between someone reading about your work and making a financial commitment. But PR can bridge the gap between the call to action and the money in the bank.
Managing case studies
Case studies are the lifeblood of PR, as well as fundraising. However, they are all individuals with their own stories and concerns. Some people will be keen to do as much to help promote you and your work as possible, while others may have reservations. To avoid disappointment and misunderstandings, explain the case study process at the start of the relationship.
Supporting your supporters
As we all know, recognising an individualís contribution is crucial to retaining their support and encouraging them to fundraise for you again. Events can work brilliantly Ė inviting people to meet other supporters and a few beneficiaries is incredibly inspiring. But plan your supporter events carefully: while they like to feel appreciated, they donít want to see the money they helped generate being spent on a party, rather than the cause.
Spend your time wisely
PR is well worth the time and money if itís proportionate and appropriate. However, itís easy to find yourself spending endless hours generating press releases about every supporter running the marathon or jumping out of an aeroplane for you. Itís worth investing time in developing toolkits for your fundraisers, which will free up your time to focus on those events and challenges that offer strategic value.
Target the right media
It goes without saying that if your aim is to generate income from high-net-worth individuals, you shouldnít create a PR package that will only attract The Sun. Think carefully about the links you may need to draw between your work and the wider policy context to, for example, lift your package to a national broadsheet level.
Corporate sponsorship and fundraising is a major source of income, but it needs to be handled carefully. Businesses that invest time or money in your organisation will usually want their contribution to be visible through PR to their industry, local communities, and potential customers. Be aware of what they expect and whether you can deliver it from the outset.
Keep it consistent
Consistency is key. Where it doesnít make sense for them to be the same, PR and fundraising messages should complement each other, with clear lines drawn between the two. If your organisation has a separate PR team, work closely with them to ensure your messaging supports their priorities and vice versa.
Plan for the worst
Thereís an element of risk in many fundraising events. A supporter might injure themselves or a major trip may be cancelled at the last minute. Have a clear crisis PR plan in place from the start, setting out how youíll handle any situations that may arise.
Build evaluation into everything you do. If supporters have to register for a fundraising pack, make sure you ask them where they heard about you so you can track which channels are working particularly well. Follow through, so you can find out how many of those registering go on to raise money, and how much they raise. Monitor media coverage against donations to see if any spikes correspond.
If something works, donít just smile and move on. Invest some time in sharing the success both externally and internally. Telling those within the organisation what youíve been doing, and what your work has achieved, can help garner greater support for future projects.
This article was originally published in Issue 3 of The Fundraiser.