Non-profit events: A PR recipe for success

by Cameron McPherson

(Quick editor’s note: There are few better at getting the word out about events than Cam.  Great ingredient list below. -JN)

I’m fortunate to work at an organization that encourages employees to volunteer and give back to the community. As a guy who loves to work with nonprofits, this makes me so happy. Throughout the year, in and outside of work, I help nonprofits publicize their events to the public. It’s not only an opportunity to fundraiser for a cause, it also gives the nonprofit a chance to tell their story to the community.

I just finished helping with PR for the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sales in Richmond and thought some of the best practices would be helpful to other organizations. So, without further ado, here are 10 tips for getting the word out about your event:

  • Create a storyline: This isn’t just an event, it’s an opportunity for you to explain to the community why your nonprofit’s work is so important. Leverage facts about the issue and localize as much as possible – and then shout it from the rooftops!
  • Do some digging: Community news organizations have engaged readership and often love getting the word out about local events. You’re probably familiar with local TV and the daily newspaper, but don’t forget about blogs.  Do some Googling and ask Facebook friends, “where do you get community news?”
  • Look for interview opportunities: Flip through your radio dial for a week and listen for local drive-time programs that interview guests. Skip nationally syndicated programs, and focus on programs with local DJs. When it comes to TV, look for local newscasts that do in-studio interviews.
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: Have you seen a nonprofit in your area get great press for their events? Google search and see what outlets covered them. It’s a good way to pinpoint outlets that could cover your event.
  • Facebook, it’s free!: You might not have the financial resources to create a website dedicated to your event, but creating a Facebook event page is free.  Not only is it a great way to get attendees energized before the event, but you can use it to find volunteers and provide updates before the event. Even better, a lot of news media have Facebook pages with huge fan bases that will often link to your event.
  • Develop a variety of angles: Ever notice how news organizations sometimes cover a story differently? If you’re pursuing interviews or pre-event coverage, develop different angles. Find how the problem your nonprofit is trying to fix affects various local people. Or, maybe a local program has a cooking segment. Is your event catered? You could offer the chef as a guest on the program as an alternative way to plug the upcoming event.
  • Don’t forget a news release: Some say the news release is dead. For nonprofit events, it is very much alive and one of the best ways to ensure consistent messaging. There are tons of resources online on how to write a release. Make sure to include the basics: who, what, when, where and, most importantly, why. It is important to tell people why they should support the cause and how will it help the community.
  • Award buzz: Will you be honoring someone at the event? If so, contact your local newspaper about the why the recipient is receiving the award. It’s an opportunity to get positive exposure for that person’s work, while also getting the word out about an event.
  • Radios PSAs: Good news! Some stations are required to donate a certain amount of airtime to nonprofit causes. However, submission requirements for PSAs are different from station to station, so your best bet is to call and ask for someone who manages the PSAs. It’s a free way to create a “commercial” for your event.
  • At the event: Do certain outlets include event photos? Give the publication a big enough heads up (at least three weeks) and see if they would be interested in sending a photographer. Don’t be let down because the editor told you “no.”  Often times this is due to a lack of resources, ask if you can submit hi-res photos after the event.
  • Long term vision: Is your event annual? Be strategic with your media relations outreach plan. Every outlet can’t cover your event every year. If your daily newspaper did a feature on the event this year, try looking for other PR opportunities.

Those were just 10 tips, but there are many more ways to promote your event. Please share your ideas in the comments below.


A great cause: Our first official Facebook landing page

WARNING:  This post is highly promotional both for HDS and our client.  But once you read it you’ll understand why I posted and why you should at least take a look.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Hodges Digital Strategies’ first “official” Facebook custom landing page, executed for ChildFund International’s “100 Days of Yes” campaign.

While we have already completed a number of similar clients with our new partner Sonali Shetty, this is the first one launched under the new HDS banner and we can’t be more excited and proud.

ChildFund International is a tremendous Richmond-based organization through which you can sponsor a child in some of the poorest regions in the world, providing food and materials to help make life easier for them and their families.

The “100 Days of Yes” campaign is a drive to focus sponsorship activities and get as many new sponsors as we can over the 1oo day period.

The new landing page is designed not only to highlight the campaign, but provides a way for existing sponsors to share pictures of their sponsored children and post some thoughts about that experience.  Folks can page through the photo album to see the pictures and the posts, and of course they can become a fan of ChildFund’s Facebook page to receive future updates, etc.

We’re proud to be working with ChildFund on this campaign with PR provided by THP and social media by HDS and it’s a great example of the combined services these two companies offer under the Hodges umbrella.   We invite you to become a sponsor of a child and a fan of the page and to return back often to look at the picture gallery.

We’re also proud to offer other cost-effective services for non-profits and small businesses who are looking to expand their reach on Facebook.  Here’s a link to learn more.

We’ll be back later to report back on the success of the campaign.  Thanks for indulging this promotional post.

What is

This story goes back two years to when Aaron Dotson, our friend from Elevation Advertising, invited me to a coffee at Starbucks.  In that meeting I agreed to help him out with an idea that revolved around a website and gift cards that would enable people to “give the gift of charity” to others.

Fast forward two years later, Aaron calls me and says “remember that coffee we had two years ago?”

The website is now a project of the great folks at The Community Foundation, who along with some great partners have created

At its heart, the portal is a resource for 200+ Richmond non-profits.  You can find out just about everything you’d want to know about them like mission, board members, in-depth financials, etc.  All the information has been vetted by the folks at TCF.  As it grows, the ability to learn about topics important to the non-profit community will grow as well.  Finally, you can select any of the organizations on the site and either donate to them directly though the site, or “give the gift of charity” by buying a “gift card” and sending it to someone else who then can go on the site and designate one of the organizations as a recipient.  Cool. is now on Facebook and on Twitter at @GiveRichmond.  Please “like” and follow.

Next week is also GiveRichmond week with lots of interesting events culminating with HandsOn Day in Richmond, a wonderful volunteer event.

As Aaron said to me during our first coffee two years ago, “Wouldn’t it be cool if every person could go on the site and instead of buying someone a sweater, tie or can of peanuts for the holidays, they sent someone the gift of charity?”

So, wouldn’t it?

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