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.


Thanks and give, a birthday wish.

First of all, thanks so much for all the 50th birthday wishes.  I’m pretty overwhelmed.

For those who don’t know, yesterday was my 50th birthday and to celebrate I asked folks to send me their birthday wishes on Facebook and Twitter and for each wish Kyra and I would donate a dollar to be split between the Eric LeGrand Believe Fund and another charity.  To select the second cause, I asked folks to include their favorite cause in the wish and we’d pick one.

This results were very cool.  Due to the viral nature of social media I received wishes and tweets from folks as far away as Toronto (yo, Bednarski) and Los Angeles.  I also learned that with all the ways people can respond (links, comments, Facebook gift apps, etc.) it’s a little hard to count all the wishes.

After counting a couple of times, I’d say I received about 200 birthday wishes from friends, relatives and friends of those friends and relatives.  Because we want to make each gift substantial, we’ve decided to give 200 each to the Believe Fund and the second charity.

The second part of this is pretty hard since in all more than 40 charities were included with the wishes.  After consulting with my wife, whose direction was “seems like we should focus on the kids,” we’re pleased to announce the second gift of $200 will go to Cookies for Kids Cancer.  Kyra and a number of local public relations folks are very involved in this cause.

A third learning is how much fun this was.  It was a great way to reconnect with friends and meet new ones.  I urge you to try something like this yourself.

Finally, here is a full listing of all the charities sent in by the well wishers.  If I forgot one, please send it to me and I will add it.

I encourage you to donate to all of them.  Thanks so much.

Mario Lemieux Foundation


Save the Elephants

American Cancer Society

Build an Animal Shelter in Honor of Patrick


World Pediatric Project

Children’s Hospital of King’s Daughters

Richmond SPCA

Special Olympics

Wounded Warrior Project

Central Virginia FoodBank

AMP Metro Richmond

St. Jude’s

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Children’s Home Society and Family Service

The Human Fund (LOL)

March of Dimes

United Way

Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund for Japan

Operation Smile

Family Lifeline

Impact 100

Children’s Hospital Foundation

Susan G. Komen

Altzheimer’s Association

Juvenile Diabetes

Elisa and Nathan Bond Family Trust

Virginia Institute of Autism

Four Diamonds Fund of the Hershey Medical Center

Nature Conservancy

Tonsil Cancer Foundation

Sheltering Arms


Salvation Army

Los Angeles Regional FoodBank

Comfort Zone Camp

Women for Women

The Point Foundation

Ronald McDonald House Charity

The Year of Me is about us. How can you can participate.

So the big birthday in “The Year of Me” is coming up this Sunday.

I’ve taken my share of crap over “The Year of Me” thing but if you remember (this link will serve as a reminder back to my original post), The Year of Me is meant to be more than a year about me.

One of the key points of that I stated then is I wanted to be more philanthropic with my money and my time.  On the time side, I’m spending more of that volunteering with Zack’s baseball league this year and I’ve met a number of great people doing that.

On the money side, well here’s my idea and it’s tied into my 50th birthday on Sunday.

One of the cool things about Facebook is that you are reminded about your Friend’s birthdays so that you can post a message on their wall that day.  You feel good, they feel good.  I see the point, but there’s nothing actionable from that, it’s cool and all but at the end of that exercise there’s a long list of “Happy Birthday” greetings on a wall.

So this year, I encourage everyone to wish me “Happy Birthday” on my wall. In addition to the greeting please also include your favorite charity.

For every charity mentioned Kyra and I will donate one dollar (sorry honey for not discussing this with you first :)).  Out of that dollar 52 cents will go the Eric LeGrand Believe Fund.  Eric is the Rutgers football player paralyzed while playing football last year and included in the “Year of Me” post.

The other 48 cents of each dollar will go to one of the charities mentioned along with the birthday greetings on my wall.  If you’re a Twitter person and want to tweet me a “Happy Birthday” and a charity, please do so and those tweets will be counted in the mix as well.

I have a great wife, family, business, partner, co-workers and life.  The “Year of Me” is much more about me, it’s about all of us and what we do with our lives.

If you think I’m being a bit selfish and all I want is tons of people to send me birthday greetings on Sunday, you’re absolutely right.

That way you can help me spread some “Year of Me” cheer to others who are less fortunate.

Please share, post, retweet, etc. this post so we can spread that cheer together.

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