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Fundraising Event Not Getting Media Coverage?
What’s Your Story?

by Deborah Zanke


Every week, there are countless fundraising events taking place across the country. Some will get decent media coverage and others will be lucky to get a mention on the “community events listing” page of the local newspaper. What’s the difference? You may think it’s size or profile of the event and that might be part of the answer but it’s not the whole story. Regardless of the size of your event/initiative, you need a solid media relations plan to maximize the chance that you’ll get coverage.

Organizers of fundraising events usually have two goals for publicity:

  1. Raise attendance/participation and therefore, money raised from the event
  2. Public awareness of the organization’s cause

To reach these goals, you will need to attract media attention before the event as well as at the event itself. Of the number of tips for engaging the media in my post titled media relations 101, the most important is having a compelling story to tell.

Find your hook

To get the media’s attention, you need to have a pitch that is newsworthy. If your media release consists of a bland description of your event along with the date and some canned quote from your executive director about how excited the organization is about it, STOP and re-craft it.

Think of the event’s impact. Look for the story behind the event. Is there someone who has benefited from your organization’s work who can tell his/her story in a compelling way? Is there something unique happening at your event this year?

For example, a non-profit where I was once employed hosted an annual run. I found out that one of our regular competitors was planing to run the event pushing his wheelchair-bound dad along the 10 kilometre course. He was doing this because he frequently told his dad about the races he entered and after his last race, his dad commented that he would love to be able to experience the rush his son got from participating in these events. As soon as I heard about this, I knew that was the story we’d pitch to the media. It was unique, touching and gave the media something to cover in advance and on race day to see how the father-son team made out.

It worked. We got some great coverage that year. The added bonus was that it made this father-son experience even more special because the two got extra attention at the event from reporters and news photographers who documented their triumph crossing the finish line.

Now, in this case, the “hook” was about the race participants—-not directly about the organization’s cause. However, with some coaching of the father-son team, along with a well-crafted release, the purpose of the event got coverage as well. The father and son became ambassadors for the cause.

No story, no coverage

Without a compelling story, a media pitch about your fundraising event falls flat. If the event is a “first-time ever”, is larger than life and very visual, involves major celebrities or big numbers, it’s easier to get coverage. If, however, your event is one of many other similar events in your community (e.g. art auction, run/walk, gala dinner etc.), finding the unique story behind your event will make it far more likely you will get the media coverage you need to meet your goals.



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About the Author:

Deborah Zanke runs Message Communications, a public relations consulting firm in Winnipeg, Canada. Deborah was a child welfare social worker prior to pursuing a career in public relations in the nonprofit social services sector. Now, ten years later, she is the head of her own practice, helping her nonprofit and corporate clients with communications planning, public relations and writing services. She authors a blog where she shares communications and PR tips at http://www.messagecom.wordpress.com.



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