by Michael B. Perini, ABC
perini & associates

In today’s economy successful fundraising is difficult at best.

Making it even harder is the strategy used by many organizations to jump right into to what is commonly called, “the  ask”.  In other words, to figure out the simplist way of getting the donor to give, i.e. by check, credit card, payment  program, any amount is ok plan, etc.  This effort is often followed up with the promise of recognition of some sort, i.e., name on a banner, flyer, program, brief mention in remarks during a post campaign event.  All these elements are necessary, yes, for successful fundraising, but  have limited long-term value without first building a foundation with the potential donor by creating and facilitating conversations around the “who” and “why”.  This critical component, that  will result in achieving better fund raising results, is the role of public relations experts partnering with fundraisers and using well tested strategies and techniques.

We all need to remember: The choices supporters make about which charity to donate to today can be won or lost on establishing the right messages –– this important task needs to be left to experienced public relations professionals.

Here are 10 important reasons why fundraisers need to give more attention to public relations strategies and methods.

1.  Well lead PR programs (message development, story placement, marketing, advertising, use of social media) can raise awareness.

2.  PR programs can reinforce and build on the messages that fundraisers are giving to supporters by garnering media and public support.

3. PR professionals can help find and target potential fundraising audiences and encourage the conversation and thus commitment.

4. PR can be the cornerstone of telling a good story about how the fundraising made a difference to transform the way people think about  the next fundraising campaign.

5.  Fundraising aims to encourage donations. Strong PR supports  that “call to action” by showcasing the charity’s integrity, need for funding and benefits from how the money was spent.  PR can help develop a strong and effective case study library that will help motivate fundraisers and donors alike.

6. The PR and fundraising teams (or individuals depending on the size of your group) should be pulling in the same direction.  Meeting and sharing information on a regular basis is vital.

7.  PR experts can help fundraisers think about the difference between donors (those who give donations) and supporters (those who give their time to volunteer or help raise funds).  Both these groups have stories and they need to be recognized.

8.  Worth repeating from #1: use of social media. Social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter are useful PR tools and growing in usage every hour.  Your PR expert can develop a strategy tailored to generating income.

9.  Using PR in fundraising campaigns can be measured to determine how much it contributed.

10.  PR should always be practiced. This is a strategic discipline and not a tactical technique.  Fundraising, in my view, should be viewed as a specialization of public relations, not the other way around.

Times are tough.  The pot for giving is small.  Therefore, great communication is even more important.  Now it is especially important to let supporters know about your organization, cause or special donor event BEFORE “the ask” as well as following up afterwards.

I know from experience that  a strong and integrated public relations component will result in persuading more supporters to come your way. So, please think about the role of PR in fundraising.  We would like to hear how you have used PR in your fundraising efforts.

Call us as we can take your fundraising efforts to new levels by integrating public relations.