Publicity Alone is Not a Fundraising Strategy

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Because we provide PR services to our clients, I was recently asked if Project Partners had aided a local nonprofit which had been struggling with fundraising issues. This organization was receiving some media attention and it turned out that they had enlisted an agency with no fundraising expertise to help them out of their slump.

But media attention does not automatically translate into funding. As I told my colleague: in our world, PR and fund development go hand in hand.

Publicity can help further any mission in our community. It raises the organization's profile and public awareness of its cause. Additionally, everyone values news coverage. If done right, the organization can then leverage that PR to motivate and inspire donors and take advantage of the enthusiasm it can create among the ranks.

However, PR should never substitute for solid, basic "fundraising 101" strategies. These include:

  • creating a water-tight case for support;
  • communicating that case for support;
  • prospecting donors who would care about that case for support;
  • cultivating those prospective donors in a number of ways;
  • providing opportunities for those prospects to give and making the ask;
  • building a solid recognition and stewardship plan to retain those donors; and
  • continuously repeating this cycle of steps.

Do take advantage of some good PR that might generate some interest and excitement -- in fact, build that into your fundraising plan and call us for help. But consider that it should only be part of the plan. If you build your fund development system, it will help build long-lasting relationships that will sustain your organization.  The media attention, then, becomes "icing on the cake".