Nonprofit Media Relations: Getting To The Heart Of The Story

The nonprofit media landscape is changing. Newsrooms are shrinking, stories are getting harder to secure, and with so many competing charities out there all vying for attention, room for nonprofit features is increasingly tight. Competition is fierce, space is limited. It’s rough out there. 

To compound this issue, charitable giving is declining across the board. Giving USA Foundation found that total giving declined by 10.5% in 2022 in the face of economic volatility. And people simply aren’t volunteering as much as they used to. Only about 23% of Americans participated in formal volunteering in 2021, down from 30%  before the onset of the pandemic in 2019. Today, nonprofits are operating with less funding and paid staff than before the pandemic. And that’s a big issue considering there are 1.97 million nonprofits operating in the U.S. as of 2022. 

With a lack of donations, a dwindling volunteer pool, and intense competition, nonprofits need media support now more than ever. But promoting a nonprofit in the media is becoming increasingly difficult. Whether your client is a hospital raising money for childhood cancer, a climate change action committee, or a nonprofit who aims to save bees or sea lions, getting them featured in the media is no easy task. It’s difficult, but far from impossible. 

Of course people love heartwarming stories. But there are SO many heartwarming stories out there and even more news out there, so it’s about how your story fits into the news cycle and, more importantly, how it connects with your desired audience. 

The following tips and tricks can help you secure target media placements for your nonprofit. 

  • Numbers are great, but they aren’t the end all be all: So your nonprofit raised a ton of money and saved a huge number of bees? Great! However, the media is not going to find that very exciting. Try to avoid relying solely on promoting the amount of money your nonprofit has raised or about the number of services they have provided. Numbers should be secondary to whatever story you are trying to get out there. It’s a good add on, but it’s not the core of your story. 
  • Focus on the heart of the story: The people are what matter here. Do you have a cancer survivor who has been impacted by the research your nonprofit funded? Do you have a student who has benefited from the services provided by your client? What about a family who can now enjoy the beach because your nonprofit made it a safe and clean place to be? Media in and of itself is a story driving vehicle. They care about people, stories, things that move us. Focus on the people impacted by your nonprofit and how their lives have been changed. People want connection, they want to see themselves in others. Leverage this basic human need and tell human-centric stories. 
  • Localize, localize, localize: While national media is shifting, local stories are still relevant to your community. People still want to know what is happening in their direct area. It’s all about building community and speaking to that community. Don’t be afraid to leverage smaller local publications for your outreach. Local broadcast is also a great tool as they often speak directly to the people who may be donating or volunteering for your cause. Find your local connection and make that known to local media. 

Whether its saving bees, working to cure illness, or helping a community, nonprofits are making an impact on the world. As PR professionals, we need to help them make an impact with media. In this changing media landscape, PR pros have to stay nimble and creative in finding ways to get their clients featured in their target media. 

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. 

This article was written by Kaitlynn Cooney, PR Club Board Member and Account Director, Brodeur Partners.