When you are conducting an annual campaign, capital effort, or even an endowment program, publicity can be helpful. Positive “buzz” helps improve community understanding and support. But too often, we rely on buzz to do all the work. We assume that some good publicity will raise money for us.
Yes, an ad campaign can help reinforce a message. Newspaper, social media and other forms of publicity can promote your message far beyond your four walls. But publicity, ad campaigns, even a great newspaper story will not raise funds in and of themselves. Remember, “buzz is not the same thing as honey.”
So what do you need to do to ensure the success of your next campaign beyond “creating buzz”?
Adept organizations use “buzz” to motivate staff and volunteers. It can be enormously energizing.
Share a great newspaper story or create your own print, audio or video content, but make sure you start your communication dissemination internally first. Never assume staff and volunteers read the story or saw the post – you have to make sure they do. The vast majority of North Americans no longer read a newspaper. People watch many videos daily, but rarely about their work. Everyone’s Facebook feed is overflowing with so much information that it’s easy to miss a post from a favorite nonprofit. Send key messages to your staff and volunteer team directly.
Next, make sure that buzz translates into action. Now that they have something to talk about, volunteers need to reach out to prospects. Make visit appointments. Schedule vision tours. Turn that buzz into action!
As one excited volunteer wrote to her entire Leadership Cabinet colleagues:
If we have this video on our phones, we can share our vision 100 times over and bring the people that we have not been able to reach in the past. This is our WOW for today, and there will be more.
Finally, keep the buzz going by following up. That may mean contacting the news organization to see if they’d be interested in a follow-up story on the impact of their original reporting. It may mean sharing with board and staff the bump in fundraising you saw after a positive story. It could mean reflecting back in an annual report the stories that changed the trajectory of your organization in the past year. Reminding people of the positive buzz can create an echo effect, re-inspiring those warm feelings and maybe even engaging people who missed the buzz the first time around.
Done right, you can turn the noise of the buzz into honey – or maybe we should say “money” – to energize your fundraising efforts.