Recently, I've made the habit of dong something I think more non-profit executives should do. Namely, reviewing the blogsphere and LinkedIn questions for gaining insight in terms of what's "out there". Stumbling across the internet, I found a question that got me thinking:
Does your organisation use personal stories as part of your appeal for financial support? Do have policies and guidelines in place in this regard?
What a telling question! While the posting's intention was directed at how organizations can better fundraise, the practicality of telling and developing a good story also applies to effective non-profit public relations. In the case of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, I've seen first hand the benefit of a media relations department even laying out a story guide regularly distributed to journalists. It's a fantastic means of keeping your cause top of mind with the media without constantly having to push out press releases. With a story board or calendar on hand, it leaves NGO PR professionals to rely on passive persuasion to talk up your cause.
To that effect, a perfect quote I found on a related LinkedIn Q&A from Chuck Anderson of the United Way of America says it all:
Personal stories/attributions add more legitimacy to your appeal on a human level. If they are designed as a tear jerker to get people to give, some may feel they are being manipulated. However they can be very powerful at raising money if done tastefully. There are a group of people who need the cold hard facts too. They don't respond to the tear jerker approach so you have to walk a fine line. Finally in the non-profit arena of today I believe it is more important to document and sell what your organization is doing to reduce/eliminate the root cause of the social problem you are addressing. The stating of a business case to fundors that your agency is making long term positive change coupled with supportive data would therefore be important. Your agency has to have data to back up your assertion. People want to know their donated dollars are being used effectively. With the tightening of the economy, the more critical this aspect will be.
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.