Charity Chic — How to Get Attention When Chic’s Stealing the Limelight

I just heard about the relatively new MSNBC series, Give and Take, about the state of philanthropy in the US, and was astounded to see yet one more mainstream media example of giving grabbing the limelight.

When I went to to the Give and Take Web site, I was pleasantly surprised. Rather than focus solely on the big stories — e.g. recent charity scandals — MSNBC seems to be striving to  present balanced coverage of the issues important to nonprofit laypeople; your donors, volunteers, board members, etc. Here are just a few of the features I read:

  • Why Americans give?
  • Cause celeb — a rotating feature on celebrities who support good causes
  • Links to stories from Making a Difference, a Friday-night feature on the nightly news covering someone who is giving their all to give back
  • Top ten charities (most funds raised)
  • Message board — today’s topic is "Why do you give?

Pretty varied, somewhat in-depth, all serious content. I’m impressed, MSNBC. Even more interesting is that Charity News (linking to the Give and Take home page) is a prominent choice on the network’s US News menu.  With this range of coverage, MSNBC is making a statement that charities are important (and perhaps they can boost sponsorship or advertising dollars). That’s great.

The down side? Giving seems to be all that’s covered, at least at this time of the year. But there’s far more than giving in terms of nonprofit news. Even worse, any time a topic becomes the pet of the mainstream media (and cause-related marketing/holiday gifting is another timely example), you risk losing your nonprofit audiences. That’s because most people would rather rely on hearing it on the news, than getting updates directly from a range of sources. The upside — they hear about giving. The downside — they don’t hear the specifics stories of goals and growth that is critical to reinforcing their connection to YOUR nonprofit.

I recommend the following to keep your audiences’ attention, and to keep your organization in the limelight:

  • Learn what’s being covered in the mainstream media, and focus on filling in the gaps.
  • Tell stories of your organization’s work.
    • Show stories via video and audiocasts, to supplement written summaries.
    • Demonstrate progress, as quantitatively as possible, such as a chart showing a significant increase in clients served.
  • Build trust. Trust is critical to all of your organization’s relationships, and something that can never be generated by an intermediary, like the media. Media coverage can validate your audience’s trust in your organization, but it’s your job to build and keep it. Make this a communications priority.

Have more ideas on how to retain your audiences’ attention now that nonprofit’s are grabbing some mainstream media space? Please click Comments below to share your ideas.

Thanks to Don’t Tell the Donor for the tip.

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Nancy Schwartz on November 27, 2006 in Branding and Messages, Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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