CDE project 22 summary: media relations and the public face of charities

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
Added
May 01, 2017

Getting donors to tell the good stories about your work

Tim Kitchin, December 2016
Reviewed by: Mario Ambrosi

Project 22, 'Speaking Out', recognises that mainstream media reporting makes a significant difference to the way we feel about donating to charities. It suggests six simple principles for the not-for-profit sector to generate more positive coverage that builds donors’ trust and confidence. 

The principles are straightforward:

1. Accentuate the Positive
• Communicate the positive impact of your work as much as the problems you address.

Specifically, work to bring project outcomes to life, particularly by using them to authentic voices and enliven your annual reporting

2. Grow the Grassroots 
• Seek out the authentic voices of your most committed supporters and beneficiaries, and inspire them to talk freely on your behalf.

Specifically, allow, empower and encourage local evangelists to use social media on your behalf, and agree on protocols and training to engage with mass media

3. Work closely with the media
• Build collaborative media partnerships that engage readers and viewers, and which offer win-wins with media and advertising supporters.

Specifically, create fundraising propositions that have the media as a partner, rather than merely as a ‘channel.’

4. Keep it Personal
• Communicate at a human level, across all channels, at all times. 

Specifically, explain beneficiaries’ experiences as personal stories that connect with donors’ real lives, and encourage donors to tell their own stories of emotional connection.

5. Be Brave
• Don’t be afraid to assert a measure of moral authority - in a humble way. Don’t be afraid to lead change on behalf of your donors and beneficiaries.

Specifically, stand up for the work you do by celebrating its impact, while still acknowledging the work that remains to be done. Behave as if you were providing ‘shareholder guidance’ and quarterly forecasts.

6. Be Decisive 
• Admit quickly when you screw up - and change things.

Specifically, take decisive actions to honour donors’ needs in terms of your behaviour – and tell people when you’ve done it.


Next Steps


Whilst adopting these six simple principles should help individual charities to build trust and grow market-share for their organisations, they will not be enough to help the charitable sector to improve and innovate as a whole. 

Left unfettered, market forces will tend to produce more and more noise and less and less cut-through, simply raising the cost of supporter acquisition and retention. What is needed instead are new forms of co-ordinated sector leadership that ground fundraising less in lifestyle interruption and more in the inspiration and restoration of operating effectively. However, what these measures should look like is beyond the scope of this paper. 

Click on the image below to see Project 22 in summary only - PDF format

Click on the image below to see Project 22 in full - PDF format

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

Recent Articles

SOFII stars: the best of corporate social engagement

Charities working in tandem with business can achieve remarkable results. In this edition of SOFII Stars, we present several wonderful examples where clever fundraising strategies led to exceptional partnerships!

Read more

How crowdfunding is helping fundraise for community projects

Sarah Daren explains how crowdfunding sites can be used not just for start-up businesses but to benefit entire communities, as demonstrated in towns and cities across the USA.

Read more

CDE project 6. Section 5.4: an emotional major donor

With the city of Detroit in crisis after the recession, its population decreasing, United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) persuaded a major corporate donor to partner with them in making a difference for the people of Detroit.

Read more

CDE project 6. Section 5.2: the starfish story

A poignant little story about a man saving starfish reflects the emotional driving force of Robbie Macmillan's Children of Rwanda charity.

Read more

CDE project 6. Section 4.9: to the edge of acceptability

In the latest addition to project 6 of the Commission on the Donor Experience, a harrowing and powerfully-written storyline on a BBC radio drama points to storytelling success for fundraisers.

Read more