December 21, 2014


Check the calendar to plan nonprofit communications activity

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Special to Philanthropy Journal

Public relations and marketing professionals often look at the calendar to latch onto a timely news hook that will juice up a campaign. This tactic may also generate interest in the programs of nonprofit groups, and it is readily tied to donor and media outreach.

Here are a few ways to get started:

Holidays: Look two months ahead and find a holiday that aligns with your mission. For example, an organization that helps women escape domestic violence and re-establish themselves in a new setting might prepare a solicitation prior to Mother's Day: Thanks to your support, name of client and her children can celebrate safely in their new home.

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National Whatever Month or Day: Check the websites of National Calendar Day and National Whatever Day for an appropriate date to promote your cause. The more obscure, the better. A library or school might prepare for May 1, National Mother Goose Day, as a time to celebrate reading in general and books with nursery rhymes in particular. A conservation nonprofit might remind its supporters of that same date to advocate for its cause: Save the Rhino Day. May is also a time to celebrate ethnic pride: South Asian Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month, not to mention New Zealand Music Month, among others. The information in the two calendar websites overlaps, yielding even more possible dates of interest.

Anniversary: Look beyond the founding year of your organization to an established mega-event, such as Super Storm Sandy on October 29. In August 2003, in anticipation of New York area and global media interest in September 11, local and national media were contacted regarding a then-current museum exhibition of photographs of tattoos made in memory of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks. The theme and pictures were picked up by Reuters, and the photographs were published in newspapers across the United States and around the world. The extended lead time made it easy for editors to review and select among the digital photos. Happily, there was a significant increase in attendance at the museum as a result of the media coverage.

Live News at a Scheduled Event: Occasionally, an ongoing event produces news that can be connected to your organization. Monitor the activity and be alert for an opportunity to piggyback on the developing story. Perhaps your nonprofit fields a team of runners at marathons and other sports events. Post updates of their progress on Twitter and Facebook to connect with their supporters and keep them involved.

Cyclical Events: The Olympics and elections are held every even-numbered year. Leap years are calculated by multiples of four. The Census is conducted every 10 years. These events attract many promotional communications, and it may be difficult to be heard in the cacophony. A creative approach to a lesser-known aspect of these events that relates to your services may help elevate your message above the crowd.

Through thoughtful analysis and preparation, calendars offer opportunities that are time sensitive, as well as evergreen, or time neutral. If National Barbershop Quartet Day and National Pet Day are on April 11, that definitely is a little-known date that would be a good match for your nonprofit. 

Janet Falk provides media relations and marketing communications services for nonprofits, small businesses and consultants. Her proactive communication campaigns help them achieve their goals through expanded contact with members, prospects, supporters and influentials.

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