4 Things Your Nonprofit Can Do to Ensure Attention During October

On Sunday, I returned from a trip to San Jose.  I flew out on one airline and returned on another.  On both flights, I was given multiple opportunities to support breast cancer research through a portion of my purchase price on special beverages, specific snacks, and even a unique set of headphones.  My pretzels were served with a pink ribbon-adorned napkin.

It’s October.  Despite the fact that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, AIDS Awareness Month, Bullying Prevention Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and Lupus Awareness Month—among others—it’s the designation of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month that has inspired the imagination and passion of millions and resulted in you being able to purchase everything from pink toasters and NFL jerseys to pink-handled Smith & Wesson handguns.

Immediately following the attacks of 9/11, the Katrina hurricane, and the Haiti earthquake, all funds for anything other than relief efforts, survivors, and heroes practically dried up.  Fundraising for anything other than breast cancer during the month of October feels a lot like trying to fundraise for something other than the relief effort following 9/11.  This year’s October pink-out can feel especially hard for everyone ignored during the summer of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  So what’s a person to do in October if s/he works for any cause other than breast cancer?  How can your organization get attention during the pink tsunami that has become October?

1.  Build a story bank

This is something you need to be doing all year-round.  Keep stories of grateful service recipients, clients who have gone on to succeed, pictures that children you have helped have drawn for you, and stories of your clients who desperately need your services.  You can use this story bank to pitch stories to the media, to focus on in your blog, or to post about on Facebook.

2.  Create your own “media empire” 

Nonprofit marketing guru, Kivi Leroux Miller, recommends that nonprofit organizations build their own “media empire.”  We live and work in a day in which we don’t have to depend on the coverage of the traditional press to get attention for our nonprofit organization.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your own website and blog, … you have control of the content of all these things.  Develop your sites, build your followers, and contribute content regularly.  People will come to expect good information from you, will turn to you to learn more, and, even where there are literal or figurative tsunami’s you’re regular followers will not forget or ignore you.

3.  Develop relationships with local media.

Talk to reporters all year long.  Make friends with them.  Figure out who in your community reports on the issues you care about.  If you’re a health organization, who is the health reporter?  If you are an environmental cause, who writes for the paper on issues like climate change and conservation?  Seek those specific reporters out to get to know.  Make sure they know that you can help them when they need information and then drop-everything and help them when they call.  If the reporters come to see you as reliable, they’ll contact you more often which will result in more coverage for your organization.

4.  Make connections…

To the cause de jure.  Are the same environmental factors which your organization seeks to eliminate the ones that are linked to breast cancer?  Be creative and find ways to surf the wave.

Some of these things to do don't have immediate pay-offs.  They're long-term strategies.  Start now!  Don't wait or next year, in October, you'll be in the same boat (or on the same pink plane), wondering what breast cancer organizations have done that you haven't.

Do you have other ideas for nonprofit organization's marketing success at times when the "noise" from other causes dominates?  If so, share them with us!

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