PR strategy might not always be top-of-mind for many nonprofit organizations, but they can benefit immensely from a well-crafted press release. By securing media coverage, this can raise awareness for both the organization’s cause, and boost funding as a result.
If you run a nonprofit, we also understand the task of crafting press releases and pitching media outlets can feel daunting. Plus, you have more important responsibilities to deal with.
Luckily, by the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped to draft and distribute a nonprofit press release to get the media attention your organization deserves. We’ll cover everything you need to know to write, format, and submit your own press release, and address the following:
What are the main types of nonprofit press releases?
A press release is a brief announcement shared with relevant media outlets in the hopes of securing press coverage. It’s a tactic many industry sectors—from finance to technology—use regularly to convey company or organization news with journalists.
Certainly, nonprofits can utilize press releases to share news, as well. What’s more, a well-crafted press release can boost search engine optimization (SEO), lead to more website visits, and encourage financial support—definitely a lot of benefits to tap into.
Some of the most common reasons you would issue a press release for your nonprofit includes:
- Fundraising events. You’ve recently received a large donation or are hosting an event to further fundraise.
- Campaign launches. You’ve launched a regional, national, or global campaign designed to raise awareness and support for your cause.
- Growth announcements. You’ve opened a new base of operations or expanded your team and want to share the news.
- Community updates. You’re reporting on the success of a campaign by sharing an update about how it’s benefitted the cause.
- New collaborations. You’re welcoming a prominent figure to act as a representative for your organization, or gaining the backing of a prestigious benefactor.
What should you include in a press release for your nonprofit?
A press release is meant to quickly and effectively deliver news that media outlets can either publish directly or incorporate into a subsequent feature. Therefore, it’s important to provide journalists with all the relevant information they need in a concise manner.
One of the features any press release must include is known as the “5 Ws,” which are answers to the questions who, what, where, when, and why. By covering these details immediately in your announcement, you ensure readers have all the most important info right away.
Addressing the 5 Ws is a helpful habit to get used to for drafting any press release.
- Who: State who the press release is about—in this case, your nonprofit.
- What: Explain what it’s about, for example, an event or a community update.
- When: Tell the reader when this occurred or will occur (be as specific as possible).
- Where: Specify the region your press release relates to. This can help journalists decide if your news fits their publication.
- Why: Perhaps the most important question to consider, you must explain why your press release is relevant, and why readers should care.
How do you write and format a nonprofit press release?
Press releases need to be laid out in a certain way, and there are a few reasons we advise you to stick to this standardized press release format when communicating with media outlets.
First, it’s tried and tested, and has helped hundreds of NGOs land news in leading publications. Second, demonstrating PR know-how to media contacts may help secure publication coverage. Last, playing by these rules can help you establish relationships with journalists.
The standard press release format
Press releases are similar to news articles. That is, they feature a headline, a subheading, and always lead with the important points and conclude with supplemental details.
Many nonprofits also tap into the use of visuals to make a press release more engaging or relatable. Perhaps you’d consider sharing photographs that feature the work that your nonprofit is doing, or a logo to encourage reader recognition.
Below, we’ve outlined the standard format of a press release, and how it relates to nonprofits.
- Title: The specifics of your announcement in as few words as possible (under 10).
- First paragraph: Answer the 5 Ws to maintain the reader’s attention.
- Second and third paragraph: More details about the announcement, placing it into a broader context (i.e. establishing a “hook”).
- Fourth paragraph: A substantive quote from a representative or your organization.
- Fifth paragraph: Any extra useful information to round off the announcement.
- Boilerplate: This provides a short overview of the organization issuing the press release (think of it as a version of an “About” page on a website).
- Contact info: Provides a name and email address for an individual handling any press queries. You can also provide a phone number, but it’s optional.
The basics of press release writing
As well as the format of a press release, you also have to master writing basics. It doesn’t have to be difficult, just stick to these PR tips:
- Write it like a news article. A press release should be approached the same way a journalist writes a news piece—most importantly, by establishing a “hook.” Read other press releases to identify hooks. Ask yourself at what points your interest was piqued.
- Write it in third person. Any press release should be written from an independent and unbiased perspective. That means you need to write in the third-person point of view.
- Keep it short. Ask yourself how much you read before you lose interest. That’s how journalists will likely view your press release. Aim for a single page of copy.
- Keep prose neutral and hyperbole-free. We suggest you avoid terms like “disrupting,” or “revolutionizing,” or “game changing.” A press release isn’t a sales pitch.
- Think carefully about the target audience. Remember who your audience is. If you’re speaking to the general public, avoid insider jargon.
- Consider the media outlets you’re sending to. As mentioned, reading press releases can give you a better understanding. We also think it’s wise to read articles from news outlets you’re targeting to get a feel for what they’re covering.
Creating a “hook”
A hook is a vital feature. Like the name implies, it’s essentially meant to hook a reader and keep them reading. Usually, a hook is the most newsworthy feature of a press release.
When it comes to finding a hook for your press release within the nonprofit sector, you’ve got a few options. Maybe the press release is relevant to a trending topic, or is time sensitive. Maybe there’s a shocking statistic or a fact that would be surprising to readers.
Are there examples of nonprofit press releases?
Examining real-world examples of press releases is the key to learning as you go, and inspiring you in the future. Here are some nonprofit press releases we believe check all the boxes:
The Joseph Fund of Camden Awarded Non-Profit Organization of the Year
This short but effective press release includes a concise heading, in addition to a photograph of the announcement event.
Building Hope to Host Second Annual IMPACT Summit and Awards May 1-5, 2023
This press release is an example of a nonprofit confirming its attendance at an upcoming award ceremony. Featured on BusinessWire, it specifies the date and includes a quote.
Under-Served Health Resources (USHR) Formally Launches First Community Campaign
An example of a nonprofit campaign announcement. In the opening, you learn the background leading up to the campaign launch and its purpose, which is essentially the hook.
Check out some of our other guides on press releases:
How to Write a Press Release for Your Business
How to Write a Press Release for a Website Launch
How to Write a Press Release for a New Hire
How do you submit and distribute a nonprofit press release?
There are two main ways to share a press release, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.
Press release distribution services (also called newswires) can secure media exposure without much work by paying to have your press release shared with a database of outlets. Newswires often also have syndication agreements, all but guaranteeing at least some coverage.
The catch for nonprofits using newswire services is that, of course, these platforms can get quite expensive, which isn’t ideal.
However, nonprofits can also distribute press releases on their own, all it takes is researching contact details for relevant journalists and publications and simply emailing them directly.
In fact, this method can prove more effective than newswires in many cases, as it allows a more personal correspondence with media contacts. This is beneficial, should you ever have to share more press releases down the line.
In addition to submitting your press release to media outlets, we suggest you also publish your press release on a dedicated page of your website. This simple action can boost SEO directly to your nonprofit’s platform, and is an easy way to promote the history of its growth.
Wrapping up nonprofit press releases
Now, with all these tips and tools, we’re sure you feel well-outfitted to produce and submit a press release that can capture both publications’ and readers’ attention.
But, if you feel like you need help, Intelligent Relations can perfect your press release development and distribution. We offer either a selection of affordable products to help you do it on your own, or a full-service team of PR pros who will do all the hard work for you.