Nonprofit press releases are an important tool for organizations with a dedicated marketing staff and small shops alike. Press releases can help your nonprofit effectively build relationships with local media outlets and share crucial updates about your organization.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how to write a successful press release and feature some helpful examples.
Let’s get started.
What is a Nonprofit Press Release?
A nonprofit press release is a short article written by an organization in a style similar to a newspaper article.
Press releases communicate timely information about your nonprofit to entice a media outlet to contact you for an interview or other more in-depth coverage. A one-page press release acts as an efficient, trusted, no-cost connection to the public when announcing important updates about your organization.
Topics appropriate to share within a press release would include major news about your organization, like the hiring of a new executive or the implementation of a new program.
If your nonprofit is holding a special event or recently received meaningful grant funding, a press release would be a good idea.
Press releases are sent to media contacts including traditional media like newspapers and television stations, as well as new media representatives like bloggers and even social media influencers. Community partners, major funding sponsors, members of local government, and other key people related to the topic of the press release may also be sent the release.
Why Are Nonprofit Press Releases Important?
Nonprofit press releases are a no-cost marketing tool to help nonprofits share crucial information and news items about their organization. A press release is often the best option to build relationships with media outlets, establishing you as a local authority on your cause.
Community members know to seek out trusted media outlets for important local information. Using a press release connects your organization with this dependable source of updates.
Sometimes newspapers even publish press releases in community sections of the paper or radio hosts read them aloud on the air as a news item. If your local newsroom is small or short-staffed, and your press release is written well, it is possible the release will be quickly approved for publication without many edits.
This is why learning the proper way to write the best nonprofit press release is important. A properly formatted nonprofit press release makes it easy for the media outlet to share the correct information about your news item.
Journalists reading and publishing your press release can have the following positive results:
- A reporter desires to learn more and reaches out to your organization for a larger, more detailed story
- A reporter becomes aware of your mission for the first time and begins a relationship with you and your nonprofit
- A reporter shares your press release with their audience which results in additional exposure and awareness for your cause, all for no-cost and from a trusted community source
7 Steps to Write a Successful Nonprofit Press Release
To write a successful nonprofit press release, a basic understanding of the following seven steps will lead you down the correct path. There is a bit of a learning curve to start, but once you establish foundational knowledge, you will be set up for success!
1. Understand the Basics of News Writing
Because press releases may be skimmed over by several people, it is important they include the best information formatted properly. Press releases should be addressed to journalists and written in a style they respond to and understand well.
Write a Strong Lead
Successful nonprofit press releases employ basic news writing techniques. First, a press release must include a strong lead, which is also spelled lede. A lead should pull the reader in and keep them engaged. A lead is usually one sentence, although it can be two sentences.
When writing a lead, you must include as many of the classic “five W and the H” ideas of storytelling. To help you write the lead, consider the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your news item. Try to combine as many of the answers to those questions into one concise sentence. This will communicate the most pertinent information at once.
Use the Inverted Pyramid Method
After the lead is written, journalists and press release writers continue with the next most important details. An example of these details may be the exact address of an open house or the complete name of the foundation that awarded you a grant.
The rest of the press release organizes all of the remaining essential information in order of most important to least important details. Press releases tend to follow this writing style, which is called an inverted pyramid.
Select Meaningful Direct Quotes
A nonprofit press release will often include a quote from the Executive Director or Board President of the organization. The direct quote should be only a sentence or two, located in the middle of the press release.
Using direct quotes helps bring the story to life and may further encourage the journalist to reach out to you for a follow-up. A quote should provide further clarification on the topic or deliver meaningful details. Sometimes a direct quote shares the human interest element of the press release or tells an emotionally resonant story.
If your quote does not illuminate or add a fresh perspective to your news story, feel free to omit a direct quote. Quotes are the cherry on top, but not necessary.
2. Know Your Audience
The most successful nonprofit press releases deliver the information to the people who are truly interested in the message. While it may seem beneficial to cast a wide net, targeting an audience that is too wide results in wasted effort.
Analyze Your Reach
Each nonprofit organization should analyze the realistic reach of their nonprofit. Many national nonprofits like the American Cancer Society send press releases to all tiers of media outlets, without building a personal relationship with the outlet.
If you work for a large nonprofit, your experience may be more like this. However, many small nonprofits will need to build relationships with local reporters and other media outlets.
In addition to tailoring your message, it is important to also send the press release to relevant individuals. While every nonprofit probably maintains a master list of media contacts, pick and choose who receives each unique press release.
It is tempting to send every press release to your entire contact list. However, choosing the proper audience will help you long-term.
If you send every press release to everyone at every opportunity, people may feel like they are being spammed and automatically delete your e-blasts.
3. Format a Proper Template
If your nonprofit press release is formatted incorrectly or is missing details, you run the risk of it being passed over or deleted.
Timeline for Release
Most press releases feature the phrase “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” written in all caps at the top of the release. This phrase, or another phrase indicating the date the information can be released, appears before the headline and is usually capitalized and centered.
Like the lead of the story, a headline is necessary to help the journalist keep reading. Unlike the rest of the press release, a headline may stray from traditional news writing. Consider a longer headline or a compound sentence joined by a semi-colon to provide as much pertinent information as possible at the top of the story.
Headlines are usually also centered below the release date and are usually a larger font size than the body copy to help them stand out.
Below the headline is basic organizational information, like the official name, phone number, and website URL of the nonprofit. This helps the journalist quickly fact-check and validate the legitimacy of your organization.
Often the organization information appears on the left side of the document, just below the headline.
On the opposite side of the organization information, include the specific contact information for follow-ups to the press release. Most often the marketing director or Executive Director will be the media contact. Include a phone number, email, social media handles, and other helpful contact details.
Body of the Press Release
As discussed above, the body of the press release includes a strong lead and news details structured in an inverted pyramid style. The font size for this section should be about 12-point or larger for accessibility.
At the end of your press release, it never hurts to include another call to action within the last paragraph. Write a sentence that encourages the journalist to reach out to a specific contact person and provide direct contact information once again.
Below the pertinent news information for your organization should be a brief about section. This portion will include boilerplate language, so once you write this section it will not change.
A useful about section includes data to help journalists explain your charity’s mission. Include your mission statement here and impressive pieces of data that demonstrate your broad impact.
Some nonprofits choose to italicize this part of the press release or otherwise help it stand out from the news section of the release.
Ending a Press Release
Be sure to use an official ending symbol so the journalist understands the press release is over. Most nonprofit press releases have adopted the pound sign as the ending symbol, which may look like this: “####”.
Some people were taught to end a press release with the number 30 bracketed by two hyphens. This symbol may appear like this: “- 30 -”. However, this is a more old-school symbol and has mostly been phased out.
4. Keep it Brief
Most nonprofit press releases should cover one page only. Journalists are trained to prioritize brief, punchy news items which immediately grab their attention. Recent research claims the average human’s attention span runs between eight and 12 seconds.
Sometimes a press release will cross onto two pages, which is fine. However, it is recommended to take one more read-through of the press release to determine if you can edit it down to only one page.
If you do exceed one page in your press release, include a helpful symbol at the bottom of the page to indicate that the release continues on another page. This is an old custom of press releases and journalists will look for the symbol “ - more - “ at the bottom of the page.
5. Make it Skimmable
Another strategy to make your press release even more alluring to a busy journalist is formatting the release to be skimmable. This means an expert journalist can quickly absorb the most crucial details of your press release.
Consider including a few simple tools to make your press release even easier to read. Can you incorporate a bulleted list to reiterate crucial data points? Or maybe you could bold the name of a new program or the total amount of the grant you received? Doing these simple formatting steps can help the best data stand out.
As with anything, use these skimming strategies with moderation. Employing too many of these tools can become counterproductive. A nonprofit press release with too many bolded words and bullet points may appear overwhelming and difficult to read.
6. Be Easy to Contact
The best case scenario when sending a press release out is a media representative will reach out to you for a follow-up. In order for the journalist to reach you, contact information must be prominent and up-to-date.
Be sure your letterhead is accurate and features your phone number, mailing address, and website.
7. Maintain Your Mailing List
Once you have a press release written to appeal to a journalist and with a specific audience in mind, be sure to analyze your mailing list. Reporters and representatives come and go. Stay connected to your media outlets to be sure you have the best contact information when you need it.
Nonprofits using an email system to send and organize their emails and contacts can take advantage of the system’s email monitoring services. If a press release email bounces back, take the time to follow up to figure out why the release did not reach its destination. You can also check your email database to make sure you typed the email correctly into the mailing list.
Successful Nonprofit Press Release Examples
This successful nonprofit press release from LifeWorks in Austin, Texas closely follows the traditional template of a press release. Pay attention to the meaningful direct quote included in this release as well as the pertinent data points chosen for this message.
Another good example is AdMeTech’s press release. It announces an upcoming special event for the nonprofit and perfectly demonstrates strategies to keep the press release skimmable.
Wrapping Up: How to Write a Nonprofit Press Release in 7 Steps
Every time you have an upcoming community event, receive grant funding, or begin a new service, it is appropriate to send a press release. Even if you run a small shop or are a one-person nonprofit, learning to write a press release is an essential skill for continued growth and community involvement.
When writing a nonprofit press release, don’t forget to:
- Understand the Basics of News Writing
- Know Your Audience
- Format a Proper Template
- Keep it Brief
- Make it Skimmable
- Be Easy to Contact
- Maintain Your Mailing List
Follow these simple steps and establish a trusted template to achieve no-cost advertising and community connection through successful press releases.