Nonprofit Matters - Dr. B.J. Bischoff


Partner with local newspaper to promote your nonprofit

With limited funds to pay for advertising, Sonoma Valley nonprofit organizations usually rely on sending information via email to local newspapers to inform the public of their news. Since nonprofit activities comprise such a large percentage of Sonoma Valley happenings, The Sonoma Sun wants to hear from more nonprofits to help connect them to their community constituents.

Unfortunately, many local nonprofits contact The Sun with their news in a way that makes it difficult to turn it into a story. According to The Sun’s Managing Editor, Val Robichaud, “Some nonprofits send us copies of their event posters. Or they send us the date of an upcoming event and direct us to their Facebook page for more information. What we need instead is a good press release.”

It’s important for nonprofit leaders to master the art of developing effective press releases, since that’s how weekly newspapers with small staffs usually learn about nonprofit news. Katie Holden, Director of Marketing and Events for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, said, “A good press release should contain basic event details: time, date, location, event purpose, and contact information. I look at each press release and determine if I can answer the who, what, where, when and whys in a clear and concise way. It’s also important to include your mission statement to remind folks why you are holding the event or what the fundraiser proceeds will fund.   Each press release should highlight a different aspect of the event, such as entertainment, exciting auction lots, or a special menu.  A human interest piece highlighting a nonprofit success story makes the best case.  Send along a high resolution jpeg of a photo to highlight the story, and be sure to have permission from the subjects in the photo.”

Other tips for creating press releases that will interest the media enough to print them include: (1) use authentic quotes that sound how people actually talk; (2) be sure the press release subject is really newsworthy; (3) email it as a Word attachment, so it’s easy to edit; (4) use excellent writing skills and accurate grammar to minimize editing time; (5) start with a strong sentence that captures interest; and (6) keep sentences short and simple.

The timing of sending a press release is also important. Katie Holden suggests, “Depending on the scope and size of the event, I’d send a save the date press release out anywhere from two weeks out for an open house to ten weeks out for a large fundraiser.  Most people in this town RSVP at the last minute, so sending along additional press releases as the event draws closer is important.” 

In addition to receiving press releases before an event, The Sun wants to hear from nonprofits after an event. Simply emailing a photo of an event with a brief description of the photo and a recap of the event is a great way to communicate with community newspapers that are too small to assign reporters to cover every local event. Nonprofit leaders wanting to publicize their events and activities in The Sun should send their press releases, photos, and emails to news@sonomasun.com by 5 pm on Mondays to appear in the weekly issue distributed on Thursdays.

Dr. B.J. Bischoff is the owner of Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, a Sonoma firm specializing in building the capacity of nonprofit organizations. She assists her clients with strategic planning, fund development consulting, and grant proposal writing. She is President of Impact100 Sonoma and leads the Sonoma Valley Presidents Council. She serves on the Sonoma Upstream Investments Portfolio Review Committee as an appointee of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Contact her at bjbischoff@bjbischoff.com.

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