Online Fundraising
March 9, 2022

Press Releases for Nonprofits: Format, Samples, and Templates

If people don’t know anything about your organization, you won’t get enough donations, and you won’t fulfill most of your charitable goals. This, then begs the question—how do you spread your message to potential donors, especially those who aren’t already on your database? This is where publishing a press release comes in handy. In this article, we will look at how you can write one to promote your fundraising events.

What is a press release?

A press release is a brief, factual news story that you send to media outlets to publish in their publication (which, in most cases, is online). A press release will help get your organization in the public discussion and advertise your event.

If you just launched an online charitable game or are hosting a certain event, putting the message in a popular publication means you will instantly get the attention of millions of people. This is a surefire way to multiply the impact of your event. Most organizations publish press releases when introducing new services, launching new programs, or when they hit a certain milestone.

7 best practices for nonprofit press releases

Reporters and editors at major news outlets receive a truckload of press releases, from for-profit businesses and nonprofits alike. So they have to be picky about which stories to publish. Following the best practices when writing your release ensures it will be among those shortlisted. Here are the most important things to remember:

1. Have a great hook

In the news industry, there is a rule that every reporter has to master—don't ever bury the lead. In other words, figure out the single most important fact about the story. This is the hook, and it’s also the lead. It’s what will draw people into the story.

Anyone should be able to read the hook and have a good sense of what the story is about. The hook should also dial up people’s curiosity so they can’t resist but read the whole release. Your mindset when trying to uncover the hook must be—if the reader only has to read the one most important thing from this release, what should it be. 

For instance, if you have just launched a dream home lottery, you might be tempted to think of "XYZ nonprofit launches a dream home lottery" as your hook. However, the fact that there is a "$4 million home up for grabs" could prove to be a better hook.

Related: An Introduction to Online Gaming-based Fundraising for Nonprofits 

2. Answer the 5 Ws (and 1 H)

This is another critical lesson in journalism—provide all the essential facts in your press release. And they are defined by the 5 Ws plus 1 H: 

  • Who, which specifies which person or organization the press release is about. 
  • What, focusing on what the press release is about. Usually, this will also prove to be the hook.
  • Why, needed since no one goes through the trouble of writing a press release without having a good reason. So, explain why you are publishing this release and how it is significant.
  • When, since time is of the essence. If launching an online 50/50 raffle, for example, explain when it will begin and when it will end.
  • Where, required because your audience will want to know where the event will take place. 
  • How, explaining how the event will happen.

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you stay on track as you write your press release.

Related: 6 Ways for Nonprofits to Increase Fundraising ROI with Online Charitable Gaming

3. Use the inverted pyramid when writing

And when presenting information in your press release, be sure to follow what's known as the “Inverted Pyramid”. This became popular with the introduction of the telegraph in the 1800s. Because sending via the new technology was expensive, reporters had to stick to facts, leaving out their opinions and any of the flowery language that had characterized American news media before. 

The inverted pyramid states that you present the most important facts first, working your way down to the least important information.

4. Keep it short

Another mistake people make is to try to include every detail in the press release. But not everything you have to say on the topic is significant. And if you make the press release too long, chances are whoever is reading it won't get to the end. Plus, there is the risk of adding information that might distract from the main point.

Limit the release to just a single page. That will keep it focused and clear. Also, the same advice goes to your sentences and paragraphs—keep them short. This will make your release easy to read. 

5. Spice it up

You are free to add images, infographics, videos, and other types of content that might make the press release easy to read, understandable and strengthen the argument you are making. Also, adding videos might improve its shareability.

6. Add quotes

Another thing you should consider adding are quotes. Not only do they make the press release engaging, but they also offer credibility. The quotes can be from donors, board members, or any other key stakeholders.

7. Edit before sending

Most importantly, make sure you review and edit your press release before you hit send. There are likely going to be spelling mistakes, unclear sentences, etc. All this can hurt the readability of your release. Also, it's always a good idea to bring in another pair of eyes to contribute feedback before you finalize.

Basic elements of a press release

Most press releases follow a similar structure:

1. Specify when the press release can be distributed. Most press releases begin with the phrase “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”.

2. The headline

3. Place, day, and date

3. Organization and event overview

4. Quotes (from key executives at the nonprofit)

5. Important details about the event

6. Image assets to be shared

7. Boilerplate information about your organization

8. Media contacts (offer a name of someone who can be interviewed)

Format for a press release and templates

Refer to the template below for the format of a press release:

Press release template for nonprofits

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Tips for distributing a press release

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you distribute your press release:

  • Attach a PDF and an editable text version in the body of the email you send.
  • Explain why you thought this news outlet would be interested in this press release.
  • Send the release at least a week before the planned release date—this will give the editors time to work your story into their publication.
  • Follow up to at least a day before the planned release date to remind your contact.
  • Build a relationship with reporters and editors at noteworthy news outlets. This will increase your chances of getting your releases published. 
  • Don’t spam editors or reporters. Buying email addresses in bulk isn’t recommended. Most reporters have their contact details published online, use that. 

Related: How to Build a Donor List with Virtual Fundraisers

If you don’t already have a large donor database, a press release might help spread the message about your event easily. This is why it’s recommended you pair each big event with a release. Most importantly, focus on building relationships with reporters—getting your releases published will become easy.

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