Six Elements of a Winning Nonprofit PR Campaign

It’s a scenario that frequently plays out in the life of a PR professional: A concept quickly comes to fruition and suddenly it’s “go time,” without the luxury of extensive planning time or an unlimited budget. This was the scenario with our nonprofit client, People Working Cooperatively (PWC), when the concept for their “Ramp it up for Veterans” fundraising and awareness effort was finalized on June 29, 2013.

Our agency was charged with the task of developing and implementing a legacy media, social media and community relations campaign to support “Ramp it up for Veterans.” But the timing was tight; we had just five days to turn around a plan that would win the client’s approval and make a meaningful contribution to their efforts. 

We marshalled our resources and developed a campaign that not only secured meaningful results for PWC, but also earned Wordsworth a Blacksmith award in the nonprofit campaign category. And we learned a few important lessons along the way. Whether you have a limited budget or unlimited funds, we believe successful campaign execution boils down to six elements.

  1. Spend time to research - We used available free research to provide insights, including a study that found that our target audience needed to be primed, e.g., by viewing a sympathy-eliciting video or story, before making donations. This insight drove the strategy to leverage client stories in legacy media relations.
  2. Deliver a plan that can stand alone - Our comprehensive plan focused on multiple strategies to broaden awareness of the veteran-focused campaign. The plan also clearly established and managed the roles and responsibilities for all business and community partners involved with the effort. Finally, it was detailed enough to stand alone and educate new partners as they joined.
  3. Understand your audience - As a city-wide campaign, our target audience could have included all Greater Cincinnati residents. Instead, we focused on those individuals whose voices could amplify our campaign messages. So we targeted PWC’s existing base of annual donors, employees of partner companies, and PWC board members and employees. We also identified their level of understanding of PWC and where they would be most receptive to messaging. 
  4. Pull messages through all touch points - Because of the number of partners involved, consistent messaging was vital to the campaign’s success. We rolled out messaging across all communications channels, both internal and external. Everyone from the front desk and customer support to the organization’s board, volunteers and sponsors – among others – were trained on the messaging.
  5. Think beyond the typical tactics - Our campaign featured a robust, comprehensive tactical approach, including the following:
    • Brand Ambassadors – We identified and leveraged PWC clients, board members, employees and partner employees as brand ambassadors who would amplify PWC’s fundraising messages. This was accomplished through a message track and guides on what to say and when (sample Facebook posts, tweets, etc.).
    • Media Relations – We focused on telling stories of individual veteran clients and making them central to the efforts, which directly correlated to our research.
    • Social Media –In addition to generating content, we regularly interacted with partner organizations, including training sessions (some for up to 50 people) on social media best practices and guidelines specific to the campaign. We also developed social media guides for partner organizations.
    • Community Relations – We tapped into existing PWC communication vehicles and upcoming events to promote the campaign, so every interaction included messaging about “Ramp it up for Veterans.” Everything was plotted on a master calendar.
    • Event Support – We assisted with the planning and execution of two major events during the course of the campaign, and carefully balanced the two so they wouldn’t take away from each other. 
  6. Ask for feedback - Of course, we set up measurements and benchmarks for the tactics. At the conclusion of the campaign, we also reviewed it with several campaign partners. It allowed us to capture what worked and what didn’t, and make recommendations for the next time.

In all, “Ramp it up for Veterans” raised nearly $190,000 throughout the 13-week initiative; more than 90 new donors were added throughout the campaign. As an added bonus, it was clear the campaign established PWC’s reputation as a proven resource for veteran home repairs and modifications; the Ohio Department of Veterans Services invited PWC to participate in its Advisory Committee.

Written by: Bridget Castellini, Partner and Social Media/Measurement Lead at Wordsworth