Category Archives: Polaris Non-Profit Solutions blog

Tracking the journey of the Polaris Non-Profit Solutions, LLC, team as we guide nonprofits to success.

Best Way to Respond to a Disaster

By Katherine Kerr, APR

The photos, videos and stories coming out of the Texas Gulf Coast are doubtless going to be heartbreaking and devastating. Homes, businesses, schools and government property will be damaged and destroyed and lives will be lost.

As a generous country, often the first impulses of people seeing those images are two things: 1) to donate stuff to help those affected, and 2) to rush into the disaster zone.

As a former reporter who covered several hurricanes, tropical depressions, tornados and floods and later a communicator for social service organizations that responded to disaster, please do not do either.

First, organizing a clothing, toy and food drive at your church or with your civic group becomes a logistical problem. It means someone has to transport the stuff to the disaster zone, which means it needs to be delivered some place and then someone has to assume responsibility for storage, sorting and distribution. That can become a problem in the midst of an already major problem. The folks reeling from the shock of a disaster don’t need more problems.

Also, clothing is personal. Not everyone shares your fashion taste. Or your size. People who have lost everything need underwear. New. And they want to choose clothes that will fit them and help get them through the next few days and weeks. Choosing their own clothes gives them some measure of control when their lives have spun out of control.

Donating toys and especially stuffed animals is a sweet and kind gesture. But storage and distribution are problematic.

Instead of donating food, water and toys, consider donating money to existing agencies have a track record in responding to disasters, such as the United Way, the Red Cross, Salvation Army Habitat for Humanity and various faith-based disaster organizations like Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Lutheran Disaster Response.

Online, cash and check donations don’t require transportation and storage and are more efficient ways to help people.

If you don’t want to give money, consider gift cards from big box stores such as Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, HomeDepot and smaller retailers like Ace Hardware and McCoy’s. Again, this gives flexibility to people who are trying to recover and rebuild to buy exactly what they need. Send those to agencies and churches in the disaster zone to distribute to people on the ground. And, it contributes to rebuilding the local economy.

Second, please don’t rush into the disaster zone equipped only with good intentions and a trunk full of bottled water. You will probably take up a hotel or motel room needed by a family who has lost their home. You might run out of gas, food and water and because the disaster zone is lacking utilities, now you’ve become part of the problem.

Instead, connect with disaster agencies as recommended before for guidance on how you can best help. If you are skilled at construction, electricity and plumbing, your gifts of labor will be needed in the long-term disaster response because recovery will take months and years.

Finally, while most of the media attention will be focused on the primary disaster zone along the coast, Harvey’s impact will cover a huge part of Texas including Williamson County. There is still a family in Taylor, Texas waiting for their home to be rebuilt  after the 2015 Memorial Day flooding. That was over three years ago!

People living in other areas that are ignored by the news media are likely to experience flooding with the predicted sustained rainfall. Trees might fall on homes and high winds or tornados could damage or destroy homes. These individuals and families will be just as devastated and traumatized spotlighted by the news media. They deserve and will need your help.

In most every community there is a coalition of organizations known as VOADs, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters. They are comprised of local agencies that are organized to respond to disaster and need your support and labor. Find one in or near your community or a community that is hammered by the storm.

If shelters are opened up at schools and churches, evacuees will need your help. But, check with those operating the shelters to see how you can best assist. Don’t assume you know what is needed and show up with stuff.

Many people will bring their pets, which creates an additional challenge. Pet crates and food will be needed to take care of four-legged evacuees. Again, ask how you can help.

Your good intentions are appreciated. You don’t want to  create more difficulties for those trying to help people struggling to figure out their futures.

Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Please.

Change Pews (and Perspectives)!

By Katherine Kerr, APR

Every Sunday my curmudgeonly great uncle and my great aunt got up an hour and a half early to get the prime parking space at their church, the handicapped spot right next to the sanctuary entrance. The space one over, or two over, wasn’t good enough (we’re talking 6-8 feet for heaven’s sake!). If someone beat him to “their” space he would grumble all day.

Even worse, though, was if somebody was sitting in “their” place in “their” pew. In most churches, there are no assigned seats or reserved spots. But if you go week after week, you see the same folks sitting in the same places. And if someone new has the audacity to inadvertently sit in someone’s seat, it tends to cause a shift in the universe. Or so you would think.

The same phenomenon happens in the workplace. You see employees occupy the same seats during staff meetings. Occasionally, I would break ranks and sit on the opposite side of the table or room. Or, shift from the front to the back, or a combination of the two. That decision would cause a bit of stir, often accompanied with jokes about going to the “dark side.”

… if someone new has the audacity to inadvertently sit in someone’s seat, it tends to cause a shift in the universe. Or so you would think.

That small change would mean I’d learn that the staff member I thought was diligently responding to emails was really playing Candy Crush on her phone or checking out the latest pics of the grandkids. Or the person scribbling away wasn’t taking notes, but instead was doodling three-dimensional boxes.

Changing places not only gave me a different view in the meetings, it also gave me opportunities to build relationships with colleagues I didn’t usually sit by in these gatherings.

At professional development and networking meetings, people from the same company or agency tend to sit together at a table.

Recently I was at a professional association meeting in which five people from the same department at a company sat together at an eight-top. Other than cursory introductions, I didn’t have a conversation with any of them. Throughout the lunch they talked among themselves, which not only is rude but defeats the primary purpose of such meetings, which is to get to know other colleagues in your field.

When I supervised a staff of three (plus an intern on occasion), I had a rule that we were not to sit together at these outside meetings. We represented a nonprofit agency and our role as communicators was to increase awareness of our brand and the services we provided. Staff members understood that talking up our agency was part of their jobs at the rubber chicken lunches.

As a small business owner, I intentionally look to sit with people I don’t know so I can build my brand and seek out the types of clients I serve. Why pay for an overpriced lunch or a training session if you don’t meet new people? Making quickie introductions and exchanging cards on the way out the door is much less effective than actually getting to know someone during the program.

Why pay for an overpriced lunch or a training session if you don’t meet new people?

I heard of a pastor, who was a disrupter before the label became ubiquitous, preached in one of those multi-functional spaces where there were no pews bolted the floor. Rather, chairs were set up in rows and a pulpit rolled out to the “front” of the worship space.

One day at the beginning of the service, he rolled the pulpit to the back of the room and instructed everyone to turn their chairs around. This provided a new perspective for both the pastor and the congregants. Those who clung to the back row were now nearly face to face with the pastor. People who were normally behind certain parishioners were now in front of them. Instead of being on the right side of the room, they now had a left-side angle on the action.

Not only did the pastor shake things up, he forced people into a new way of seeing the service and created opportunities for new interactions.

I get that it is fun to catch up with your friends and is less threatening to sit with people you know. And, it can be enlightening if you choose to be bold, be smart and, despite what your parents told you, it’s okay to talk to strangers.

Kiss and Tell (or Be Straight With Your Donors)

By Katherine Kerr, APR

One ritual of the holiday season is kissing under the mistletoe as prescribed by the late, great Burl Ives.

Growing up in the Texas Panhandle, going to college in Missouri and then living 11 years in Houston, we didn’t see mistletoe except as small pricey packaged sprigs around this time of year. Buying those dried-out suggestions of romance and tacking them over a doorway with the hope of snagging a kiss was fun.

Now that I live in Central Texas, my attitude toward mistletoe has altered significantly.

I’m not trying to be a Grinch, but you see, the sweet little plant is a parasite that kills trees.mistletoe tree We’ve already lost two trees to this invasive plant and the last three are slowly dying. This symbol of fertility really is a deadly nuisance.

When I first realized the harm that mistletoe does I felt like I had been bamboozled, like I was the subject of a bait and switch.

How many times have you been duped? You thought you were getting one thing and instead it was something else completely, maybe even something bad.

When communicating to your stakeholders, make sure you provide the straight story. Fact check what you’re saying about your mission and what you do with the precious dollars that donors give you. You want donors to love you so that when they kiss and tell, they say you deliver.

Recognizing Veterans in Your Midst Can Bring Attention to Your Nonprofit

By Katherine Kerr, APR

Are any of your volunteers or staff military veterans? If so, you can highlight their continued service on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and raise awareness for your nonprofit.

Your organization can single out a veteran who is also a volunteer or staff member to recognize on Veterans Day. Or, you can showcase several involved with your organization.

Think strategically about the needs of your organization when deciding who you want to use as an example of continued service. Do you have a veteran of color who might open doors in the minority community and who you might introduce to the minority press in your community? If you have female veteran working with your nonprofit, her story can break down gender stereotypes in addition to garnering attention for your agency.

By talking about continued service to their community and country, you give the media a new angle on traditional Veterans Day stories, which they always appreciate.

You also can help contradict unfortunate stereotypes that combat veterans are debilitated by psychological trauma. Most adjust and are raising families, working and volunteering in their communities.

In addition to pitching this angle to your local media, be sure and give a shout out to veterans in your community on Veterans Day. We owe them much.

Handwritten Thank-You Notes Make Impressions on Donors

Did you write your thank-you note?
Did you write your thank-you note?

By Tim Kubatzky, CFRE

Your auntie was right! Handwritten thank-yous still make an impression.

I know one organization that brings the names of recent donors to board meetings along with a stack of notecards. A personal note from a board member is a great way to thank your donors!

If you need a refresher, or heaven forbid you were not taught cursive writing in school, check out this resource courtesy of Dr. Joe Vitolo.

For anyone interested in learning or improving their cursive script handwriting I would highly recommend Michael Sull’s book entitled ‘American Cursive Handwriting‘. I personally use this book to improve my own cursive penmanship.

The book comes in both a Student edition as well as a Reference edition. I own the Reference edition. Full disclosure: I make no money or profit from the sale of this book.



Risks for Reporters

By Katherine Kerr, APR

A homicide scene is the safest place to be. At least that’s what I told my mother.

Surely a “fluff” live shot of a story on tourism would seem to be a low-risk endeavor for a TV reporter and a videographer. The brutal, premeditated murders of WDBJ-TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward in Roanoke, Va. today prove that assumption wrong.

In general, being a reporter isn’t all that risky. Frankly, there’s a lot of time where it’s hurry up and wait. Or, you’re sitting through boring meetings or trials, writing weather stories or waiting for something to break.

The biggest risk for most journalists is that  you get yelled at by someone who thinks you were unfair or misquoted him. Or pissing off an editor for busting a deadline, a story not working out the way you thought it would, or the worst  –  making a mistake.

In 11 years as a daily newspaper reporter, I never truly felt in danger. I covered night police in Houston, which terrified my mother. She was certain I was in danger when I went to homicide scenes, fires, wrecks and natural and human disasters.

I admit I didn’t tell my mother everything:  the most dangerous place to be was at a homicide scene when grieving relatives showed up.

I was once nearly run over when a car full of family members jumped a curb and roared across the front yard where I was waiting for a statement from investigators. Thankfully a veteran police reporter from another media outlet pulled me out of the way. The family members drove the car almost up the front steps where a young man lay dead.

Another time, an anguished father took his anger and hurt out on me because I was there to report on a game of Russian Roulette gone wrong and the death of his teenage son. He started yelling and pushing me until a medical examiner and TV photographer intervened.

I was mostly telling the truth to my mother about homicide scenes because generally there are lots of armed police officers securing the scene and talking to witnesses. Usually the perpetrator is long gone or in custody.

That said, reporters often do follow police officers and firefighters toward danger when others are running away. They do it to get the story to inform their readers and viewers of the latest tragedy in their community.

The closest I came to a serious problem was during a SWAT standoff when I wandered inside the unsecured perimeter and ended up between the rifle muzzle of a SWAT officer and the house where a man had holed up. After he yelled at me to get out, I found the command station at the other end of the block and sat out the standoff.

Another time an irritated and inebriated Houston Rockets fan threatened to punch me when I tried to get a quote from him about how exciting it was for the Rockets to be in the championship series. He didn’t appreciate me interrupting him watching the game. I found another fan in the bar to interview and got my color story in by deadline.

One night while covering a four-alarm warehouse fire, I fell into a two-foot deep pothole that had filled with water. While I was in no danger of drowning, my ego, elbows and knees took a bruising. Other times, while covering weather disasters, I drove through snow, ice, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes to get the news at the same time officials were warning people to stay off the roads.

I visited people in prison and jails. The only problem I had there was when a sales rep wanted to demonstrate the effectiveness of a cleaner and began spraying it in the warden’s office. Several hours later I had a serious asthma attack and ended up in the emergency room. I received letters from people in prison but never was threatened by them. In fact, one woman thanked me for the fair coverage of her trial.

I admit I was a bit unnerved when I covered two Ku Klux Klan rallies in a remote field in Brazoria County at night. (The guys in white robes knew I was a reporter.) As long as my editor knew where I was, I figured I was safe.

I covered government meetings where people who clearly had mental health issues showed up for the public comment sessions. If things got a little too weird (the guy who told a council member that he dreamed of holding her head) or rowdy (the guy who was agitated because the CIA had removed all his organs and no one in Harris County would help him), law enforcement officers were nearby.

I covered the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, two airliner crashes and the kidnapping and slaying of a UT student and then the arrest of narcosatanicos in Mexico City. In every instance, I got there after those horrible incidents occurred, so I was in not danger.

That’s not to say that reporting isn’t without risks. I’ve known reporters who have been assaulted or injured covering rallies/protests/mobs. Some have been exposed to dangerous chemicals covering refinery fires or chemical truck rollovers. But those were few and far between.

Certainly those journalists who cover war zones and work in countries where crime and corruption are rampant are at significantly greater risk. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 1,141 journalists have been killed since 1992, including 39 this year. That doesn’t count the two today.

Though I’m no longer in the news business, I share the shock and grief at the senseless slaughter of two young people at the beginning of their careers.

This terrible double homicide highlights three critical social issues facing our country:

  • The failure of our society to diagnose, treat and help people with mental health problems
  • The proliferation of guns in our country
  • Workplace violence

Sadly, perhaps a media introspective on this tragedy involving three of their own may serve to bring these issues to the forefront. Maybe then, serious discussions and change can occur.

Photo courtesy of WDBJ-TV VIA AP.

Turning Sour Notes Into Whiskey Sours

By Katherine Kerr, APR

In the front room of our home sits what I used to consider an instrument of torture. It is about three and a half feet tall, over four feet long and two feet deep. It is made of wood and has bits of metal and pieces of ivory.

It is the plain, innocent-looking upright Baldwin piano bought by my grandparents for my Dad when he was a kid and thought he wanted to learn to play. In short order, he changed his mind, stopped taking lessons and briefly took up tap dancing.

When my parents married, the piano was moved to their home.

Back in the 1960s lots of parents signed up their children for piano lessons. I would see their kids before and after my piano lessons. I would see the kids and their proud parents at piano recitals. Many of those kids pounded and played their way through classical music scores. I was stuck year after year in the same books, never progressing because I never practiced, never cared.

My piano teacher was a lovely widow lady, Mrs. Bair, who lived across the street. She knew early on that I had neither talent nor interest in piano. But, as long as my mother paid for lessons and I reluctantly trudged across the brick street she did her darnedest to impart her passion for music to me.

Every time I sat down though, it was evident I had not opened the music since the previous lesson. I hit the cracks between the keys more than solid notes. Lack of practice and an inability to keep time massacred most compositions.

Whining, sulking, refusing to practice and “forgetting” lessons didn’t deter my mother.

She believed that one day my inner musician would burst forth so she kept encouraging (pestering) me. As we would enter the Colonial Cafeteria and walk past the lounge lizard playing on the piano in the corner, she would point to him and say, “Someday, you could do that!”

Are you kidding?

Why on earth would I ever aspire to play a piano in a cafeteria frequented by the after-church crowd?

Finally in my seventh unproductive year  — my jubilee year — of lessons, Mrs. Bair spoke to my mother. Mercifully for both of us, the lessons ended.

In the following years the piano sat in the laundry room, attracting paper, pens, pencils and other odds and ends. Occasionally Dad would go in, lift the cover over the keys and play a handful of the tunes he had taught himself. I loved listening to him play the same songs over and over. My favorite was one I called the “ballet song” because it sounded like beautiful dancers gracefully spinning across a stage. I later learned it was “Autumn Leaves.”

After my father died, Mother shipped the piano to me, ignoring my protests that I didn’t want it. Never in the 50 years of my life had the piano been tuned. Hitting just a few keys made that obvious.

For about 10 years, I resented the piano taking up space in my front room, collecting dust and mockingly reminding me of my failed musical career.

Then, one night, while watching the TV show Pawn Stars, a solution appeared. A seller had brought in a “prohibition piano,” an instrument gutted and remodeled to hide liquor inside it.

That was the answer to my problem! I enjoy adult beverages and if I could get my piano converted, that would be music to my ears.

I found photos online of other pianos that had been converted and showed them to my neighbor, who happens to be a gifted carpenter. Fortunately, he likes a challenge. We agreed on a price and hauled the piano over to his shop.

Piano BarA couple of months later, I had a beautiful and unique hospitality center. My neighbor and his wife even patched up the piano leg that had been gnawed by Sugar, my childhood mutt.

We had a “piano bar” party to show off our repurposed musical instrument. Friends think I have a very cool piece of functional furniture that gets a lot more use than it did before.

My mother was not happy with the redo. I think she thought it in some way dishonored my dad, who was a teetotaler. I believe he would have said ‘good on you,” for not feeling like I had to keep it as a shrine to him.

The lessons learned are:

If your kids tell you that they don’t like doing something year after year, don’t make them do it! However, if you sign them up for a season of soccer and they decide they don’t like it after the first game, make them finish the season because they have a responsibility to their team. But don’t sign them up for the next season.

Alter your perspective about a problem and view it as an opportunity. It’s never too late to rewrite or rework a negative and make it something of joy.

In my case, I remixed sour notes into whiskey sours.


Words Matter

Words Have Power
By Katherine Kerr, APR

We learn that words have power at an early age.

When someone we cherish and respect tells us he loves us, endorphins flood our bodies and we are happy. When a friend or sibling tells she hates us, we experience a different chemical reaction, the release of cortisol, and are devastated.

The armor of little ditties like, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you,” doesn’t take the sting from hurtful words. We’ve seen how deadly words can be when used to bully someone who eventually decides suicide is an alternative to the poison of hurtful, hateful language.

Writers, politicians and marketers know the power of using the right words. Precise choices mean the difference between action and inaction, hope and hopelessness.

In journalism school, we were taught to use neutral words in an attempt to be fair and unbiased. The word “said” is a neutral word, as is “reported” and “stated.” The reader takes at face value, that the words that reportedly came out of a person’s mouth did so. It is up to the reader or the listener to interpret what the person meant based on the context provided.

When non-neutral words are selected, the impact can be much different. For example, “Patrick Henry wept, ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’ ” The reader could interpret that as a cry of despair rather than a call to action.

Or, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,”mumbled President John F. Kennedy. The listener would think the president was confused, not that he was trying to motivate U.S. citizens to aspire to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Or, “Mr. Gorvachev, tear down this wall!,” pleaded President Ronald Reagan would be seen as a weak request instead of a demand that the Russian president to do right by the people of East Germany.

In recent events, we’ve seen word selections scrutinized and critiqued. When does a “crowd” or a “gathering” become a “protest,” “a riot” or “a melee” and who gets to decide?

Imagine the different reactions to reports that a police officer “laid the woman on the ground,” versus “took her to the ground, “pushed her to the ground,” “shoved her to the ground” or “wrestled her to the ground.” The word choices indicate an escalating show of force which can spark support or outrage toward the woman and the officer.

Word selections can undermine or bolster the words preceding and following them. For example, “I love you,” she said. “I love you,” she wailed. “I love you,” she laughed. “I love you,” she sneered.” I love you,” she argued. “I love you,” she insisted. “I love you,” she whispered. “I love you,” she shouted.

Changing just one word significantly alters the entire meaning of a powerful three-word declaration.

Words inspire, inform and inflame.

Be thoughtful; be responsible. Choose your words carefully.

The 5 Ws & H of Getting Media Coverage

news conferenceWho, What, When, Where, Why  & How?
By Katherine Kerr, APR

Knowing the answers to those classic reporter’s questions about your nonprofit can determine whether or not you get media coverage. Just doing great work doesn’t guarantee you’ll get coverage. You need to present your agency’s story in a way that appeals to the media.

First, Who? Yes, the “who” is your organization AND, more importantly, the people your organization serves or affects. Remember Toby Keith’s song, “It’s All About Me?” The media doesn’t care about you and your organization; they want a story that talks about their viewers and readers. Every pitch you make to the media needs to focus on the folks—in their target market—whose lives are being transformed by your organization.

Be prepared to have the media ask to interview clients and volunteers. They aren’t interested in talking heads prattling on about what your organization does. The media will want to talk to clients and volunteers to get the impact story firsthand. That means you need to identify the best clients and volunteers for your organization and practice talking points with them before you make a pitch. Be ready to arrange the interviews or at least provide the media with contact information for your clients and volunteers.

If you need to protect the identities of clients, explain why and offer solutions, such as changing the names of the clients, or photographing clients from behind while they interact with volunteers or staff. Or, ask the media if they will take photos that obscure the clients’ faces with clothing, hair or props. If the interview is videotaped, ask if the photojournalist will direct the camera on the person’s hands.

What? As in what are you doing that is different and meaningful? Or, what you can prove you do better than anyone else? Now is not the time to trot out your 45-word aspirational mission statement that doesn’t mean anything to anyone except your board and staff.

You need to clearly and concisely say what you do:

  • We help kids in foster care by matching them with trained volunteers.
  • We help low-income elderly people stay in their homes by having volunteers do minor repairs.
  • We give ex-offenders second chances by providing them with job training.
  • We provide ESL classes to refugees fleeing war.
  • We help veterans recover from PTSD by matching them with trained dogs.

When? Is there a specific occasion you’re marking or is this not a timely event? For example, there is a month, a week and a day for almost everything. Think Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, Volunteer Appreciation Week. A resource like Chase’s Calendar of Events can help. If your organization can tie into something like that with a good story, hooray!

If you’re marking the grand opening of a building or addition of a program, that can be a media opportunity if you plan it right. Consider tying into a special anniversary or benchmark achievement.

Or, if you want to get coverage of your program because you want to build awareness with the hope of scoring more money and volunteers, let the media know that your great story is not time sensitive and that you can work with them to arrange a story at their convenience. They will appreciate your flexibility on a slow news day.

Where? Where is work being done? Are there good visuals? The media wants action, people and color. Forget about inviting them to take a photo or video of the ED sitting behind a desk.

Suggest an interesting location where your services are offered that might make a good background. If your volunteers do home repairs, that’s where you should plan an interview. If your provide ESL classes at a library, do a media event there. Dress up a media-opp with colorful banners, signs and t-shirts with your logo and stock or approved client photos. Add balloons, ribbons, toys or educational tools that, props that help tell the story of your agency’s work.

Why? Why do you do what you do? Why is your organization necessary? Do you address unmet needs or enrich your community in some other way? Why is your organization the best solution?

How? How do you do what you do? Do you depend on volunteers? If so, brag on a special volunteer or two (and don’t say you can’t pick just one volunteer). Do you use special equipment or operate on a special site?

Do you fulfill your mission with money raised in the community? If so, talk about impact of donations. For every $25 donated, we can:

  • Train a volunteer
  • Provide school supplies for a child
  • Feed a horse so military veterans can get equine therapy
  • Buy materials for a performing arts camp

Another How is to latch onto a breaking news event. For example, if your organization provides services to victims of domestic violence, during recent incidents involving major sports figures you could have called your local media and talked about how domestic violence is an issue in your community. You could talk about how your agency is addressing the problem in your community.

An example would be a natural disaster and your agency is collecting cleaning supplies to send to the affected area. You could invite reporters to interview volunteers packing supplies into boxes.

If there is a news report of a pit bull attacking someone and your organization is a rescue group for pit bulls, you could invite a reporter to come get acquainted with pit bulls who are loving and playful and are good around people.

Take some time to answer the 5Ws and H. Come up with a story angle that is different from what you’ve seen done before, then contact the assignments desk of your local media outlet to pitch the story. Getting the media to talk about your organization makes good business sense, it is free publicity and it’s like getting a seal of approval.

This Mother’s Day Be a Media Darling

Mother's Day messageBy Katherine Kerr, APR

Most nonprofits want the media to cover them. But, too often, they don’t have the story the media wants.

Your organization can change that by positioning itself as a resource and expert. You do that by hitching your wagon to holidays and breaking media events.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are coming up. The media is interested in stories that are more interesting than brunches and barbeques. If your organization works with children in foster care, you can talk about how your agency makes a difference for children whose parents are absent. Highlight a foster parent who serves as a surrogate parent for children in care. If you work with at-risk families, talk about how your organization keeps families intact.

May is Older American’s Month. If you have volunteers who are seniors, identify one or two who are making a second career out of giving back to their communities by tapping into their experience, skills and knowledge.

Look ahead on the calendar and figure out upcoming holidays, observances and community events that are logical story possibilities. Identify potential stories and prepare clients, volunteers and staff to put your spin on the stories.

The media also love to localize national and international breaking news stories. When problems with our education system make headlines, talk about how your mentoring organization helps kids with academics.

If your organization works on social justice issues, talk about how your agency is working to solve problems in your community that are similar to those receiving national attention. In the wake of police shootings around the country, organizations in various communities are exploring how to avoid “becoming another Ferguson.” Share what you are doing to address racism in your town and build relations with law enforcement.

When there is an international disaster, such as the Nepal earthquake, notify the media if your organization is collecting funds to aid those affected by the disaster. Make sure that what your organization does is appropriate and doesn’t cause problems for aid agencies, such as sending truckloads of toys and used clothing overseas when funds for food, water and shelter are more practical.

Don’t manufacture a program or project just to get coverage. To win the media’s trust, your story pitch needs to be genuine, a real part of what your agency does.

What are you doing to get the word out about your organization?