Communications Toolkit: Cause Communications Book

Here is another great resource for the desk. It is smart and free!

Cause Communication’s newest book, entitled Communications Toolkit—a guide to navigating communications for the nonprofit world can help nonprofit newbies, veterans, and anyone in between find the resources they need to wage more effective communications campaigns.

Based off of national qualitative and quantitative audits of what nonprofits need in the area of communications, the book offers an overview of all the possible tools used to develop smart communications.

This comprehensive guide offers practical information in virtually every area of communications—from how to develop and budget a communications plan to what tools you need to help raise awareness and funds.

The book was made possible by support from The Annenberg Foundation, The California Endowment, The James Irvine Foundation and The Marguerite Casey Foundation.

Make sure you order your free copy and let us now what you think.

July 13, 2005 in Advocacy, GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Media Training, Message Development, nptech, Online Press Rooms, Organizing, Working with The Press | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (9)

Lessons Learned from Tsunami Online Fundraising

This should be an interesting webinar. Sarah and Michael were very involved and have the inside data and analysis of the way the money flowed during the Tsunami relief effort.

The Internet accounted for over $350 million in tsunami relief contributions. Join this online Webinar to hear about the lessons learned from this surge of online gifts, and how your organization can make the most of important breaking news events.

I have heard Michael talk about the responses they could "see" in the data at GetActive. It is really a compelling story about getting ready for advocacy in the age of connectivity.

July 11, 2005 in Advocacy, GMT Tips and Tricks, Network Advocacy, nptech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (7)

SPIN Project: Strategic Communications Training and Guide

The SPIN folks have published a useful collection of tools and guides to help in planning and organizing a communications plans. Holly Minch (on the GMT Board) continues to do great work and contribute to the field of advocacy communications like few other groups.

The creation and adoption of a strategic communications plan represents a significant step for any organization. For many organizations, the adoption of such a plan represents a cultural shift toward communications and a clear recognition that all the organization’s efforts have a communications element. Public education, grassroots organizing, research, public advocacy, direct service and even fundraising are all, at their core, communications tasks vital to the health and success of a nonprofit organization.

At the SPIN Project we firmly believe that a strategic communications plan has the power to transform an organization: both in terms of your credibility and status in your community, and in terms of the way you work together as a team to achieve your mission and vision for your community.

July 11, 2005 in Advocacy, GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Message Development, nptech, Working with The Press | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pitch Call Tips

Be succinct and persuasive. Since journalists are busy, you have only a minute or two to state your purpose. If you're following up an advisory or press release, explain the essentials of your event, including why they should cover it. Ask if they have a few minutes—if so, you can go into more detail.

Make your calls in the morning. This gives you a better chance of talking to reporters instead of their machines. It's also when most editors and producers decide what to cover in their evening news or next-day's paper. Afternoons in newsrooms mean deadlines, when no one has time to talk.

Follow up with written information. Send another copy of your advisory or press release, if it's needed. Ask if there are other materials (fact sheets, speeches, etc.) you can provide. Double-check fax numbers and e-mail addresses.

Use pitch calls to build relationships. Get to know the journalists who cover your field. Make a habit of calling them with your group's response to breaking news and with quotes for their stories. Suggest possible interviews with experts, as well as "ordinary" people who give a human face to complex issues. You can also suggest getting together to discuss additional story ideas and angles.

November 22, 2004 in GMT Tips and Tricks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Creating an HTML Newsletter

Oh man, I think I just bit off way more than I can can chew. I volunteered to create a newsletter for, and now they are asking for an HTML newsletter (we'll send out the newsletter as text and as html). I'm definitely not well-versed in HTML, and I'm wondering if there is a program that will allow me to make up something without actually doing it in HTML.

If anyone can point me to a good tutorial website even, that would be so helpful.

I know I should just learn HTML, but unfortunately, the turnaround time has to be quicker than I would be to learn it.

Feel free to join the conversation at Techsoup.

November 5, 2004 in GMT Tips and Tricks | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (4)

Follow the Money Running Your State

If you haven't already been to the Institute's Web site,, I would urge you to do so. They have the most comprehensive set of state-level campaign-finance data in the country, and offer it all for free via the site. They added a custom search query, under 'more search options, that lets users build their own SQL queries of any subset of data.

The Institute uses its multi state, multiyear databases to research trends in political giving, examine how contributions drive public policy debates in the states and the nation, and see how special interests give across state lines.

Poke around with the data for your state. Dig into the state giving of donors to your opposition and find out why legislation gets stuck in committee.

September 16, 2004 in GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Message Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

Michael Stein Provides Some Good Tips on Email Strategy

Oh, e-mail! For many individuals and organizations, e-mail has transformed both the quantity and quality of human communication. Simultaneously intimate and public, e-mail is a daily symbol of the potential and danger that technology promises. To some, e-mail is a simple and sublime medium to communicate in the modern world. To others — and often the same people — it is a reviled and bottomless pit of unwanted spam that infuriates and frustrates.
Nonprofit organizations of all sizes and budgets are exploring how to integrate e-mail into a comprehensive communications and fundraising strategy. Some are far along the road of doing so; others are just starting out. This article provides an overview of why and how to use e-mail in your fundraising program.

Michael Stein is really good at this stuff and knows what he is talking about. The core of the advise is about strategies to use email as a relationship tool and communications pipeline. You would not ignore body language if you were talking with someone nor would you not pay attention to feedback of pauses and silence on a phone call. It is possible to use email effectively and monitor not only direct reactions to your message via responses but to use tools to monitor the silent messages (open rates, subscribe rates, etc. It is a good article worth reading.

August 25, 2004 in GMT Tips and Tricks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Getting Reporters To Open E-Mails

Here is a must read for communication staff on emails, email formats and email outreach to reporters. I have chopped it up and tweaked it a bit for environmental issues. Like our peers in corporate PR most of our emails are not opened nor read. We need to learn more about the developing practices so that our pitches continue to be professional. I highly recommend giving the full article a solid read.Getting Reporters To Open Your E-Mails -- J-Log Online

1. Avoid Spam Filters
This seems straight forward but the filters are becoming increasingly sensitive so make sure you understand what set them off.

To a spam filter, a pitch may appear to contain an array of trigger words and suspicious phrases... You can't prevent every instance of spam blocking, but you can take some steps to help lessen the chances of your e-mail ending up in a black hole. ..The most important step is learning how spam filters think, and creating e-mails that avoid the usual pitfalls. Fortunately, you'll find that -- once you can do this -- many spam triggers are easily avoided. Rather than taking up space here with all the how-to’s, allow me to simply direct you a terrific site on the subject.

2. Getting Your E-Mail Opened & Read
The content of the email and communicaiton is obviously the most important part of effective outreach. However, assuming you have a solid angle (big assumption) the most important thing you can do is format the message effectively.

The key to success is the subject line. No matter how on-the-money your pitch, a subpar subject line will kill any chance of getting the reporter’s attention. You’ve got one shot at getting your e-mail opened, make the most of it with a killer subject line.

1) Place the word News or Press Info or Story Idea at the beginning of your e-mail subject line, in brackets e.g.: [Story Idea]:

2) Try to incorporate the reporter's first name also at the beginning of the subject line.

3) If you know the name of the reporter's column, for instance Fishing with Linda, also try to incorporate that. If the reporter doesn't write a regular column, try to at least include their beat (e.g. Joe, re: your future pieces on the energy industry).

Here is a sample:

To: Linda
From: [email protected]
Subject: [Story Idea]: Linda, Here's a bit of Background on Cooling Towers and Water Quality Violations by Southern Company for Your "Something's Fishy Column"

That’s a heading that will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The Dos and Don'ts outlined in the artilce are also filled with good advise.

Make the information you place in the subject line short and to the point. Often, reporter's e-mail software cuts off the subject at only a few words.
Don’t get cute or be too vague in your subject line. For example Here’s a Great Story! is vague and sounds like spam;
Try to make your most newsworthy points at the top of your e-mail message - don't expect a reporter to scroll down to find the news.
Include your contact information, including cell phone, e-mail address, regular address, fax number & website URL at the beginning and end of the e-mail.
Include a link to your website if you have additional information such as: photos, press releases, bios, surveys, etc.

Include more than a short pitch letter or press release in the body of your e-mail.
Allow typos or grammatical errors.
Include an attachment with your e-mail. In this day and age of sinister viruses, reporters automatically delete e-mail with attachments.
Place the following words (by themselves) in the subject line: Hi, Hello - the media's spam filters will pounce and destroy.
Send an e-mail with a blank subject line.

July 23, 2004 in GMT Tips and Tricks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Clipping Services for Advocacy Community: East Coast Environmental Groups Take Note

At the Bluevision Conference, I spent some time chatting with Shaw Thacher from Atlantic CoastWatch. They have a great service of free clippings for the environmental groups working on Coastal Issues along the Atlantic (North America to to Venezuela) I recommend river, sprawl, bay and ocean groups to get the clips. Shaw and the staff actually find key articles, surf the papers in small markets and kick out a newsletter of interesting stories.

They are in the middle of some changes but it is worth checking out (today).

News Nugget services are being upgraded. The new interface is accessible via:

At this time you should pull down the region, issue and last 30 days to get a feel for the huge amount of work these guys are doing collecting links to stories.

July 13, 2004 in Current Affairs, GMT Tips and Tricks, Message Development, Online Press Rooms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (5)

Raising Money for Communications Efforts

Raising Money from Individuals
Pulling together a group of media savvy volunteers and potential donors can be a big challenge. You will obviously want to send letters to them requesting general support for your organization. However, some folks want to know exactly what their funds will be used for or why you need them to underwrite capacity development at your organization. Please feel free to use portions of the following sample letter to aid in your fundraising effort.

(feel free to grab any language you might need to raise funds for access to communications tools)

Dear Ms. Donor,
Thank you once again for your support in our fight against the needless pollution and destruction of our river. We have had some great victories in our campaign to clear up the riverbanks and establish new public access points to the river for local families. This has been a great year for our efforts and organization. We are now planning new initiatives that will require public signage on outflow pipes and require polluters to set up public signage, phone messages and web site information explaining the contaminants being dumped in the river.

There will be strong opposition to our work. Powerful interests have made it clear that they oppose additional access to the river and will fight all the "right-to-know" efforts that will focus attention on the discharges they release.

Our initial research suggests that the public overwhelming supports our position and views our organization as a reputable voice for the river. Hopefully, this proposal highlights the importance of our campaign and makes a compelling case for your financial support.

We are requesting $100 in support our operations and to underwrite access to the suite of tools we will need during this campaign. Effective communications takes people, training and tools. Your support will help us access the tools we need including:
* A media contact database of all journalists in the state
* An image management system to collect and distribute images of the river. We will need these throughout the campaign including shots of the outflow pipes, degradation of the river and great images of the special places and activities that demonstrate why the river is worth protecting.
* Training content for communications outreach
* An online Press Room for our organization so we can accommodate the increase media interest we are expecting a s a result of the campaign
* Secure online campaign coordination areas for all the watershed groups and activist in the basin.

I look forward to future discussions of this proposal and welcome any opportunity to present our services to your staff and prospective members. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.


Your Name Here

Including Communications Tools in Foundation Proposals

In the majority of your proposal you will be laying out the need for your campaign and investments in high quality communications planning and roll out activities. However, at some point you might like to add a Communications Tools item that includes your membership fees to Green Media Toolshed. Here is some language you can play with and plug-in to your proposals.

Communication Infrastructure

Effective communications take people, training and tools. Our organization needs access to the basic communications tools for this campaign including access to complete media contact lists of reporters and journalists, an image management systems for complementing news releases with photos and the set up of an online press room for our website.

We plan on accessing these tools plus media training content, polling and opinion research, on line collaboration tools through Green Media Toolshed.

Two years GMT Membership -
Your set up and training time -
Budget for faxing, digital scanning, etc. –

Please feel free to add feedback, additional language for other groups to use and other fundraising tips in the comments section.

June 29, 2004 in Advocacy, GMT Tips and Tricks, Online Press Rooms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (8)

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