Staying up to date with news related to the non profit sector and your interest area in particular can boost the success of your group.

By scanning these three publications you can:

  • Discover information about your key supporters
  • Identify possible new donors
  • Stay up to date with current events that impact your cause
  • Review case studies from other non profits that you can then apply to your own work
  • Learn new ideas that will help improve results (and make your job easier!)

A member of your staff or one or more volunteers can serve as a “reader” of these publications. They will scan the pages and clip interesting articles. Staff members and readers should discuss what types of articles are most important so that you get the information that you really need but are not inundated with too much reading material.

The reader can make a copy for everyone on the team or send the original around the office with a “to read” slip that everyone initials. This is a task that I was assigned when I was fresh out of college on my first “real job” as an assistant in a sales office. It got the managers I worked with important information they needed, saved them time and also made me feel like I was contributing something substantial to the team.

1. Your Local Newspaper

Local newspaperThere are several reasons to subscribe to your local paper. First, if your organization is mentioned you are the first to learn of the publicity (positive or otherwise). You will be able to keep up to date with news of other non-profits in your area and local events that could have a big impact on your operations. For example, news of large scale layoffs at a major employer could mean an increased demand for a social service agency that helps the unemployed.

Keeping up with the happenings in the lives of donors, potential donors, volunteers and “movers and shakers” in your community is another big reason to read the paper. When you see a donor’s name mentioned in the paper this can be a good time to contact them. If they are listed as receiving an award, a job promotion, opening a new business or some other positive news, send them a congratulations card. You may see an obituary of a relative in which case a sympathy card would be nice.

For more ideas along these lines see 10 Reasons to Contact Donors Other Than to Ask For Money by Jim Berigan.

2. A General Non Profit Newspaper

The Non Profit TimesStaying current on issues impacting all non-profit organizations can become easier with the help of a general non profit newspaper. Sometimes we can get tunnel vision by only concentrating on our daily work and our particular cause. Learning about what’s going on with other charities helps keep things in perspective.

The Non Profit Times, which comes in a print and online version, is my personal favorite. Your organization may even qualify to get the print edition for free. This publication covers a wide variety of issues of interest to the entire range of not for profit groups.

3. Cause Specific Magazines

Cronicle of Higher EducationThe third type of publication that your office should subscribe to is an industry specific magazine. This will help you stay in touch with issues that are more specific to your area of focus. For example, I recently heard from Cynthia Little, a Development Assistant working with a team of 5 major gift officers at Franklin & Marshall College. She was interested in additional resources that would be of help to her team so I recommended The Chronicle of Higher Education.

If you are not familiar with magazines that target your interest area, search the internet using the words newspaper, magazine or newsletter + your cause.

If there are no publications related to your cause, contact non-competing agencies outside your area and ask to be put on their newsletter mailing list. This will help you connect with others in your field and stay up to date with issues that are of interest to you.

Final Notes

It’s possible that you, or someone in your volunteer base, already has these subscriptions, especially to the local newspaper. Perhaps a long time supporter who is very familiar with your cause and those involved with it could help with this task. This would even be a great way for elderly or home-bound volunteers to have a way to contribute to your group.

Armed with information your team gets from these three publications, you will be better prepared for strategic planning, fundraising and most of all, developing relationships with supporters.

Posted on 18 March 2010

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