A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Engaging With Members of the Media

This is the first of a 3-part series to help funders leverage relationships with traditional media, following the launch of A Funder’s Guide to Engaging With Members of the Media for Exponent Philanthropy members and the webinar Leveraging Media to Advance Your Philanthropic Goals (recording available for members). 

See other posts in this series

Over the past 10 years, nonprofits and funders have come to increasingly respect the role media plays in their strategies for social change. From positioning to coalition-building to educating, targeted media efforts are helping funders construct meaningful relationships with key audiences and showcase and elevate their causes, their grantees, and the power of philanthropy.

In this blog series—and in our new media toolkit for Exponent Philanthropy members—we focus on traditional media: print, digital, and broadcast. Although funders now have the opportunity to communicate directly with audiences via social media, traditional media remains a powerful vehicle with established audiences, often in the millions.

How can relationships with media strengthen your philanthropy?

  • Increase your audience. Media offers an opportunity to reach a larger audience than you’re likely able to reach through your own communication channels. Increasing your reach will help others better understand your goals and funding interests, possibly leading to new partners and collaborators, and higher quality grant applications.
  • Increase awareness of issues and grantees. Media can benefit your grantees as well. It presents an excellent opportunity to broaden awareness about the issues you care about and the good work your grantees are doing.
  • Position yourself as a leader. Engaging media can help build your reputation as a leader in a community or area of interest, allowing others to better understand your vision for change, not just your organization’s policies and practices. Its third-party endorsements enhance credibility in ways that owned media (e.g., your organization’s website or email distribution lists) cannot.
  • Embrace the push towards transparency. In every sector, not just philanthropy, there is pressure to be more transparent. In today’s world, those who embrace openness tend to be viewed more positively, and media relationships can help you in this realm.

Think beyond the press release

A key to partnering with members of the media: think beyond the press release. For example, The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Working Longer program funds a journalism fellowship on the economics of aging and work that includes reporting published by the Associated Press (AP). In this case, the AP retains editorial control over the content development; the fellow gains research skills and the opportunity to do in-depth reporting; and the foundation increases public understanding in a complex issue area.

Smart media strategies—based on goals that align with your organization’s objectives—can help funders of all shapes and sizes build a powerful public presence. Models of successful media partnerships are increasingly common; old rules about editorial and advertising no longer exist; and there are abundant opportunities for creating outsized impact in new and previously unimagined ways.

Our thanks to Patti Giglio of PSG Communications, LLC, for her contributions to A Funder’s Guide to Engaging With Members of the Media, based on two decades of experience as a journalist and media strategist.

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