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Resources – Articles

Creative Fundraising and Public Relations using Special “Observances”
by Karen Zapp

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ZAPP Nonprofit Leader

Need new ideas to promote your mission? Do you sometimes struggle for a new way to “frame” your mission? Or perhaps you’re looking for a special event theme? Or maybe you want to send a press release to build awareness or generate buzz. Problem is . . . you can’t think of a good reason to do it.

An idea generator to explore is the multitude of Special Observances throughout the year. There’s lots of potential here!

There are month long events (AKA: Observances); week long events; and special days. Combine these with your creativity and you’ll have dozens of ideas you can tie to your nonprofit mission.

Let’s take a rather new observance as an example: National Medal of Honor Day, March 25 of each year.

First, it may help you to know a bit about how the event/observance got started. In my example, last year the U.S. Congress designated March 25th as National Medal of Honor Day. This date was chosen because on March 25, 1863, the medal was awarded for the very first time. Six members of “Andrews’ Raiders” were recognized for their exceptional valor and bravery.

So how might this information be used in a fundraising campaign, or in a press release? Certainly any veteran’s organization could tie into it. But a number of history museums could too. Since the first recipients served in the Civil War, any Civil War battlefield or museum featuring this time in history could host events featuring this historic event. And of course, tie it all to this very new national day of observance.

Short side note: Broaden your thinking. All connections to these special observances don’t need to be “tight” or incredibly obvious. For example, even if your museum doesn’t focus on military history, if you include the era of the Civil War then you can make a connection to National Medal of Honor Day. Which means you can make the connection for your press release, special event, or appeal letter/email.

Joining forces with other nonprofits will make your efforts more efficient, effective, and affordable. If you’re a museum, combine efforts with a veteran's group or vice versa.

So, what are some other possibilities?

You could send out an email campaign with this theme. Ask for gifts to support your mission which ties into the theme ….. [Explain your connection here]. Also share a bit of background on the Medal of Honor to add interest to your appeal. Not dry facts! Make your copy compelling, emotional, and inspiring.

Take video of any event you hold and post it on your website. Of course, send a press release about your event. Since the National Medal of Honor Day is so new, I believe you’ll catch the attention of the media.

Perhaps you can even partner with area schools and involve the kids with lessons in the heroism of service members. They could also write thank-you cards to the medal recipients who are still living. Not only that, but find out if any of these exceptionally distinguished veterans are in your area. Invite them to join you!

Again, alert the media. You may also use this opportunity to solicit some business and corporate sponsorship of your event. Certainly good PR for them on two or three fronts: Helping your nonprofit; honoring Medal of Honor recipients; and if school kids are involved then the business is helping with education. Everybody wins and it’s a truly wonderful act of respect and gratitude to our heroes.

Lots of opportunities for creative copywriting and fundraising here. And I’ve just scratched the surface for one of hundreds of special observances. This is fodder for print, web, email, special events, and press releases. Can you feel your creative juices surging?

I won’t go detail on the hundreds of other observances, but I’ve collected a small sampling to highlight the diverse possibilities for you. And if you want to know where to find a more complete list of these special observances, go to the January 2008 news article on my Periodic News page. I have links to four different websites that list special observances.

Below each of the following groups of nonprofit organizations, I list a few special observances with themes related to the nonprofit missions. And I haven’t even listed all the possibilities in each group!

Symphonies, Art Museums, promoting the arts in schools
Music in Our Schools Month
Youth Art Month
Buy-A-Musical Instrument Day
National Music Week
Art Appreciation Day

Polar Bear Day
World Environment Day
Keep America Beautiful Month
National Garden Month
National Wildlife Refuge Systems Week
Earth Day
Arbor Day
Recycles Day

Pets, Animals, Zoos
Responsible Pet Owners’ Month
Love your Pet Day
Zoo and Aquarium Month
Visit the Zoo Day
Pet Week
Pet Owners’ Day

National Day of Prayer
Good Samaritan Day

Health, Fitness
National Nutrition Month
Foot Health Month
Johnny Appleseed Day (healthy eating)
Doctor’s Day
No Smoking Day
American Heart Month
Take a Hike Day
Long Walk Day (this & Hike Day could also fit under Environmental – get out and enjoy nature)
Stress Awareness Month
World Health Day
International Day of Disabled Persons
Veterans, Museums, history related missions
National Medal of Honor Day
Memorial Day
Flag Day
Flag Week
July 4th
Constitution Day
Veterans Day
Pearl Harbor Day
Bill of Rights Day
American History Month
Women’s History Month
Black History Month
National Freedom Day

Science, Education
National Inventor’s Day
World Thinking Day
Math Awareness Month
Geography Awareness Week

ANY Organization or Association
Random Acts of Kindness Day
Hug a Friend (hospitals & hospices: These first 2 are real possibilities for you)
Tell a Story Day
Humorous Day
Find-A-Rainbow Day
Make a Difference Day
Good Samaritan Day
Hug Week (people or animals)
Share a Smile Day
International Friendship Month
Volunteer Day

World Habitat Day (basic right to adequate shelter)
World Food Day
International Friendship Month
Human Rights Day

Older Americans Month (elder care facilities)
Teddy Bear Day (kids in hospitals)
National Teen-Agers Day (youth centers)

If you would like help crafting your fundraising appeals, please drop me a line. After all, nonprofit copywriting is my world. We can have fun working together on these ideas and possibilities!

Interested in more fundraising and marketing insights?


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Call anytime and we’ll chat about your needs: 800-794-1609
I look forward to helping you prosper.

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