lewis-jerry-773768Jerry Lewis wrote the book on the celebrity spokesperson for charities. So, with last week’s news that the King of Comedy has retired as chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the face of its Labor Day Telethon, a lengthy chapter in philanthropic history and non-profit marketing has ended.

There’s no denying that the $2.45 billion raised by MDA during Lewis’s reign demonstrates the power of the famous spokesperson and an active nonprofit PR program. But, what about smaller agencies or regional arms of national groups that do not have the power of a committed star rainmaker or a well-funded development program to help make their annual fundraising event a success?

Here are five basics to support a successful event:

  1. Identify and engage an established, visible regional business leader to honor. The idea is that your organization can benefit from the honoree enlisting his or her own organization, as well as their business and personal network, to support the event. Teaming with a business leader who heads an organization with similar values as yours, and who can become an ongoing advocate for your organization, is ideal.
  2. Partner with a local business with strong marketing capabilities that might help underwrite event promotion. At Epoch 5, our Long Island public relations firm, we often marry nonprofits with clients who can support their partnership with press relations and marketing.
  3. Get the word out through a series of pre- and post-event PR media relations efforts distributed through social media outlets and hyper-local websites, as well as all traditional media outlets. One thing to keep in mind is that reporters respond more readily to human interest stories — the untold personal stories, sacrifices, heroics, etc. that surround the lives of those involved with nonprofit agencies.
  4. Recruit a strong volunteer board that is willing to commit their own resources and those of their businesses. Many of Epoch 5’s clients sit on the boards of the tristate’s most successful nonprofit organizations. Each member brings a different skill set to the table to help the not-for-profit achieve its goals.
  5. Prepare a sponsorship kit that can help you reach donors sources and other sources of support and that not only sells your agency but the positive benefits that sponsors might expect for supporting it. Ideally, the donor package will contain a backgrounder on your organization, a fact sheet highlighting your successes, initiatives and goals, a one-pager summarizing your events, and a detailed list of potential sponsorship levels including exactly what each level will offer – such as signage, free ads, publicity, speaking opportunities, etc.