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Pitching Notes

From The Wall Street Journal Philanthropy Reporter Melanie Grayce West
The Wall Street Journal is the largest-circulation newspaper in the nation, with an average weekday circulation of more than 2 million.
A year ago, the Journal launched "Greater New York," a full-color, local news section that covers the city, parts of Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. Local and state politics, education, leisure and arts coverage are a focus for the section. Breaking news stories are posted to our blog, "Metropolis."
I cover philanthropy for the Journal and write the "Donor of the Day" column for the Greater New York section. I'm interested in highlighting exceptional philanthropists and foundations that are investing deeply in local organizations and causes. I've covered gifts as small as $10,000 and as great as $40 million. And philanthropists that are still in grade school, celebrities and Wall Street executives.
If your non-profit organization has a new gift to announce or an interesting charity story, please feel free to contact me. 
Melanie Grayce West

Upcoming Workshops

Interested in hosting?
My communications workshops cover everything from creating effective promotional content, to generating media coverage, to creating effective social networks.  For more information, check out one of my presentations here or email me .

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Issue: 4 May 2011


Thanks to Darren Bloch, publisher of City Hall News and The Capitol, for giving me the opportunity to put together a panel discussion on moving government.  And thanks to my amazing fellow panelists and partner organizations for making it such a  success.

The hour-long discussion was packed with terrific advice.  You can see some highlights below.

I had the opportunity recently to participate in a great webinar on creating a website that captivates and engages stakeholders. Having a good website is key to the success of an organization.  If you're interested in reading more, check out my column below titled "Does Your Site Deliver?"

If you have any requests for the next newsletter, let me know.  And, as always, I welcome your questions, suggestions and comments. 


 Does Your Site Deliver?
According to data, people decide whether or not to stay on a webpage in three seconds.  Two-thirds of people also check out an organization's website before donating.  This means that if your website isn't visually appealing, engaging and easy to navigate, you're probably losing some potential donors.

If you're concerned about your website:
You'll be happy to know that today most websites are easy to redesign at a relatively low-cost.  For example, redesigning the look of and updating the content for a 15 page website could start as low as $3,000.  

Today, it's also easy to keep your website up to date without much web development or design skills.  This enables you to regularly update content on your site, adding things like links to news stories, information on successful outcomes, and more.

Here are a few suggestions to tell if your site needs a facelift:

1.  Ask a few friends who haven't visited your site recently to go to your homepage and tell you what they notice most in the first 3 seconds.  You likely need an updated homepage if:
  • They couldn't figure out what to focus on first.
  • They focused on something that isn't core to your mission.
2.  Click through your website and identify if your content is outdated.  Do you have a report marked "new" from 2009? Even if your latest content is from December of 2010, a potential stakeholder might wonder what you've been doing for the past 6 months.

3.  Answer the question: Does your site deliver?  Does it get visitors to do what you want them to do?  After all, you don't have a website just so you can tell people you have one.  Your website exists to help you raise money, recruit volunteers, increase your client base, and more.  

More information available.  John Haydon, a social media strategy guru has some great tips on creating an effective landing page here.
I also recently participated in a webinar packed with advice on creating an engaging website.  The sponsoring organization, Firespring, makes this webinar available regularly.  Check out their schedule here.
Influencing Government


Anat and Peter Madonia at City Hall News Panel
Anat and Peter Madonia at the City Hall News Panel

On Friday, April 29th, City Hall News and City Arts sponsored a panel, Moving Government, for nonprofit organizations looking to learn more about influencing government to move an agenda.


The panel was moderated by Peter Madonia, Mayor Bloomberg's former Chief of Staff and now the Chief Operating Officer at the Rockefeller Foundation.  Panelists included Claudia Wagner, Partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips; Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer; Anthony Ng, Director of Policy and Advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses; Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of Make the Road; and me.


There was a lot of great information shared.  Below are a few key tips.  Click here for more information.


Before you Start, Understand Government and Politics

Understand where the power resides


Getting Started: Create a Strategic Plan

Identify what you are trying to influence (funding, legislation, policy) and create a strategic plan taking into consideration the political environment, intergovernmental opportunities and challenges, and messaging/communications.

How Do You Get to the Influencers:

When building relationships with elected officials, it is very important to get to know the staff members, including the chief of staff, scheduler, and the legislative director.

Good commissioners, deputy mayors and other senior influencers listen to line and program staff, so get to know the agency people that deal with your organization and start building positive relationships with them. For example, invite them to visit your organization and recognize them for their work.

How do you get Influencers to listen to you?

Invite your local elected officials and other influencers to press conferences on your issues or organization. Invite them to visit your center and take photos to share with them (perhaps they will include it in their newsletter).

Communications Role in Advocacy

To generate more visibility for an issue, consider partnering with organizations that have a similar agenda. Your collective voice will more likely be heard in today's cluttered and noisy communications environment.

For more tips, click here.