Panelists lean over to listen to an audience member's question at The Big Give workshop on Thursday. Photo by Joan Vinson.
Panelists lean over to listen to an audience member's question at The Big Give workshop on Thursday. Photo by Joan Vinson.

San Antonio is increasing the number of nonprofits on board for the 24-hour fundraising event The Big Give SA. The crowdfunding event, which is a local branch of Give Local America, is designed to target the “Average Joe” to donate as little as $10 to a local organization in which they trust.

The individual’s gift also has the potential to bring in more money by earning matched funds and prize incentives. From individual donations large and small, matched and unmatched, The Big Give SA raised more than $2 million for local nonprofits in 2014 – more than doubling their original goal.

For 2015 organizers expect local nonprofits will receive a total of $3 million – maybe more. It seems to be an obtainable goal as this year The Big Give SA has more than 700 nonprofits participating in the day of giving – about 230 more organizations than last year.

The San Antonio Nonprofit Council, which is the lead agency putting on The Big Give, partnered with the Association for Women in Communication to host a women in media workshop on Thursday – one of the The Big Give’s 15 workshops this year. In general, the workshops aim to teach nonprofit organizers how to create a community between themselves and with the population at large. The workshops not only help the nonprofits raise money for The Big Give, but help them drive their organization forward, beyond the annual event.

Scott McAninch, the executive director of the San Antonio Nonprofit Council, said multiple San Antonio foundations and agencies partnered with The Big Give.

“In San Antonio there is a great community, and a sort of collaborative thing going on here,” he said. “There is not just one agency driving this effort. We have a lot of foundations, agencies, and the media to help to spread the word.”

Scott McAninch, the Executive Director of the San Antonio Nonprofit Council, speaks with an audience member during The Big Give's women in media workshop. Photo by Joan Vinson.
Scott McAninch, the Executive Director of the San Antonio Nonprofit Council, speaks with an audience member during The Big Give’s women in media workshop. Photo by Joan Vinson.

The workshop focused on connecting nonprofit organizers with the media. Five panelists were brought in from varying media groups to give insight and answer questions from attendees. The panelists, moderated by Texas State University Senior Lecturer Kym Fox, included: Melissa Stoeltje, social services reporter at the San Antonio Express News; Gonzalo Magana, KWEX-TV executive producer; John Burnam, The Big Give SA consultant; Bernice Kearney, KSAT12-TV news director, and Jim Forsyth, WOAI Radio news director.

Each panelist began by giving some pointers to the nonprofit organizers on how to attract the media’s attention. All agreed that sending an email is an efficient method, but the format needs to be correct – a title in the subject bar that relates to the body of the message, with a few, concise, paragraphs in the meat of the email. Otherwise, the email will just get lost in the stack of hundreds of emails that reporters and editors receive daily.

Bernice Kearney said an organizer’s job is to build a relationship with the media. She said when she receives a request to publish a story; she expects background information from the inquirer.

“Don’t be one of the 700 emails that doesn’t explain who you are, or what you want,” Kearney said. “There is a lot that you have to do to help me help you.”

As a reporter, Melissa Stoeltje said when organizers call her regarding media coverage; she wants to hear a compelling human-interest story.

“Real people and real human stories,” she said. “That’s my real bread and butter.”

Jim Forsyth agreed with Stoeltje’s input, and added that finding that “hook” to attract listeners is what will attract his own attention when siphoning through press releases.

Gonzalo Magana said he is coming from a shrinking newsroom, and as a result wears many hats, so timing and content matter is key. He said understand the media group’s social media following to tweak the press release or story pitch to fit their audience.

Attendees take notes and check social media during a 15-minute break at the women in media workshop on Thursday. Photo by Joan Vinson.
Attendees take notes and check social media during a 15-minute break at the women in media workshop on Thursday. Photo by Joan Vinson.

John Burnam, who has worked with The Big Give SA since its start last year, said using social media to reach the public at large is crucial for getting a nonprofit’s word out. He told the audience to build a relationship with followers, instead of demanding a re-post or re-tweet out of the blue.

“The beauty of social media it that it never sleeps, and it’s a process that takes minimal time for a lot of output,” he said. “Don’t just ask for money (on social media), instead build brand recognition online by engaging with people in a one-on-one conversation – that means re-tweeting.”

Executive Director of the San Antonio Amputee Foundation Mona Patel was an audience member at the workshop.

“I took away the importance of being impactful in my press releases and what we can do on an individual basis to be our own reporter,” she said. “I just really learned what we can do with the media’s help, and even before their help begins.”

Since her nonprofit is less than 6 months old, this is her first year participating in The Big Give SA.

*Featured/top image: Panelists lean over to listen to an audience member’s question at The Big Give workshop on Thursday. Photo by Joan Vinson.

Related Stories:

More Than $2 Million Raised for Big Give SA

The Big Give SA: Crowdsourcing Philanthropy For You and Me

The Big Give SA: There Are No Small Gifts

#strongertogether: The ‘Big Give’ for San Antonio Nonprofits

Joan Vinson

Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....