Off the Sidelines and into the Headlines

Foundations Should do Their Own Media Outreach

Vinay Jain, in light of recent negative PR concerning the non-profit world as a whole, examines foundations hesitancy in regards to media outreach.

Available free from the Stanford Social Innovation Review

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“Any organization has to define itself and its own image, especially when it’s getting beat up,” said Douglas Gould, who runs a nonprofit-oriented PR firm based in Larchmont, N.Y. “Foundations are no exception.” In a recent study, “Truth on the Sidelines: Philanthropy and Foundations in the Media,” Gould examined stories about philanthropy in leading newspapers, and on the Internet, national television, and radio during two six-month periods – the second halves of 1997 and 2002, respectively.

Analyzing the stories, Gould and his colleagues found “a dramatic decrease in positive coverage of philanthropy” between the two time periods, with more pieces focused on fraud and fewer with positive spins about major individual donors or funding campaigns.

Zeroing in on foundation-related stories published or aired during the 2002 time frame, Gould reported that foundations were quoted in only 14 percent. More than twice as often, 32 percent of the time, the stories quoted grantees.