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Tips for Talking with Reporters About Home Donations to Nonprofits

By on Tuesday, January 3, 2012

USA Today reported a few days ago that a record number of homes are being donated to charities in the wake of the housing crisis. The numbers remain low, with Bank of America donating 150 homes in 2011, but there are plans for the financial institution to donate an additional 1,200 in 2012. Wells Fargo donated 1,120 homes last year and plans to donate more. Habitat for Humanity reports that they are receiving additional home donations – in some cases they are able to rehab them.

Often, home donations have to be demolished because the home is in extremely poor condition. When I worked with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Florida, we had to demolish a donated home that was in poor condition. Tearing down that house was an intriguing (and learning) experience for our volunteers. We built a new house in its place alongside a family that needed it and improved property values for that community.

If your nonprofit receives the gift of a home donation, how can you talk about it in the media, even if the home is a blight?  Here’s a few tips to help:

  • Before talking with the media, make sure the donors know your plans. Hopefully, you  were able to talk with the donors about the home donation and your plans for it, so they know if you are rehabbing the property for someone in need, planning to tear it down so you can use the land, or intending to refurbish it and re-sell it to make money. Even property owners, don’t always realize that their generous donation may have insurance, liability and financial implications for your nonprofit. Make sure they know your plans before you talk about them in the press. Use the media pitch or a news release to mention the donor’s name (if they are willing) and recognize them for the gift.
  • Tie into the bigger story of the housing crisis. Talk about this trend in home donations by banks and property owners who are eager to remove blighted homes from their rosters. Link your messaging to the bigger discussion about America’s recovery from the housing crisis, so onehoem donation in one community, can become part of the larger story.
  • Discuss how your nonprofit will benefit from the home donation. Perhaps you can’t use the home in its current condition, or you will have to rehabit. Talk about about how your nonprofit can benefit from this generous donation and its value.
  • Ask for what you need in your messaging. Talk about what you may need to rehab or improve the property. If your nonprofit is currently searching for land with or without a home on it, so you can expand or move facilities, say so. I was on the board for a nonprofit that did this – while some of the offers they received from their media campaign were duds, a few had poential, and the community became better educated about the organization’s needs.
  • Allow the media to visit the house. Invite the media to take a tour of the house and get footage and photos of you talking about your plans. Allow media to come in and film while you are working on the house so they can see dreams becoming reality. The golden story here is that something good is emerging out of a sad chapter in our nation’s history – emphasize the positive value of the gift.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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