The Nebraska Community Foundation works with community, organizational and donor-advised affiliated funds serving 250 communities located in 80 counties. NCF and its affiliated funds have reinvested $269 million in Nebraska since 1994.
A feature story is different from a news story. A feature story adds depth, color and interpretation. It can instruct, entertain and even persuade.
If your affiliated fund is fortunate enough to have a good volunteer writer, you might try submitting your feature story already written. However, you may want to just pitch your idea to your local editor or reporter and offer to help them by providing information and connections.
Story vs. promotion
People are interested in people, not organizations. Editors and readers want a good story about people, events and what’s happening in their community. A feature story that focuses primarily on the activities of your affiliated fund will be more difficult to pitch.
Choose story ideas that will evoke emotions that people in your community can feel. Pride, gratitude, hope, sympathy.
Focus on one individual, one family, one teacher, one special group. This allows you to really delve deep. This is where you will find the quotes and anecdotes that will make your story come alive.
Whether we are aware of it or not, when we read, we tend to think in pictures. Help your reader, or your editor, see the story by describing the visuals that support it. By describing the location, interesting details about appearances and behaviors, even the time of day and the weather can help bring your story to life.
Most affiliated funds do a great job at announcing their annual grants and fundraising successes. What often is missed is the personal stories behind these news items. This is where feature stories can help.
Interview your grantees. You are making grants to help people—not organizations. These organizations can help identify someone who has been helped. How did your grant have a positive impact on one person?
If you have made a grant to your local TeamMates, tell the story of a young person you have helped. You can also interview the TeamMates leader for background information. But it is the story of the young person—their words—that will interest your reader.
It is fine to announce success and honor donors through publicity. Challenge yourself to go one step further. Tell the story of one of your donors—they don’t need to be your largest contributor. Someone who makes modest gifts, year after year, may have a wonderful personal story to tell.
Tie your story to what is happening now
Editors are looking for stories that are timely or seasonal—stories that relate to current events in your community. Is it “back-to-school” time? Perhaps you could tell the story of one teacher who has benefited from your gift to the school.
Preparing to pitch your story
Plan ahead and test your idea before you approach your editor. You may think that one of your biggest supporters will have lots of interesting and heartfelt things to share. Talk to them; tell them you are interested in telling their story, and then listen. You may find that they are not the best candidate for a feature story. Some people are just too modest or too shy to open up.
Pitching your story
Send a short e-mail to the newspaper with an explanation of your story idea. Tell the editor why this story is a good fit for the paper at the time. Provide a few details about your subject and how it connects to your affiliated fund and the community. Offer to make the connections and provide background or supplemental information.
Your newspaper editor receives countless e-mails each day. If you do not hear back, follow up in a few days. Your editor may opt not to run your story the first time. But keep trying with different story ideas from time to time.
Writing your feature story
If you like to write, here are some top tips for writing feature articles.
Here are some examples of interesting feature stories from affiliated funds:
The Martinsons entrusted NCF’s affiliated fund in Spencer with gifts totaling more than $221,000 to be placed in an unrestricted endowment. As of 2015 the endowment has grown to more than $1 million. Their giving will go on for generations.Read more →