There are many ways to create a positive impact in every community or sector, and one such way of doing so is through volunteerism. In fact, up to 77.4 million Americans volunteer in various efforts per year. However, not all programs are as successful as they can be. This is, in part, due to limited reach on various platforms, which is further hampered by poor media coverage. There are also instances where irresponsible journalism may be taking place, with or without the organization’s knowledge.
Responsible journalism helps volunteerism reach the right people in a captivating and truthful manner. Here are several aspects where it is most important:
Journalism focuses on communicating messages via media, whether it’s print or digital, and on various channels. This plays a vital role in the success of any volunteer organization’s efforts, particularly in its retention of volunteers and organization recognition. Studies have found that while internal communication systems positively affected retention and recognition, the effect was greater with external communication factors, including posts on social media. Today, these channels are the main platform used to communicate news features or events for any organization, including non-profits.
However, navigating social media can also be a challenge, as not all content on these platforms is reliable. Misleading headlines on articles and posts can hamper communication and affect credibility, for example.
It is here that volunteer organizations should strive to communicate with pieces that follow the conventions of responsible journalism, which includes error-free and high-quality work. This ensures that everything is communicated clearly with the intended audience.
Volunteer work can be challenging, and it is often difficult to attract donors, sponsors, and more volunteers. While it may be tempting to publish unverified or exaggerated information on volunteer programs, this can actually be a cause for a criminal case. Consulting professionals with qualifications in criminal justice can help ensure that you avoid such errors. Graduates from these backgrounds are often trained in law, psychology, and composition, so they are familiar with handling defamation cases.
Responsible journalism entails that truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability are observed when releasing any feature, particularly non-profit work. Furthermore, double-checking against these parameters can prevent a huge PR crisis for an organization and maintain its reputation and credibility.
Responsible journalism also establishes credibility for non-profits that feature their volunteerism. Part of this is practicing transparency. However, “transparency” is more than just a buzzword — anybody wanting to establish credibility for volunteer work can make a greater effort to link to the original source material. Plus, this provides your audience with the opportunity to participate in the newsgathering process, generating more trust in your featured volunteer program or activity. Transparency is part of responsible journalism’s aim to seek the truth, including being honest with what an organization does or doesn’t know.
Whether you’re writing features for social media or your organization’s blog, acting as a journalist who should report everything with a degree of accountability can help your programs flourish.
Creating Powerful Connections
Responsible journalism in the context of volunteer work is not limited to reporting facts. It is also about creating a compelling narrative that will pull readers in, whether they are potential sponsors, volunteers, or someone who might take the time to share on social media. Consider pieces that share acts of volunteerism-turned-heroism, such as the article featured on Time magazine covering the volunteer firemen who braved the Australian bushfires. The piece was written in such a way that it fostered a more impactful connection with its audience.
When writing pieces for your non-profit, observe the same techniques used. Responsible journalism should still be good journalism, captivating the reader in its telling of the truth. It should, first and foremost, create a connection that is used as a vehicle to report the facts.