Case Study: How The Salvation Army Uses News Releases To Generate Awareness and Increase Donations


The Salvation Army is an international Christian church and charity working in 109 countries and throughout Eastern Europe with programs in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Georgia. This work includes homelessness programs, medical programs, outreach project for homeless children and after-school programs.  

Each of The Salvation Army’s (Army) many divisions is tasked with raising awareness of the Army’s mission throughout their local markets, while ensuring that the messages are inline with the international organization’s overall communications objectives. 


Virginia Knor, the director of marketing and public relations for the Western Pennsylvania Division of The Salvation Army, knows first-hand the challenges of working within a tight budget to generate positive media coverage on a local level that will impact the organization on a global scale.  

“Most not-for-profits do not function with large-scale budgets as do many private corporations and for-profit organizations,” according to Knor.  “And, most do not employ a dedicated communications professional and therefore are not operating with a sound understanding of the benefits a carefully orchestrated public relations and marketing campaign affords.”

“Whether your organization is for-profit or not-for-profit, generating positive media coverage should be high on your priority list.  Writing and disseminating press releases and newsworthy items to the appropriate media is the first step and they need to be distributed in a timely fashion; faxes and email attachments do not work,” said Knor.
Ten years ago, Knor began working with PR Newswire.  She primarily uses PR Newswire for public relations/media relations – distributing news releases, media alerts, and calendars on a consistent basis.  Although Knor typically elects to use one of PR Newswire’s local newslines, she regularly gets inquiries from reporters at national and international outlets who have read her news release on PR Newswire for Journalists, a media-only Web site with more than 80,000 registered journalists, or on one of the more than 3,600 Web sites and online databases to which PR Newswire distributes its members’ news.

An example of how Knor uses PR Newswire:

Every year, around the holidays, The Salvation Army holds the “Christmas Kettle Campaign” to solicit funds for the needy.  To launch this campaign, Knor puts together a calendar of events and distributes it through PR Newswire in time to get them placement in Daybooks.  Following this, Knor issues reports over PR Newswire on which counties and towns are suffering from a deficit so that people can make donations.

In addition, The Salvation Army regularly deals with raising money in response to crises or natural disasters. “Getting timely information to the general public is essential. Faxes and emails are not reliable in this case.  It is essential that we inform people about where they can make donations and what kind of donations we are accepting such as monetary or actual food products.”

“Very rarely do I not send a press release over PR Newswire. It is the most efficient way of communicating to the public and the media.”

According to Knor, in Allegheny County alone, the media coverage of The Salvation Army generated using PR Newswire over the last year totals $6 million in comparable ad space. 

“Not-for-profits should understand that the value of PR Newswire’s service to generate media coverage and exposure significantly outweigh the costs,” said Knor.

The Salvation Army’s Divisional Christmas Kettle Campaign exceeded its total amount of $1.889 Million raised in 2003 to $1.935 Million in 2004.  Knor attributes most of this fundraising as a direct result of the media exposure The Salvation Army received regarding numerous kettle sponsor challenges, “through PR Newswire, we were able to quickly and efficiently get information out to the public about where to make donations,” said Knor.  “This coverage helped to boost our online giving to more than $17,000.”

“PR Newswire has always been reliable.  As an individual who is constantly on the road, and as the sole communications person, having PR Newswire is like having a staff of PR professionals on hand.  They respond instantly to my request, and more importantly, provide a fresh set of eyes to review my news releases.”

“I would highly recommend PR Newswire to my colleagues, and do so when I speak at conferences or events regarding public relations.  I have even asked a PR Newswire representative to join me at a regional conference as a speaker to highlight the benefits of using a newswire service, particular for not-for-profits,” Knor concluded.


Upcoming Events

Jarring Jargon: How Gobbledygook Garbles Key Messages

Wed, Aug 27, 14, 13:00 ET

Join NYU Graduate PR Professor Bob Noltenmeier once again for a writing webinar on jargon that will maximize the implementation of your utilization of concise language to facilitate your key messaging. Calendar and prioritize this event Wed., Aug. 27, at 1 PM Eastern. Learn to love short words and 10 rules to write simply. Your readers will be glad you do.

Bob Noltenmeier, Clinical Assistant Professor, New York University