Leverage the media and the private sector in the development of your plan. The media in particular can play a powerful role in bolstering initiatives to end youth homelessness. Thinking through your media strategy and being deliberate about when and what to communicate out can help build momentum for the issue, which can in turn, increase attention from government, funders and the broader community.
Knowing when and how to engage with media, getting your story covered in a meaningful way and cultivating long-term, positive relationships can go a long way toward supporting the plan and its implementation. There is an art to writing effective communications plans and media releases while cultivating a brand for your initiative. This guide for building your communications strategy provides guidance. For specific advice on social media, another useful resource for non-profits is also available. Leverage opportunities such as meetings or if you release research results. Learn to write a good ‘hook’ to engage the media (they are in the news business and want something newsworthy). Cultivate relationships with interested reporters in your community – they can become ‘go-to’ people. Finally, it is important to develop a social media strategy (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as this will this become a vehicle for directly engaging your community and help you to engage mainstream media, who tend to look to social media for leads and interesting stories.
Private sector foundations, corporations and individuals are another key source of knowledge, influence and resources for the initiative. Often, such allies and champions are already involved in committee and on non-profit boards. It’s Everybody’s Business: Engaging the Private Sector in Solutions to Youth Homelessness provides an overview of how to work with the private sector in this manner.
In Kamloops, private businesses provided early implementation support for the youth plan. Funds raised from these stakeholders were used to fund housing opportunities for youth. This leveraged private funds, but also allowed for the plan to be implemented in short order, without the need for major investment from government. It also showed results to the community, reinforcing support for the initiative.