Ad Tips from Don Cassil Help Nonprofits Gain Broadcast Time

When nonprofit groups need money, one of the most difficult challenges they face is spreading the word, and this is especially true for smaller organizations with limited budgets. But one veteran ad man has some tips for the struggling fundraiser.

“It’s an extremely difficult thing for an organization to be able to use their resources for advertising,” said Stephanie Meincke, president and CEO of the Arkansas Coalition for Excellence, the state’s nonprofit association.

When budgets start to get tight, she said, advertising funds are among the first to go out the door. Also, smaller groups may not understand how the advertising industry works.

The problem is well known to Don Cassil, an advertising veteran based in Hot Springs. In 2007, Cassil created his own brand and shifted his focus entirely to nonprofits.

“They just don’t know how to do it,” he said. “And most of them can’t afford it. Most of the ones who have an agency or someone on board, those people are donating their time.”

In years past, Meincke said, it was easier for nonprofits to air TV commercials because broadcast channels had to devote a certain amount of ad time to nonprofits or charitable efforts.

“But they cut that out,” she said. “Nowadays, when you try to find free advertising on TV or radio, it’s sometimes not as easy as it used to be since they’re not required to do it.”

Nevertheless, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, stations reported in 2012 about $10 billion in donated air time and charitable contributions. It may not be as easy as it used to be, but Cassil said fundraising via TV commercials is still possible.

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “What these people don’t know is the media wants your public service commercial to fill unsold airtime. That’s the biggest thing I can get across.”

The best way to get that precious airtime, Cassil said, is simply to ask.

“Go to the media,” he said. “Be it Channel 4, 7, 11 or one of the cable channels. Ask to see who is in charge of public relations or public service. Ask them if they have some time that they can give you. Nine times out of 10, they’ll say yes, they will run the commercial, they just need a certificate that you’re a 501(c)(3).”

After that, Cassil said, a nonprofit should work with its planning committee to find a corporate sponsor who can pay for the commercial to be produced.

“The sponsor is the face of the production,” Cassil said.

Usually, Cassil said, there’s someone on the committee who knows a business owner who wants his or her company’s name attached to a nonprofit’s project. It makes the company look better and it only needs to be heard during the last four or five seconds of the commercial, Cassil said.

Then the commercial just needs to be brought to the studio airing it.

“You have to go to the media with a commercial in hand — a 30-second commercial — and in my experience, I haven’t been turned down yet,” Cassil said.

Cassil’s interest in nonprofits started when he found out about a veteran’s memorial project in Garland County that had been struggling for seven years to find funding. One day, a member of the memorial committee visited the Hot Springs Rotary Club to raise interest in building the monument.

“I said I could get him on TV. He said he would love to but he couldn’t afford it,” Cassil said. “I said, ‘What if it doesn’t cost anything?’”

Cassil featured the project in a commercial, and one year later, it was built. Since then, Cassil has performed similar services for about a dozen other groups.

Cassil is now semi-retired. Earlier this year, he wrote a book about his techniques, “Get Your Non-Profit on TV For Free,” and released it online in e-book format.