The steps to creating a successful team of volunteers for MLK Day.


In December:

Register your Project(s):

The media often contacts the Corporation for National and Community Service regarding project locations. If you have not already done so, please register your projects at Registering your project may also help with volunteer recruitment.

When listing projects, please make sure to include one of the following in the project title and description:

Determine your lead MLK Day Project and Message:

What do you want reporters and audiences to discover about your commitment to the MLK Day of Service? Identify one signature project or activity to steer the media toward. Talk about the results of previous MLK Day activities, and why this year's project is necessary. Discuss the number of volunteers you expect to participate and how these volunteers can continue to serve with your organization in the coming year. Be clear about how your project connects to Dr. King's life and teachings, and the specific accomplishments you expect from the MLK Day of Service. Review the 2012 MLK Day Key Messages to get started.

Make sure that your key messages include (as appropriate):

Secure a Media Partner:

Identify a media partner that is interested in covering and supporting your MLK Day event and will ensure your project(s) receive media coverage. Seek a partnership that allows your project to receive both lead-in and follow-up coverage. Media partners might include:

Designate and Prepare Spokespeople:

Identify media contacts that can hand out press kits, go over the contents and provide information about your organization to news people. Media contacts should also be able to direct reporters to pre-selected interviewees who can serve as spokespeople for your project or organization. Reporters will want to talk to your organization's leaders as well as volunteers and service beneficiaries, so make sure that all are well prepared.

Keep in mind that reporters may not interview the people you select, so ensure all materials that volunteers see include your key messages.

Create a Social Media Strategy:

Integrate your social media strategy into your communications plan. To find out more about leveraging social media to advance your project, please refer to the MLK Day 2012 Social Media Action Update and the Communicating through Digital and Social Media page of

Use this Action Update to Develop your Communications Strategy…

In Early January

Register with Community Calendars: Getting your essential project information on community calendars (television, radio, newspapers, web) can help you gain volunteers or early media attention. At least two weeks lead time is usually required for inclusion in community calendars.

Write and Send Press Releases and Prepare Advisories about your upcoming MLK Day Projects: Press release and media advisory templates are available at Devise media target lists and disseminate your press releases widely. Consider the lead time a particular news outlet might need when sending your press release.

Create an MLK Day of Service event on your Facebook Page: If your organization maintains a Facebook page, now is a good time to create a Facebook Event to help spread the word about your project to new audiences, generate discussion, and gain more volunteers and supporters. To create a Facebook event a page administrator will need to:

Follow Up on Media Outreach: To maximize the return on your press releases and advisories, follow up by phone if you do not receive an immediate response to your initial inquiry. Remain flexible and courteous of the newsperson's time.

In the Days just Prior to your Project

With the holidays quickly approaching and people seeking ways to give back, there's no better time to begin recruiting volunteers to help make your MLK Day project a success. As with any aspect of MLK Day planning, it's best to convene a meeting of the MLK Day planning committee to get started.

Send a Letter to the Editor: Publications appreciate timely letters to the editor. Keeping your key message and lead MLK Day Project in mind, explain your MLK Day of Service activities and why they relate to the teachings of Dr. King. Provide statistics, and ask one of your project leaders to sign the letter.

Contribute a Guest Blog Post: Discover the popular bloggers in your community. Ask a few if you can write a guest blog post for them about the service projects you've planned for MLK Day.

Prepare press kits including:

Distribute your Media Advisory: Five to seven days before your event, email a media advisory to everyone on your press list. Include important information about your project—who, what, where and when—in this final push to daily media outlets. Be sure to fax the advisory to wire service "daybooks," which are the daily calendars of events that reporters use to plan their day.

Do Media Outreach on Martin Luther King's Actual Birthday: Use Sunday, January 15, Dr. King's birthday, as an opportunity to host a press event and seek pre-event media coverage.

On MLK Day

Get Spokespeople On- Site Early: Secure reliable project spokespeople who can arrive early. Take a moment to run through your key messages and lead project with them before the day begins.

Designate a Media Sign-in Area: Make your media guests feel welcome, set up a separate sign-in area for media that is clearly marked, ensure your press kits end up in their hands, and provide your media contacts with a place to connect with reporters. This will help reporters get the quotes, stories, and pictures they need.

Get Photo Releases from All Volunteers: Have forms ready in your volunteer registration area or include a photo release check box on your volunteer sign-in sheet.

Document through Photos and Video: Refer to the Social Media Action Update to learn more about how to capture the day through photography. Do you have access to a video camera? Try filming volunteers during activities and pulling them aside for short interviews during breaks.

Additional Resources
Webinar: Final Preparations

The last MLK Day 2012 webinar, Final Preparations, will be held January 11, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. EST. The webinar will cover:

In addition, please review past MLK Day webinars, including:

If you missed last week's webinar on Developing a Communications Plan, you can view the replay or use the steps in this Action Update to create a communications plan that leverages traditional and new media to promote your project, recruit volunteers and seek in-kind support for your projects.

Writing Cards
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