Fundraising and awareness

It is difficult to successfully launch a campaign if people are not aware of your organization.

Should a nonprofit invest in marketing, communications and public relations activities? Should desperately needed funds be “diverted” to non-mission-critical tasks? What about the allocation of time: should board members and an organization’s paid leaders schedule time to focus on building awareness for the organization?

Our answer is yes. Here’s what we have learned through our work with nonprofits across the country.

  1. People need to know who you are and what you are doing. You may pride yourself as the “best kept secret” but that is not an honor. You want the reverse of that. One way to break the silence is for staff, board members, donors, friends, and recipients or beneficiaries of your work to talk about your organization and the impact it makes on the community. People listen to those they know and trust: the people who engage with your nonprofit are ideal for carrying the message. Your responsibility is to share key points and to resolve organizational issues as they arise so that the message being carried is positive and not grumblings!
  2. Tell your story. Create and use a case for support. The case is a document that communicates your organization’s impact, uniqueness, and accomplishments. It is a fundraising marketing tool, that can be used with multiple audiences and across media to communicate a consistent message. Your case should inform the content of all your communication vehicles including your website, talking points, op-ed pieces, and social media campaigns. Use the case to educate your constituency. You don’t have to become a household world. But you should seek to known amongst those you serve, local philanthropists, community and business leaders, and government leaders.
  3. Have your donors tell your story. Your current donors and funders are the people and organizations who support you. Whether large or small, you want them to sing your praises and share why they feel your nonprofit is a good investment. How you tell your story to your donors will impact how they tell your story to others.
  4. Engaged board members are a must. The board has a key role to play as advocates and endorsers of the organization. They can carry the message about your nonprofit informally amongst their networks (on-line and in-person) and formally through public speaking, editorials, and meetings with local leaders and influencers. Help your board help you: have members practice their 30 second elevator speech. With practice it becomes easier to concisely share why they are involved and how important your work is to the community.

Awareness drives fundraising. Without awareness people don’t respond to your email, come to your events, nor do they visit your website. A strong awareness campaign can attract funds you wouldn’t otherwise receive – including “windfall gifts.” You can also attract experienced volunteers and board members; in-kind gifts; media attention.

Awareness makes it easier to “open doors” because people know you.

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Your organization is worth the investment in telling your story. Learn more at

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