5 Steps to Increase Community Awareness for Your Nonprofit

Marketing and Social Media

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Your community can potentially boost your nonprofit’s efforts and take your organization to new heights. But how do you get the community to fall in love with your nonprofit? This can be tough for both established and startup nonprofits alike. If your community isn’t as involved as you’d like, launch a community awareness campaign and endear yourself to your community in 5 simple steps!

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1. Gauge community awareness of your nonprofit

The first step in a community awareness campaign is to determine the community’s current level of awareness about your nonprofit. This all starts with surveying the public to determine their perception of your organization. You can ask if they know about your organization and what you do in a single question. To keep things quick and easy, keep a running tally of the two possible responses (either they’ve heard of you or they haven’t).

 Want to go the extra mile? Ask respondents who have heard of your organization what they think about your nonprofit and the work you do. Keep the survey anonymous so members of your community can answer honestly. Ask respondents to rate your organization on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Don’t score respondents who haven’t heard of your organization as they’ve yet to form an opinion.

How do you get survey responses? Go into the community and ask. If your organization has both a fundraising and marketing department, team up and send employees out from both. The data you’ll acquire from surveying people in your community will be valuable to both teams. If you’ve got a small staff, train your volunteers to survey people in high-traffic areas alongside a staff member (get permission to do this, of course).

How to use your community awareness survey data

When you’ve finished collecting data, crunch your numbers. Determine what percentage of survey respondents knew about your organization and how many hadn’t heard of you. Then, determine your organization’s average favorability score. To determine your average, add the total of all the responses then divide that number by the number of respondents.

For example, if your organization asked 5 people to rate you and 2 respondents rated you a 3/5 while the remaining 3 respondents rated you 5/5 you’d add all the 5s and 3s you received together (5+5+5+3+3=21). Then divide that number by five (the number of respondents) to receive an average rating of 4.2 out of 5.

Ask yourself, did those who knew about you have a good opinion of your organization or do you have to work to change public opinion?

2. Design your awareness campaign based on responses

Your survey responses should give you a good idea of the public’s overall level of awareness of your organization and their opinion of you. Next, identify the areas your nonprofit needs to improve. Are you largely unknown? Does the public have a negative opinion of your nonprofit?

Once you’ve identified opportunities to improve, develop an awareness campaign that directly addresses those needs. If you’re largely unknown to your community, make a point to be at more community events. Pay for vendor tables and have brochures on hand (this can also be a great time to recruit more volunteers). Staff the table with employees and volunteers who are comfortable talking to the public and spreading positive awareness of your organization and the work you do.

If public perception about your nonprofit isn’t the best, endear yourself to your community by being more involved in community events and partner with businesses and organizations that are viewed more favorably (so long as it makes sense for your nonprofit).

For instance, you could become a sponsor for local community events, children’s athletic programs, or other programs your community values. This is a way to quickly gain public notice and public appreciation—especially if you make a point of showing up and actively engaging in what you sponsored.

3. Create an ambassador program

Another way to increase your visibility and change public perception of your organization is to create an ambassador program. Even if you’re not the most-loved nonprofit out there, chances are people in your community like your volunteers and employees. Ask them to be your ambassadors! Equip them with knowledge and resources (like brochures, a cheat sheet of talking points, etc.) and encourage them to share why they became involved with you.

By just talking about your organization with their social network, your volunteers and staff can raise serious awareness of your nonprofit. As a bonus, having your volunteers and employees talk positively about your organization helps others form positive opinions of your nonprofit and the work you do.

4. Find ways to become engrained in your community

Another way to become loved by your community is to become part of the very fabric of it. Unsurprisingly, traditions endure because people value them. You can either insert yourself into existing traditions such as being present at beloved community events (like county fairs, annual parades, and other recurring community events) or start your own.

If a certain holiday resonates with your cause or is a big deal to your community, create a community event and invite the public to form a new tradition. An event-based fundraiser such as an auction can increase awareness in your cause. Be sure not to step on any other community event’s toes but offer an experience that can be repeated annually and that your public will love. Don’t treat the event as a fundraising opportunity. Allow your staff to collect donations if offered, but don’t ask for them. The purpose of this event isn’t to raise funds, it’s to raise community awareness. Stick to low-cost events you don’t have to charge the public to partake in.

It may seem counterintuitive to spend money without an objective of earning it back, but if you can succeed in creating an event your community values as a tradition, they’ll fundraise to continue that tradition and keep your nonprofit afloat.

5. Show your community how much you love them

If you want your community to love you, show them some love first! Send prompt, heart-felt thank-yous to your supporters, hold volunteer appreciation events, and publicly thank your community for their support whenever you can.

Make gratitude a regular part of what you do. After your events, post a thank-you ad in the local paper or on a billboard. Can’t afford a paid thanks? Thank your supporters on social media, your website, and on free community bulletin boards. If local businesses sponsored your event, send a post-event thank-you letter and let them know what they made possible on your behalf. Publicly thank your sponsors, volunteers, and event attendees. Show your community how much their support means to you.

Final thoughts

With these steps, you can increase community awareness and the public perception of your nonprofit. Help your community fall in love with your organization by being more involved in the local community and working to always have a positive public perception.

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