In 2000, I had the opportunity to go through Leadership Orlando. Of particular interest to me were the days in which traditional nonprofit issues were covered. I’ll confess much of the information was review for me – low graduation rates, high rates of students on free and reduced lunch programs, teen pregnancy. As I started getting settled in for a day of review, I noticed that the business leaders around me were looking shocked.
Prior to that experience I had often gotten upset (and somewhat angry I’ll confess) that business leaders in our community weren’t doing more about social issues. As I learned that day, it wasn’t that they didn’t care – they just didn’t know there was a problem. Based on their new knowledge, a group from our class adopted a public school in a low-income area and collected school supplies and financial donations, volunteered in the classrooms, and put together a special day for the kids (and families) in the neighborhood.
In challenging economic times, it’s more important than ever to raise awareness and introduce more people to your cause. The primary reason: If people don’t know about the need of the community and your organization, they won’t become involved (or give).
The traditional marketing funnel aims to move people from Awareness through Consideration and Preference to Action and Loyalty. Nonprofit communication also aims for action and loyalty. If someone is aware that there is a need, they can consider various ways to address that need (whether through existing organizations or on their own). They select their preference and then take action (volunteering, donating or engaging in some other work). Ideally, they will become advocates for the organization and increase their involvement (perhaps by encouraging others to become involved with the organization or through a planned gift).
When marketing about a nonprofit organization there are two different messages that need to be communicated. First, educate the community about the need (to increase awareness). If potential advocates do not know that there is a problem, they won’t become engaged in it. Next, build credibility of the organization (to increase the possibility of your organization being selected as the way to address the community need). You’ll want to make the case that your organization is the best one suited to address those challenges.

We live in a very generous society and people want to support those causes they are engaged in and passionate about. By raising awareness and inviting people to engage in the organization (whether through giving, volunteering or advocating for your cause in another way), you will be one step closer to fulfilling your mission.