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    9 Ways to Raise Awareness for your NPO

    Awareness campaigns are one of the most popular, effective, and flexible ways to raise public interest and educate your community about your nonprofit’s mission.


    Because awareness campaigns can attract such wide audiences during existing national awareness months (think Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October), many nonprofits plan around these time frames to capitalise on the exposure and increase donations.


    However, standalone awareness campaigns can be just as effective for raising visibility for nonprofit missions. If there’s not a national awareness month or week for your cause, make your own! You’ve almost certainly heard of one of the biggest awareness success stories in history, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which has raised more than $115 million for ALS research since it began in 2014!

    How to Start an Awareness Campaign in 9 Steps:

    1. Do your research and set goals.

    Start planning your awareness campaign by determining its focus. As mentioned above, awareness campaigns are typically either standalone projects or hosted as part of broader national awareness days, months, or weeks.


    Next, take time to reflect on your mission and your supporters. You already understand your mission, but it’s worthwhile to think about what motivates your most loyal donors. Ask questions like:

    • What draws donors to your mission?
    • What messages and events are the most engaging for them?
    • Are they interested in annual giving or do they fall into the social donor category?
    • What aspects of your mission do you want to draw the most attention to?
    • What’s the current public perception of your cause?
    • Will you target mainly existing donors, or will you aim to grow your audience with new supporters?


    These insights are useful to gather in advance, as they can help shape the specific strategies and goals that you lay out for your awareness campaign. The ultimate goal of an awareness campaign is to increase the visibility of your mission, but you need concrete ways to measure that growth and visibility:

    • Audience growth, measured by one or more specific metrics:
    •  +Reach, or the number of impressions your campaign receives in various marketing channels like social media and email
    • +Subscribers or followers gained throughout the campaign
    • +The number of new donors or participants you secure during the campaign
    • +The number of searches on Google for your nonprofit’s name or cause
    • Engagement rates, measured with metrics like:
    • +The number of clicks, shares, or likes your digital marketing materials receive
    • +Event attendance and engagement
    • +Peer-to-peer participation and sign-ups
    • +Traffic volume on your awareness campaign’s landing pages


    Determine your awareness campaign’s goals (and the specific KPIs you’ll use to measure them) early in the planning process. When you know what you’re aiming for, it’s much easier to craft a strategy that will get you there.

    2. Select the right date for your awareness campaign.

    As with any campaign, you need to allow enough time for your team to plan your awareness strategies and for your audience to thoroughly engage with it. This allows your cause to build momentum over the course of the campaign.


    Determine a specific time frame for your awareness campaign with plenty of time set aside in advance for planning and preparation. If your campaign coincides with an existing national awareness month, week, or day, build your time frame around it. For standalone campaigns, consider your audience and the scale of your goals when choosing a time frame. Will a single day of awareness activities be enough to help you reach supporters, or will a week or month be better suited to your goals?


    Regardless of the exact focus of your awareness campaign, we recommend either kicking off or concluding it with a main event (either in-person or virtual as needed). An event will help you capitalise on your audience’s energy to keep them engaged through to the end or to encourage them to keep taking action after your campaign ends. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to plan it and promote it to supporters.


    3. Identify and define your audience.

    While some awareness campaigns might target a nonprofit’s entire supporter base, this isn’t always the case. You’ll need to consider whom you’re hoping to engage now so you can develop the marketing and outreach strategies that will be most effective. Narrowing down your audience segment can help your team better target the message, voice, and specific communication channels of your campaign.


    We recommend using donor personas to pinpoint the supporters who’ll be most likely to engage with your awareness campaign. Explore your CRM to learn more about audience demographics and answer questions like:

    • Who has participated in past awareness campaigns?
    • Who are our most loyal supporters in terms of long-term engagement, donations, and event attendance?
    • Where are most of our supporters located?
    • How old are our target supporters?
    • What types of campaigns or messages have been most effective at engaging them?


    As you answer these questions, think about where these donor segments overlap. Those intersections will be ideal places to focus your efforts. For instance, supporters who’ve given to your organization once before (possibly during Giving Tuesday or another high-volume giving day), are located in your city or region, and engaged with you through an online channel might be the perfect segment to focus on re-engaging through an awareness campaign.


    As your campaign strategies come together, continue using audience segments and past data on the performance of your marketing campaigns to fine tune your outreach.

    4. Craft your awareness campaign message.

    Your awareness campaign should connect back to your overall charitable mission. Research shows that donors who understand and are connected to a nonprofit’s mission have a higher likelihood of completing their donations and staying engaged beyond the single campaign. To create the most effective message, aim your promotional efforts at increasing awareness and excitement with your current donors and a new, wider audience.


    Sometimes, nonprofits find that an awareness campaign falls relatively close to another annual fundraising event. This is okay, and it’s why messaging is so important. Many nonprofits actually brand their awareness campaigns differently than their event fundraising to make them stand out.


    Focus on one particular aspect of your mission to give your campaign a more engaging level of specificity. For example, if your nonprofit’s mission revolves around education and children’s welfare, your awareness campaign might focus on child poverty or literacy issues in your community. This gives your audience of new supporters a more specific societal issue to focus on rather than feeling overwhelmed by your mission as a whole. Then, as you grow your relationships with new supporters, you can connect them back to your broader mission over time.


    5. Engage ambassadors to reach and raise more.

    Creating reach and casting a wide awareness net is core to your campaign’s success. Involving your board, junior board, executive team, and your most loyal supporters can help to significantly expand your campaign’s visibility.


    We recommend enlisting your most ardent supporters as “ambassadors.” Ambassador fundraising allows you to turn these loyal supporters and donors into active advocates and fundraisers for your awareness campaign. Ambassadors can help you reach your goals in several ways:

    • Spread the word about your mission online
    • Recruit new peer-to-peer fundraising participants
    • Fund raise directly on your nonprofit’s behalf
    • Promote your virtual awareness events and securing registrations


    Even if fundraising isn’t a core goal, ambassadors are invaluable partners for growing your reach and adding a new level of energy and enthusiasm to your campaign. If ambassadors sound like the right move for your campaign, check out our complete guide to ambassador recruitment and fundraising to learn more.

    6. Secure your awareness campaign’s sponsors.

    Sponsors and partners are a must-have in the world of nonprofit fundraising, and this trend doesn’t end with awareness campaigns. If you’re worried about competing with other nonprofits during a cause’s specific awareness week or month, try partnering up! This way both of your groups are benefiting from each other’s audience and donor base. Sponsors can help supercharge your efforts during standalone awareness campaigns, as well.


    Large corporations with well-developed nonprofit sponsorship or corporate social responsibility programmes make reliable partners for any campaign or event, but don’t forget to think local. For smaller organisations, awareness campaigns often focus on how issues are specifically affecting their community or region. Local businesses and celebrities or influencers are perfect candidates for growing your reach and visibility with the supporters who’ll drive your campaign to success. Local businesses, restaurants, TV stations, and radio hosts can all make highly effective awareness partners.


    7. Set up your awareness campaign’s web page.

    Once your campaign’s core guidelines and main strategies are in place, you need to figure out a way to drive your supporters to actually engage with your cause. To simplify this process, try investing in an online donation platform that makes it easy for supporters to engage, support, and donate to your nonprofit.


    If you’re just getting started with online fund raising software, keep the following in mind:

    • Determine your budget, and keep this in mind as you evaluate platforms on the market. Do extra features and functionality cost more?
    • Make a list of must-have features, and don’t just stop at this one campaign. Will your team need auction software?
    • What type of support and training do your vendors provide?


    At a minimum, create a centralised campaign page that includes donation tools and plenty of information about your mission and impact. For more complex awareness campaigns that include ambassador fund raising and virtual awareness events, a comprehensive virtual event centre will be your best bet for maximising engagement and providing the best possible experience to new supporters.

    8. Create a multichannel marketing plan.

    For promotion and marketing plans during awareness campaigns, it’s all about the multichannel reach. Don’t throw all your eggs in one basket. Instead, spread your campaign out across multiple channels to reach all of your supporters and drive more engagement back to your core campaign web page. Some popular channels include:

    • A dedicated page about your campaign and its purpose and goals
    • Social media posts that encourage tons of shares
    • Emails targeted to your particular audience
    • Direct phone calls to smaller segments of your audience


    One best practice here is to know where and how your supporters want to engage with your team before you even launch your campaign. If most of your donors prefer to receive phone calls, it might be a good idea to strengthen your outbound call team. Or, if social media seems to draw the most donations, step up your production schedule and post multiple social posts every day. Just be sure to actively direct your audience back to a central location (your campaign web page) where they can take next steps like signing up for an event or making a donation.


    9. Host your awareness events.

    Once your awareness campaign is underway, you’ll need to have a plan for concluding your outreach and fund raising. Events are a great way to bring your campaign full-circle, thank your donors, and celebrate the milestones from your fund raising efforts. The rise of virtual events in 2020 has made it easier (and more cost-effective) than ever to launch remote awareness events, including virtual galas and even 5Ks and bikeathons.

    For a complete breakdown of virtual event best practices for nonprofits, study up with our guide.

    Remember, awareness campaigns are all about creating long-term relationships with existing donors and attracting new supporters who can help drive your mission forward over time. With these nine steps, your team can get your next awareness campaign up and running in no time.

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