Approximately 1.5 million U.S. nonprofits are vying for the attention necessary to raise the money they need. Many nonprofits struggle to be noticed in the fray. How do you get your agency to stand out in a crowd? How does your organization gain the visibility it needs to generate stronger community support? How does your nonprofit become so well known that it is a household word?
Initiate Your Own PR Differently
Nonprofits usually seek visibility by issuing press releases, posting on social media, speaking at events, holding community fundraising activities, and being listed in resource and membership directories. The goal tends to be to be doing as much of these activities as possible, hoping to raise public awareness of all the good the organization does. After all, the reasoning goes, the more people that hear about the good work we’re doing, the more the community will support us. Rarely does it work that way.
Don’t get me wrong here. I believe that organizations need to initiate a fair amount of their own publicity. But not in the way nonprofits generally do it, that us, targeting the general public, trying to speak to everyone, talking about the good work their agency does. This approach assumes that a broad audience is interested in your nonprofit and that once they hear about your organization, they will be so bowled over they will support your agency. And those assumptions are not true most of the time.
So, when you target the community as a whole what happens is resources are poured into getting a message out that only resonates with a few. The return on investment is miniscule. To get better results, consider tweaking what you’re already doing. Keep issuing press releases, posting on social media, speaking at events, holding community fundraising activities, and being listed in resource and membership directories. Just be more strategic about how you’re going about it. Write press releases, social media posts, and speeches that speak to specific groups. Have one unique message you repeat again and again. And don’t make meeting your nonprofit’s goals the center of your promotion. Talk about meeting community goals instead.
Target Specific Constituencies
The best way for your nonprofit to garner more community support is for your message to come from the community itself. In other words, be the buzz. Build an inner core of community support and let those supporters be the ambassadors that recruit additional supporters. Reach a core group of supporters and, like a bullseye, let them reach the next ring out. And those people the ring after that. Imagine what that would do for your return on investment!
You start by identifying, researching, and then speaking to the specific groups you want to reach. You identify who you want to reach by building on the support of the groups you already have, your bullseye. Do your research and find out all about these groups: their demographic characteristics, likes, dislikes, values, where they hang out, and how they communicate with one another. And then design your outreach to reach them where they are through the channels of communication they use in ways they are likely to respond to. And you do this for each group you’re trying to reach. Remember the old adage “different strokes for different folks?” Well, it holds true in marketing.
The most important constituencies a nonprofit has are clients, board members, donors, staff, volunteers, advocates, and community leaders. Each of these groups has its own set of demographic characteristics, likes, dislikes, values, places they hang out, and preferred methods of communication. Which means that each constituency needs its own outreach strategy. And needs its own value proposition. Your goal is to get them to notice your nonprofit, learn what your agency is doing, and give them opportunities to interact with and spread the word about your organization. And they will – if they can identify with your nonprofit, understand what your agency is about, and see how their goals can be met through you. Which means not talking about your nonprofit’s goals, but theirs. And not in the way you find most expedients, but in the way they find easiest to see, understand, and act on.
Be Consistent in Your Messaging
Although you need to tailor your delivery to your different constituencies, you need to relay one consistent message to all those groups. This means articulating a unique marketing position. What does your nonprofit do that no other nonprofit does? You may be able to think of characteristics but you may not accurately reflect the voices of your different constituencies. Survey your different constituencies to see what they really think in addition to your own organization. Ask them what they find most exciting about your nonprofit. Ask them why the choose to be involved with your organization. Do your homework. Get the facts. Know for certain how your agency is perceived in the community.
Each constituency will value something slightly different about your nonprofit. They will all have something in common though. Where their perceptions intersect, the common factor in all of them, that is your unique marketing position. You want to relay that uniqueness to all your constituencies in every message you send. You may tailor the message’s delivery and the value propositions you relay to each group, but your core message should remain the same. That way, your message is always based on their goals and perceptions, instead of just yours. And there is no doubt about who your nonprofit is and what it stands for. That identity is what you want repeated to the community again and again.
That means training your all core constituencies to repeat the same message. Which means your unique message needs to be incorporated into your organizational culture. Which means it is in your board recruitment materials, board agenda, promotional materials, speeches, press releases, fundraising campaigns, events, staff training manuals, volunteer training materials, and any other tool that you use to communicate about your nonprofit, internally or externally. Your goal is to provide your bullseye groups with the messages they need to spread the word out the next circle. And then the circle after that. That way, community awareness of your nonprofit grows, And, since you are coming from their perspectives using their words based on their values, community support will increase.
Gaining visibility in the community is just one step in achieving strong community support. It is also important to identify your fundraising strengths and gaps, empower your board, mobilize your staff, and excite your community about your cause.
To learn what your nonprofit can do to move ahead, schedule a complementary 30-minute discovery session with me. During our time together, we will clarify the fundraising issues your nonprofit is facing, explore possible solutions, and develop a plan of action.
When you make your appointment, you will be asked a few brief questions about your situation so that I am best prepared to help you. I look forward to our conversation!