Tips for building awareness

Kristin Melville

Making people and organizations in the community aware of your nonprofit organization is critical. Here are a few ways to do just that.

1. Create a very clear, consistent description of your organization that you can use in all means of communication. If someone asks you what your organization does, be able to respond in one sentence. For example, for my organization, we say: Shalom House provides housing and support services for people with serious mental illnesses in the Greater Portland area.

2. Identify your target audience.

3. On a regular basis, communicate to the media what’s happening at your organization. New programs, new staff, new grants and success stories are all newsworthy events.

4. Hitch your wagon whenever you can. Is there a local or national news story where your organization has the expertise to address the topic?

5. There is success in numbers. Joint campaigns with other organizations can help you reach a larger number of people.

6. Give people a reason to visit. Use your website as an educational tool. Offer something that is clever and fun like games, coupons, educational materials written by experts, and valuable tips that change each month.

7. Newsletters are frequently used to communicate to the public. Make your newsletter unique, easy-to-read, with lots of pictures. If your organization fundraises, always include an article about development and an envelope for donors to make contributions.

8. Community events can provide you with a captive audience. However, keep in mind these kinds of events can be labor-intensive and may not be cost-efficient. Be clear in your planning process if the event is a public relations event or a fundraising event.

9. Brand your expertise and share it with others. Utilize your agency’s professionals to help communicate your brand.

10. Real-life stories are the best illustrations of your mission.

11. Check the language of your IFS Form 990 filing. Make sure the description of your agency is accurate and up-to-date.

12. Volunteer to share your public-relations experience with others. Giving back what you know means a lot.

Kristin Melville is development director of Shalom House, provides housing and support services for people with serious mental illnesses in the Greater Portland, Maine, area.  

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