“We’re a best kept secret,” is one of the messages we hear from nonprofit leaders, staff, and volunteers. They can tell us their history, impact, and unique programs. Some know they are an economic driver; others pride themselves on how they have provided opportunities and scholarships that transformed a generation. Still others know they offer a needed service, even if others aren’t aware. They’re not in it for the “fame and glory”: rather, they serve and advocate for their communities because they know it is the right thing to do.
With this column we seek to separate bragging, beating your chest, being obnoxiously boastful, and hogging the spotlight from promoting your organization.
Promoting your nonprofit is an important part of the fundraising process. It is hard to ask people to give to your organization if they don’t know your work. While board members and volunteers can carry your story into their networks, it is much easier if there is already name recognition or a general understanding of the work you do and its value.
It is critically important that donors (and potential donors), community leaders, and others know who you are and what you do. Promoting your organization lets people know why your work matters. It is a prerequisite to many funding opportunities. Knowing – or not knowing – about an organization is one factor in who gets invited to events, and who is asked to participate in emerging collaborations.
Being a best kept secret is nothing to brag about. It is a true indicator that you have not done the necessary work to expose your nonprofit to the general public, those you could impact, and those whose giving can impact your work.
We recommend putting together an awareness and communications plan to help ensure your organization is positioned before potential board members, volunteers, and donors for both the short and long term. This should be a component of your overall fundraising plan.
It has been proven that increased exposure correlates directly to increased donors and volunteers. One way to test how well your organization is perceived by the public is the number of unsolicited gifts you receive in person, by mail, and online. When your organization is known, the work of fundraising becomes easier – though not necessarily easy.
Regardless of budget size, every nonprofit is full of promoters: these are the people you serve, teach, and advocate for. They are your staff, board members, and volunteers. They carry your message the tried and true way: through word of mouth. Encourage them to share their stories within their families, faith communities, at the grocery store, within their social group, online, and in person. Keep it clear and concise: what does your organization do and why is it important?
Being a best kept secret should send up a red flag – people don’t know you. If they don’t know you, they can’t support you. If you are in that kind of position, you have a problem. Take time to address it: let your light shine.
Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
When you are ready to grow your fundraising, prepare for a fundraising campaign, or increase board engagement we are here to help. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.