Raising Awareness and Money

A nonprofit organization needs to raise money and awareness. They go hand-in-hand but neither works well alone.

Raising money is vital to the success of a nonprofit. They need money to operate – pay staff, program expenses, overhead, equipment, etc. Many nonprofits start as all volunteer organizations with no or little expenses. Those that grow successfully have done so understanding they must raise money to support their mission and programs. Raising money is easy to measure, you set budget and goals, make a plan, evaluate success and challenges and adjust. Development plans detail how, where, when and from whom. (There is a misperception it doesn’t cost anything to run a nonprofit or that every dollar should go to program. It doesn’t work that way. Nonprofits are businesses – they need to cash to operate like any business.)

Raising awareness is important, but no organization can survive on awareness alone. Awareness gives credibility. A good editorial can raise money. Brand visibility increases awareness. A communication and marketing plan details what the goals and expected outcomes for each campaign. It includes sounds bites and message points so everyone in an organization speaks from the same place. In addition, the plan determines what the call to action is, to what audience and for what result. Measuring the success of an awareness campaign is important. Communication plans include measurement tools to determine what worked and what didn’t.

Awareness alone cannot support an organization. They need real, hard cash to operate. If you raise awareness without fundraising you risk the stability of the organization.

Greater awareness can raise more money if the call to action is clear. Raising awareness can also increase the number of community members needing services or volunteers willing to help. And you think, “That’s great, the nonprofit is there to help everyone.” It is a good thing – provided the nonprofit has the infrastructure and financial capacity to support the increase in calls for services. They may need to hire more staff or create more volunteer opportunities to support the increase in requests for help. This means they need more money.

Some think fundraising a necessary evil. I think it’s necessary but not evil. We need to train our staff, board and volunteers on the importance of raising awareness and money. It is our responsibility as nonprofit professionals, volunteers and leaders to build a solid base of financial support for our organizations. Through fundraising we create a financial legacy for our organizations which in turn will allow them to provide needed services for our communities.

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