Brand Awareness is No Longer Enough to Keep Your Nonprofit Alive

4 min read

It’s never been more difficult to run and sustain a nonprofit than it is today. Social sector organizations are constantly being called upon to do more with less, and there are numerous social, economic and political factors causing growing stress.

For example:

  • Cuts to federal and state-run social services are leaving more people hungry, homeless and otherwise unable to meet their basic needs. This means more people are turning to the nonprofit sector for help.


  • Cuts to government grants have decreased the total pool of money available to nonprofit organizations, while at the same time, new nonprofits are launching at a record pace (nearly 40% growth since the 1990s). This means more organizations are competing for less money.



  • Once reliable fundraising streams, such as workplace giving programs, are evolving and in some cases, drying up. This means nonprofits and foundations must find new and innovative ways to partner with the private sector.


  • The first wave of digital native Millennial donors are entering the scene with unpredictable giving habits and nearly unlimited options for social investment, from crowdfunding campaigns that support a friend’s medical expenses to venture philanthropy funds that support the explosive social enterprise space. This means an already highly competitive fundraising landscape is becoming even more cutthroat for most nonprofits.
It’s never been more difficult to run and sustain a nonprofit than it is today. Click To Tweet

So my question is: what are you doing to adapt, survive and even thrive?

Are you leveraging the full power of marketing to set your organization up for a future where you’re advancing your mission rather than simply trying to stay afloat?

If you’re still treating marketing only as a tool for raising awareness of your organization, then your answer to that question is inherently no. Awareness-focused marketing (often referred to as “brand marketing”) might have been enough to keep your organization solvent in the past, but it won’t be for much longer.

If your nonprofit wants to advance its mission and drive meaningful, measurable change for the long haul, your marketing and communications function must move beyond the world of awareness, impressions and name recognition and into the world of engagement, action and advocacy. And you must start that transformation today.

Begin by asking yourself this: what are the most important goals in our strategic plan, and how can marketing play a role in advancing each and every one of them?

While many of your strategic plan’s goals don’t quite seem like ones marketing can address, you may be surprised to find out it can. In our planning sessions with nonprofits across a wide variety of issue areas, geographies and budget levels, we’ve rarely found a strategic plan goal that marketing can’t address.

For example, we’ve built nonprofit marketing plans that address goals like:

  • Driving fundraising
  • Introducing new programs or services
  • Acquiring new program participants
  • Launching and growing social enterprise subsidiaries
  • Advocating for policy change
  • Building partnerships with other nonprofits, government agencies and private businesses
  • Recruiting and retaining volunteers
  • Recruiting and retaining staff and leadership
  • Launching new facilities
  • Educating audiences about key issues
  • Building internal cohesion and alignment among staff
  • Diversifying funding and revenue streams
  • Positioning for growth
  • Driving behavior change
  • Selling revenue-generating products or services
  • …and many more

Can you find goals like those in your strategic plan, and then start thinking bigger about how marketing can play a role in driving them forward?

I hope your answer is yes, because while running and sustaining a nonprofit has never been more challenging, it’s also never been more rewarding.

The change nonprofits are capable of driving when they fully leverage marketing has never been greater.

When marketing is at its best, it makes it possible for organizations to serve those in need and advocate for policy changes that improve their wellbeing. It makes it possible to build valuable networks and make markets work in our favor. It makes it possible to inspire evangelists today, sustain our impact tomorrow, and continue to adapt into the future.

The change #nonprofits are capable of driving when they fully leverage marketing has never been greater. Click To Tweet

It’s time to stop thinking small about the potential marketing holds for nonprofit organizations and begin utilizing it to its fullest potential.

In just a few weeks, Prosper Strategies is releasing a new suite of content and programming that will help your organization do just that. Stay tuned and check back often for more. In the meantime, check out our Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing for Nonprofits to learn how to drive your goals forward beyond brand awareness.

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