Nonprofit

How to Raise Awareness for a Cause with an Awareness Campaign

Public awareness campaigns can be wildly successful at raising consciousness for a cause. That said, nonprofits looking to raise awareness of their organization, mission, or overall cause should consider investing in this particular campaign marketing strategy. Below, learn exactly what an awareness campaign is and how to successfully execute one for your nonprofit.

What is an Awareness Campaign?

First and foremost, what is an awareness campaign? An awareness campaign refers to a time-bound, strategic nonprofit campaign designed to boost public visibility and public awareness of your cause. The goal is to garner attention to your mission and promote your nonprofit.

Essentially, awareness campaigns should act as a spreading of the word event. What is your mission? Why does your cause matter? And finally, how can others help you reach your goal? 

How paysley Helps You Raise Awareness

group of volunteers wearing blue shirts during a public awareness campaign

Paysley mobilizes donations connected to your awareness campaign. Supporters are more likely to donate with online contribution options. Specifically, paysley makes fundraising a whole lot easier with their text to give mobile donation request platform. It’s fast, safe, and convenient for both your supporters and your nonprofit. These mobile donations can be accepted from anywhere and you can manage it all from one simple login. 

You can receive donations instantly by sending a direct text to donate payment links or custom QR codes. Once clicked or scanned, supporters can view your personalized donation platform. Here they can set their contribution amount and add their chosen form of payment. They’ll encounter a simple one-click authorization of their mobile donation. After giving, donors will also instantly receive a confirmation by a receipt to their phone or email. The entire process is contactless and secure for both parties’ peace of mind.

Types of Awareness Campaigns

Flexibility is one of the greatest aspects of public awareness campaigns. Mixing a variety of strategies and marketing tactics allows you to engage with your specific audience to ultimately reach your nonprofit’s goals. The most common awareness campaign strategies include:

  • Social media marketing
  • Viral challenges
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising
  • Ambassador campaigns
  • Virtual awareness events
  • Contests and competitions
  • Partnerships with local organzations and/or businesses
  • Multichannel marketing

Awareness campaigns are designed to educate the public about your cause, get people involved in your mission, and promote donations to your nonprofit. However, awareness campaigns are quite popular among nonprofits. This means you’ll have to find a creative way to make your campaign stand out from the others.

How to Start an Awareness Campaign

Social media is full of hashtags, challenges, trends, and more. When you see friends, family, celebrities, and anyone else you follow participating in these activities, you can’t help but want to get involved too. That’s the foundation of a successful public awareness campaign: making people want to participate.

How do you get the public involved in your cause, mission, and efforts of your nonprofit? The following nine steps detail how to create a successful awareness campaign. Let’s get started!

Step One: Define Your Goals

The main goal of any awareness campaign is to establish greater public visibility of your mission. Essentially, the campaign is designed to spread awareness, hence its name. The more you increase the greater public awareness of your cause, the better your awareness campaign goes.

Unfortunately, measuring how much awareness you have raised can be challenging. To gauge the success of an awareness campaign, many nonprofits look at specific key performance indicators (KPIs). Generally, public awareness campaigns consider audience growth and digital engagement as indicators of their overall goals. While awareness campaigns often result in increased donations, fundraising is not a core goal of this marketing strategy.

Step Two: Do Your Research

You can’t spontaneously thrust yourself into a successful public awareness campaign. You’re going to have to do some research.

Take a step back and consider your nonprofit’s mission. What inspired you to start your nonprofit? Reflect on why your cause matters to not only you but your supporters and past donors as well. What motivated them to support your cause? Which efforts from your nonprofit have seen the most engagement? Through your awareness campaign, are you looking to target existing supporters or are you more interested in obtaining new supporters? Think about the current state of your cause. What aspects of your mission are currently most important?

Research all of these questions in advance to gain insight into the parameters concerning your nonprofit, its mission, and its overall cause. This research, as well as your set goals, helps you develop strategies that enable you to get the most out of your awareness campaign. Thorough research could be the thing that makes the difference between a successful awareness campaign and a failed one.

Step Three: Pick the Right Date

Think ahead to the future of your nonprofit. Do you have any expansion plans? Will you require greater capital for an upcoming project? You should grow your audience a year or more before any big expenses are incurred by your foundation. Map out the future of your cause, then strategize how much time in advance you’ll need to expand the support of your mission. Remember that you need time to plan, prep, and strategize your awareness campaign. It’s not just time for you though, as your audience needs an ample amount of time to fully engage with your cause. 

No matter the length of your public awareness campaign, it’s best to kick off or conclude your campaign with an event to get your target audience excited. The fundraising event can be virtual or in-person, whichever best suits your mission, funds, capabilities, and supporters. An event can appeal to your supporters, keep them engaged, and allow you to capitalize on that attention.

Remember that awareness campaigns and associated events need proper time to not only be planned, but promoted and scheduled with supporters too. A successful event can help to gain support, donations, and keep participants involved with your cause.

Existing awareness periods

Typically, awareness campaigns attract a wide audience, particularly when set during existing national awareness months. For instance, in the United States, May is Mental Health Awareness Month and October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Planning your nonprofit’s awareness campaign with consideration to these already dedicated time frames allows you to capitalize on the existing efforts. This may give your cause greater exposure and increased donations.

Depending on your specific cause, research the yearly or upcoming awareness periods or holidays to see if any align with your mission. 

Standalone campaigns

However, an awareness campaign does not have to fall within these timeframes. Standalone awareness campaigns can be wildly effective in expanding attention to your nonprofit cause. Further, you may have a mission or cause that does not have an existing awareness month, week, or day. This gives you the opportunity to create your own. If there is not an existing awareness period relating to your cause or if it does not have a timeline that realistically works with your goals, an awareness campaign can still be successful.

As a standalone awareness campaign, social media and virtual events have made it easier to raise the visibility of a nonprofit even without the backbone of a dedicated awareness period. If you are working with a standalone awareness campaign, think about the timeframe. Will one day be enough? Or would your cause be better off with a week or month to reach the full goals of your awareness campaign? 

Step Four: Understand Your Target Audience

First, determine who you are targeting. Will your awareness campaign be aimed at your nonprofit’s support base? Select supporters? New supporters? Once you identify your target audience, you’ll be able to develop the most effective marketing and outreach strategies. 

After defining your audience, ensure your public awareness campaign appeals to your audience. Tailor your messages, call-to-actions, and language to your preferred audience. Seek to speak to your potential supporters on their level, rather than blandly speaking to anyone and everyone in the whole wide world. Remember that tactics, platforms, and language can vary amongst demographics.

During an awareness campaign, it’s your job to find a way to promote empathy amongst your audience and resonate your message with supporters. 

Step Five: Create Your Message

volunteer holding sign-up sheet during an awareness campaign

It’s vital that your public awareness campaign messages connect to the overall mission of your nonprofit. Supporters who understand the nonprofit’s mission will be more likely to donate. They are also more likely to maintain engagement, even after the awareness campaign has ended. The most effective message comes from a focus on increasing awareness and excitement surrounding your cause. You should work to energize your existing donors, while also striving to reach a newer wider audience.

An awareness campaign may fall close to one of your nonprofit’s annual fundraising events. In this case, it’s important to make sure the messages surrounding each event are different enough that they stand out from one another. You don’t want your various campaigns, events, and other functions tangled together. Each effort needs its time to shine in order to reach its fullest potential.

Regarding messaging, it’s best to concentrate on a singular aspect of your mission rather than the entirety of your nonprofit’s purpose. Think of it as solving a master puzzle. Focusing on one piece of the puzzle at a time creates a foundation for success. If you don’t break down your efforts in your messaging, supporters may be too overwhelmed to engage.

Step Six: Build and Optimize an Event Page on Your Website

You’ve set the goals, strategies, target audience, and messaging of your public awareness campaign. Now, you need a webpage to center all of the necessary information on your efforts in one place.

Your awareness campaign needs a dedicated webpage to provide current supporters and prospective supporters with all the necessary information regarding events or efforts related to your nonprofit’s campaign. You may also want to link to an online donation system. This gives your supporters the convenience of being able to show their support on an easy-to-use virtual platform.

You want to make the process as simple as possible for your supporters. Layout the logistics of your awareness campaign, including its purpose, goals, focus, and more so your audience can fully understand what it’s all about. If you’re hosting a virtual event, make this page the hub for all vital event information.

Of course, you don’t want to overwhelm your audience with every detail about your nonprofit. However, be sure to provide links within the awareness campaign webpage for potential supporters looking for further information on your nonprofit’s mission.

Step Seven: Promote Your Campaign

Proper promotion is vital to the overall success of your public awareness campaign. You want to make sure that you’re marketing your campaign across multiple channels to cast the widest net for your audience.

Of course, you want to notify past or current donors via any email or snail mail mailing lists you already have at your disposal. You may choose to spread your awareness campaign by word-of-mouth or direct calls to potential supporters. You may also decide to invest in paid advertisements, but this can become expensive quite quickly.

Think about what methods are best for your target audience. How do your supporters like to communicate? What communication efforts have garnered the most success in the past?

Utilize social media

One of the best marketing tools at your disposal is social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are all wonderful platforms for getting the message of your nonprofit and its mission out into the world. Mobilize all of your nonprofit’s various social media accounts with messages to followers. In doing so, each platform can engage a separate audience that will help you spread the word about your awareness campaign. And when creating posts showcasing your awareness campaign, be sure to encourage followers to like and share.

When utilizing social media selling techniques, focus most on the platforms that already have high engagement rates for your nonprofit. You should send out multiple posts daily. Finally, link these posts to your awareness campaign webpage for further information, event sign-up, and possibly donations. 

Step Eight: Engage Ambassadors and Influencers

Awareness campaigns are designed to create a further reach for your mission. These campaigns are all about securing a broader audience and increasing support for your nonprofit. You can increase visibility by wrangling your nonprofit’s board, employees, and most loyal supporters to play a part in your campaign. They can be amazing advocates for your nonprofit by spreading the word about your cause, mission, and awareness campaign via word-of-mouth or on their social media platforms.

Don’t forget to enlist your most influential supporters to be ambassadors for your nonprofit! Ambassadors can help to register new members for events and even fundraise for your cause.

Step Nine: Create a Sense of Community

A successful public awareness campaign requires a nearly constant stream of engagement with your target audience. Social media has made reaching this target audience easier than ever. This streamline to your nonprofit’s audience can be used for more than just advertising and voicing your campaign messages, though. Utilize your social media presence to build a sense of community among your supporters. Encourage your audience to be active in their support by posting about the campaign themselves, sharing your messaging, and more. You want to inspire your supporters to take an active role in the conversation. 

woman and older man having conversation about how to raise awareness for a cause

Start conversations

Your public awareness campaign should seek to start new conversations about your nonprofit’s mission. Conversations allow supporters to air their thoughts, feelings, and experiences rather than being silent listeners observing the soapbox. To get the ball rolling, devise a challenge asking followers to create their own unique posts with links for their followers to do the same.

Hold a contest

People love competition. Friendly competition amongst your audience can be a great boost for support and donations. You can utilize social media for photo and video competitions. Just be sure to encourage participants to use hashtags to spread the word.

The contest can have a prize, a feature on your nonprofit’s social accounts and/or website, or simply the glory of beating the competition. The choice is up to you, but the ultimate goal is to get people actively participating in your cause whether that be by spreading awareness or donating with a chance to win. 

Cross-promote

You may want to consider sharing the awareness campaign or associated event with another brand or organization. Effective cross-promotion can double the outreach of your awareness campaign, as well as alleviate some of the weight on your shoulders. You’ll have two sets of email lists, supporter bases, social media followers, and more as an audience to your awareness campaign efforts.

Try to partner with a non-competitor that has a similar target audience to your own so that your joint public awareness campaign will be beneficial to both parties. 

Host events

How will you kick off your awareness campaign? How is your awareness campaign going to end? You need a way to begin and a way to conclude your efforts. Events can be a grand finale to end the outreach and fundraising associated with your awareness campaign. Further, a conclusive event can help your nonprofit reach its goals with a bang. Final events can see an overwhelming outpouring of support and donations. These events can also be a place to publicly thank your donors and supporters, as well as celebrate all that your team has accomplished throughout your awareness campaign.

Don’t forget that your event can be virtual, as remote awareness events have become increasingly popular. Not to mention, they’re much more cost-effective.  

Awareness Campaign Examples

Now that you know what a public awareness campaign is, as well as how to launch, execute, and conclude a successful public awareness campaign, it may be beneficial to see what a successful campaign looks like. Below takes a look at some of the most successful awareness campaigns and how their strategies spread the word about their important causes. 

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

One of the most widely known and successful public awareness campaigns was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge consisted of nominating people to either donate to Lou Gehrig’s disease research or pour a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads. The challenge went viral, which spread consciousness worldwide. This awareness campaign helped the organization raise $115 million, which was used to fund ALS research.[1]

No-Shave November

Another successful public awareness campaign with which you may already be familiar is No-Shave November. This month-long campaign is designed to raise awareness and funding for cancer prevention, research, and education. Participants are asked to shelve their razors, scissors, clippers, and any other hair trimming tools for the entire month of November. While growing out their hair, supporters are encouraged to donate any money they would have spent on haircuts and hair pruning accessories (like new razors, shaving cream, hair removal wax, etc.) to whichever cancer research organization the awareness campaign has partnered with that year.

Participants are encouraged to post pics of their hairiness, as well as inspire their friends, family, and followers to do the same or donate to the cause. Not only are the efforts seen on social media, but also in the real world, as men with bushy beards may be asked for the reasoning behind their unshaven appearance.

Many supporters partake in the event every year which creates ongoing support, an almost effortless spread of awareness, and yearly donations. 

How to Spread Awareness for a Cause: Final Thoughts

Public awareness campaigns work to gain supporter interest and educate the community in regards to your nonprofit’s mission. These campaigns are not only a popular tactic but an effective one. Your public awareness campaign should work to not only catch the attention of a wider audience but also to motivate them to get involved by volunteering their time or donating funds effortlessly through a text to give mobile donation request platform.

Attention to your cause is great, but having people do something tangible that will get you closer to reaching your mission is the real goal.

Sources:

  1. ALS Association. “Ice Bucket Challenge dramatically accelerated the fight against ALS“. Accessed February 22, 2022.


Kelsey Dykstra

Kelsey Dykstra is a freelance writer based in Vista, CA. She has been blogging for over ten years and writing her whole life. Kelsey has a B.A. in both English and Writing from Grand Valley State University. Originally from Michigan, this warm weather seeker migrated to Southern California. She enjoys writing her own fictional pieces, reading a variety of young adult novels, binging on Netflix, and of course soaking up the sun.