There was a lot of discussion about two Super Bowl ads this year that featured brands’ charitable commitment to corporate social responsibility: the Budweiser Stand by You commercial and the Hyundai Hope Detector. But many viewers criticized the expensive ads as ways to glorify the company and saw the promotion as insincere. Some viewers suggested that the cost of the ad could have just been donated directly to the cause, or that the ad could have been better utilized as a request for donations on behalf of the charity.
On the other side, many professionals would argue that the ads served a number of purposes. Not only do they highlight the brand in a different light, distinguishing them from the other Super Bowl commercials, but more importantly, they raise awareness for the cause. This creates value that some say exceeds the cost of the ad itself.
Awareness is certainly critical for nonprofits. Without it, nonprofits would have no place to start with soliciting donors because there wouldn’t be a pool of potential donors. So is awareness worth more than a donation for a nonprofit?
Generally, we advise nonprofits to answer the following questions before deciding to spend or shift dollars from fundraising to a more indeterminate awareness raising effort:
- How large is the reach?
- Does this audience care about your cause – are they a target audience? Are they a ‘warm’ audience?
- How likely is the audience to act and how easy is it for them to do so?
- How clearly are the need and the impact spelled out?
- And most importantly, does this help people see the human side of the cause?
There’s no formula to marketing your nonprofit and generating awareness or ‘going viral’. However, there is certainly a needed role that marketing and awareness building activities plays. The most important part is to try to answer the five questions thoughtfully, intentionally, and with the opinions of several key stakeholders at your nonprofit organization taken into account.
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