It's kind of discouraging.
Recent polling of people's awareness of nonprofits by Grey Matter Research -- see topline results here -- basically show that hardly anyone (including active donors) is aware of nonprofits at all.
The survey asked American adults to name the first nonprofit that comes to mind for them (excluding any local place of worship). Here's what happened:
|Brand||All Americans||Active Donors||Non-donors|
|American Red Cross||20%||19%||22%|
|The Salvation Army||11%||14%||7%|
|The United Way||4%||5%||3%|
|St. Jude Children's Hospital||3%||4%||1%|
|Habitat for Humanity||2%||2%||-|
|American Cancer Society||2%||2%||2%|
|Susan G. Komen||2%||2%||2%|
|American Heart Association||1%||2%||1%|
|March of Dimes||1%||1%||-|
|Can't determine the specific organization||7%||7%||7%|
|Not actually a non-profit||2%||-||4%|
|Can't think of any||15%||7%||24%|
Only two organizations broke into double-digits. Most sat at one or two percent or less. The top four, and the majority of the rest, have physical presences in most US communities, which is probably the key to widespread awareness. Widespread being defined as 1% or more.
Some of the organizations on this list (and many more who couldn't even claw their way into the one-percents at the lower end of it) have spent immense amounts of time and money on "awareness" campaigns. In most cases, they bought snake oil from internal or external experts who told them making more people aware of them was a darn good investment that would pay off in stronger fundraising results.
Do you think anybody moved from 1% to 2% because of an awareness campaign? That would be a stunning success. I doubt it.
I'll guess the most successful awareness campaigns moved someone's awareness level from 0.966% to a commanding 0.968%
Despite all this discouraging news, thousands of intrepid nonprofits are managing to raise a lot of money. Hundreds of billions of dollars. They don't do it with "awareness." They do it by targeting the right people with specific calls to action. Do that, and you'll always be well-funded. Even if the percentage of Americans who say they know you is painfully small.