A Bright Idea for Raising Awareness

Nearly every nonprofit tries to raise awareness about its cause.  Unfortunately, most rely on the same old tactics which, I find, don’t really reach or educate that many people.

Most groups try to raise awareness with media coverage.  They issue a news release, call a few reporters, maybe post a video on YouTube, and hope for the best.

If you’re lucky, this can result in a couple news stories.  But because we live in a 24/7 media culture, those stories are largely forgotten the next day.

My recommendation?  Stop focusing on mass media and start using “people media” to spread the word.  In other words, get your members and supporters to spread the word, and raise awareness, for you.

While mass media is fleeting, personal communications are persuasive and can have lasting impact.  Think about it this way: What would convince you to try a new restaurant in town, a newspaper advertisement or a recommendation from a friend?

Nonprofits often have thousands of volunteers who are willing and able to spread the word.  Put them to work!  By giving them specific tasks to perform, you can reach millions with your message while cultivating an active, informed and engaged membership.

The Epilepsy Foundation used this strategy for National Epilepsy Awareness Month in 2010.  It created the Get Seizure Smart! quiz and told volunteers how to distribute it.  More than 2.25 million copies were distributed through schools, libraries, businesses, houses of worship and online.

It gets better.  More than 95% of campaign participants declared it a success and said they’d do it again.  This is also a great way to show your members the value of supporting the organization.  My guess is that a follow-up fundraising appeal to this engaged audience would do spectacularly well.

Fortunately, a word-of-mouth campaign doesn’t cost a ton of money to create and implement.  So the next time you need to raise awareness about your cause, forget about mass media and instead harness the power of your supporters and friends.


Pizza (and Other Ideas for Raising Epilepsy Awareness)

I’m in Long Beach, CA at the Epilepsy Foundation’s annual Leadership Conference.  The meeting provides skill-building workshops for staff from the organization’s 50 affiliates and national office.

I led two sessions, including one on the upcoming National Epilepsy Awareness Month (November).  Our goal is to make 1 million Americans “Seizure Smart.”

My message: Stop relying on the “mass media” in to raise awareness about epilepsy.  Focus on getting people with epilepsy to spread the word. That means DIY (do it yourself).

“Grassroots” conversations are so more effective than the mass media.  They’re more persuasive, and they stand out from the 3,000 marketing messages we receive every day.  That’s more than 1 million messages a year!

During our brainstorm session, we came up with three great ways you can put the Foundation’s Seizure Smart Quiz in people’s hands:

  1. Ask your local pizza parlor to tape the Seizure Smart Quiz on every box that leaves the store in November (other merchants can put them in bags).
  2. Distribute the Seizure Smart Quiz to everyone at work, school, church and anywhere else you can imagine.
  3. On Election Day (November 2nd), recruit a few people to hand out the Seizure Smart Quiz at your local polling location.

By doing these three things, any person can easily reach 250 or more people.   And with 3 million people affected by epilepsy, we should have no problem finding 4,000 people to take action and reach our goal.

Got any more bright ideas?  Send ’em my way!

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