Why fundraisers shouldn’t waste their money on “awareness” campaigns

“Raising awareness” is an almost complete waste of money for fundraising organizations. Even if doing so is “free.” (Because nothing is truly free. But that’s another conversation.)

The OrangeGerbera blog has a great take on this: Why You Don’t Really Want Increased Awareness. That’s right: you don’t really want increased awareness.

That could land you in a heresy trial in some quarters. But it’s true:

… it should come as no surprise that not every single person in your community is interested in your cause. For those who are not inclined to have an interest, no amount of asking will ever convince them to donate in a meaningful way. What’s more, reaching every single person within your community is very expensive, and trying to reach them all would be a waste of time and money.

One problem with “awareness” is that it’s not a binary state, where people are either aware or unaware of your organization. There are all kinds of states of awareness:


  • Fully aware.
  • “Aided” aware (meaning they can name you if prompted with hints).
  • Aware, but mistaken about what you are or do.
  • Aware but not interested.
  • Aware, and they hate you.
  • Etc.

Most of those forms of awareness will not help you raise funds.

The only form of awareness that you should really spend mone seeking is Aware because they’re a donor. Think of it this way: Would you rather have 10 people who are each 10% aware of you — or one person who’s 100% aware of you? In the second case, you have some revenue. In the first you have nothing.

Don’t waste your time on awareness campaigns. Get meaningful awareness by doing fundraising campaigns.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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