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5 Ways to optimize your nonprofit awareness month

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and that means charities focused on or related to pediatric cancer can get a leg-up when it comes to promotion.  From local schools and businesses to national companies and press to volunteers and donors, “awareness” months, also called commemorative and observance months, give nonprofits the ability to reinforce and strengthen existing relationships while establishing new ways to capture support.

The organization I lead, CURE Childhood Cancer, has utilized our month with fresh campaigns for co-branding with our existing community and corporate supporters, which have often repeated year after year. We also use this month to attract new cause marketing partnerships, sponsors, donors and passionate volunteers. Below are five things we have done which might also work for your organization:

  1. Hashtag power.  Create hashtags which are relevant yet fresh and share them with your entire community.  At least 90-days prior to your awareness month, create the special hashtag and announce it to your supporters across your social platform and in new print and online materials including websites, blogs, e-newsletters, staff-wide email signatures, and awareness month invitations, event announcements and fundraising materials.  Make sure your corporate and community partners include the hashtag in their co-branded materials as well. The most often used hashtag for National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is at #GoGold, and we use #GoGold4CURE which gives followers the “pop-up” of the national hashtag and the ability to still see ours.
  1. Volunteer drive.  Leverage the attention and urgency surrounding an awareness month to re-engage existing volunteers and recruit new ones.  Publicize your need for volunteers to help with upcoming events through social media and e-blasts.  This will bring attention to the awareness month itself and let people know how important volunteers are to your organization. During interactions, always give volunteers a real sense of purpose as they help further the mission of your organization and let them know they are deeply valued.
  2. Community outreach. CURE Childhood Cancer has been fortunate to have the support of the entire community during National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, particularly schools.  Providing very specific, easy, turn-key programs works best to engage schools.  Coins4CURE and Caps for CURE are fundraising programs that schools have adopted, embracing the notion of “kids helping kids”.  High schools have held “gold outs” at football and volleyball games, sporting gold ribbons and wearing gold clothing to bring awareness to childhood cancer and the urgent need to find a cure because it is the second leading cause of death among children.  Not only are these schools raising money and heightening awareness of an important cause, they are planting the seeds of philanthropy and service in the next generation.
  1. Business partnerships. Year-long sponsors and corporate partners are often willing and eager to enhance co-branding efforts during an awareness month.  Generating visibility of your cause can be done by posting signage in storefronts or office break rooms, providing stickers or pins for employees to wear and instituting point of purchase promotions to give customers a chance to donate. Additionally, corporate partners can serve as a sponsor of special events to kick off or wrap up during an awareness month.
  2. Media coverage. Media outreach is important to broadly communicate the importance of the awareness month and your cause.  It may also serve as a launching pad for new relationships with journalists and reporters.  Since they are looking for news to share, which will be both valuable and interesting for their readers and audience, be prepared to offer successes, challenges, ideas and perhaps even controversies surrounding your cause, nonprofit or research goals.  Whether you are seeking more federal funding, sharing new or changing legislation, informing how your organization has changed lives — get in touch with your local newspapers, TV and radio stations as well as popular bloggers.  Provide them with announcements of events for local participation and beneficiaries of your services who are willing to be interviewed. Always have a list of experts, patients, partners and staff who can offer current facts from different viewpoints.

Awareness months can be extremely significant for nonprofit organizations if leveraged effectively.  From new partners, supporters and volunteers to a renewed enthusiasm for solving the social or healthcare problem at the heart of your mission – make sure you optimize every day and night during your month.

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About Kristin Connor

Kristin Connor is Executive Director of CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based national non-profit which funds research to find a cure and effective treatments for children's cancer and supports programs for patients and families fighting the disease. In 2015-2016, CURE Childhood Cancer awarded 2.5 Million in grant monies to healthcare research institutions working on new treatments leading to a cure for childhood cancer.