Why Are Nonprofits “Shy”?

Why don't nonprofits market themselves better?

I recently posed the question “Is Your Nonprofit ‘Shy’?”Boy sucking thumb, procrastinating  Basically, I wondered out loud why, despite all the benefits of being “loud” about your organization’s achievements, few nonprofits actually were.

It sparked a wonderful discussion!

Two threads against seeking publicity were shared.  One came from a reader in Germany.  His experience was that positive program results and publicity meant nothing to his organization’s government funders. They had their own ideological agenda to push which resulted in changing the recipients from a mix of Germans and immigrants to a less well-funded program aimed only at immigrants.  The staff members were told they were doing a good job, but it did not result in more funding—rather, it had the opposite effect, or no effect at all.  So seeking positive publicity seemed a waste of time.

Another thread was from a reader in Australia who indicated that her services organization served people who were stigmatized by the general population and certain politicians.  As soon as this agency came up in the press for their good work, the organization found itself in the crosshairs of elected officials who took every opportunity to vilify it.  Eventually government funding was cut which resulted in many fewer services being available to the clients.  This writer lamented the publicity received as it ended up being quite harmful.

These comments were very helpful in putting both an international and “realistic” perspective onto my initial question.  Publicity in a contentious atmosphere really MAY be a bad idea.  And sometimes the contentiousness can take the nonprofit by surprise.

Another commenter, from the United States, saw the problem in his experience as one of lack of training and of “going with what they know” rather than seeing what may lay ahead.

Yet another person (who volunteers with animal rescue organizations), wrote about using social media, such as Facebook, to promote the good work that is done. This is certainly a very common way to let the world know about positive results.  The main limitation, in my view, is it tends to preach to the choir.  But you never know who will stumble upon it and even the choir needs to know good things are happening, too!

Obviously, you need to assess you own situation as a nonprofit leader, and do what is prudent.  But I want to show an example of the kind of good publicity that I’m talking about.  This is related to an organization I have recently become a board member of, so I can take absolutely no credit for this article—but it illustrates what can may be excellent publicity for the organization serving the homeless in Dallas, Texas.  Here’s the link—enjoy the read.


Oh, by the way, I do a lot of evaluation consulting work with nonprofits.  Positive evaluations are one of the best sources for positive publicity possible—and I can work with you to have an evaluation that will provide you the kind of information you need to know how well your efforts are working.  Be sure to sign up on my website, www.richardhoefer.com, to receive updates.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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