How to Build Nonprofit Community Awareness


How do you solve the problem of getting people to use the social services offered by your organization? This is a question that many community organizations struggle to solve. Building nonprofit community awareness is the solution.

Excellent programs for much-needed services, such as health screenings and flu shots, nutrition support, library services, educational support and even legal help may be underutilized by your community. This could lead to these programs being underfunded or cancelled while the need is still great.

There may be several reasons your community is not taking advantage of your programs, from the stigma of poverty to lack of adequate awareness that your services are available. So how can you overcome these obstacles and help more people?

Overcoming Lack of Nonprofit Community Awareness

child in new coatConnecting those in need with available resources often requires innovative strategies. At Operation Warm, we are working with our community partners to respond to this concern, by offering new programs and increased program support.

Operation Warm events attract recipients by offering free coats. This can provide a face-to-face chance for our partners to educate the community about their services.  One of the most exciting things to witness is how organizations are taking advantage of this opportunity.

The Operation Warm Coats for Kids program successfully increases public awareness of the services partners provide and helps connect those in need with those services. When you offer a brand new Operation Warm coat to a child:

  • It is easy for the community to understand how your organization serves families in need
  • You provide a tangible need
  • The colorful brand new and stylish coats do not single out or identify any family as being in need
  • The event tends to grab media attention—providing a platform for spreading the word about your organization
  • Participants come for the coats, but can learn about and take advantage of additional services.

How Four Organizations Built Nonprofit Community Awareness

Here is a review of how four different organizations used an Operation Warm Coats for Kids program to spread awareness of additional services in their community.

Chicago Public Library

The Chicago Public Library program brought economically disadvantaged children and their families to neighborhood libraries to receive gifts of new Operation Warm winter coats and two new books for their in-home library, while encouraging families to sign up for library cards.

“We put on hundreds of special events each year for the children of Chicago. The Operation Warm coat gifting events were, by far, the highlight of our year,” says Liz Mc Chesney, Director of Children’s Services at the Chicago Public Library. “Seeing the happiness of these children, who have so little, warms our hearts. Even better, these events attracted families who had never been inside their neighborhood library.”

“At the Chicago Lawn pilot program in November 2018, 116 new library cards were issued. Six months later, 78% of these cards are in active use, demonstrating the program accomplished its objective,” Chesney says.  “We find that if we can get a child into their neighborhood library, they are very likely to return. And the more time a child spends with library programs, our research shows that their academic performance improves. This is a proven program to do just that!”

Salvation Army Twin Cities

The Salvation Army Twin Cities engages the community by inviting them to Operation Warm coat giving events. The events are well-received. The Salvation Army then has the opportunity to educate Minneapolis and St. Paul families on the other services they offer. These services include:

  • Basic Needs
  • Housing
  • Youth Services
  • Rehabilitation
  • Disaster Relief
  • Counseling
  • Spiritual

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)

“In Chicago it is absolutely essential that children have a warm coat during the winter as they travel to school or play outside,” says Kristen Hamer, CHA director of community relations. “Providing these coats for children in public housing will allow the limited financial resources in their household to go a little further.”

The CHA gifts the new coats during an extensive resource fair with more than 40 booths offering information and services. These include:

  • Information on Medicare enrollment
  • Access to free college tuition at City Colleges
  • Information on workforce development opportunities
  • After school programs
  • Summer camp programs
  • Flu shots for the family.

Nemours Children’s Health System and Alfred I duPont

Nemours/Alfred I. duPont teamed up with Operation Warm to reach and engage children and families in Delaware. The coat giving events were held in the Wilmington and Dover communities. Children were selected to receive the coats through a variety of civic organizations. They were invited to attend the event with their family to receive a new coat – and they were invited to have a lot of fun!

The brand new Operation Warm coats were a draw for families to attend the events, where they learned about the healthcare facilities and programs.

“It’s very important to us as an organization that promotes children’s health, to ensure that children have what they need to survive the winter in a very healthy way,” says Michelle Shorter, the director of community engagement at Nemours.

Interested in providing brand new coats for kids in your community? We would love for you to join us as an Operation Warm Community Partner!

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