A Flip Of A Coin Is More Likely To Correctly Identify Your Org As A Non-Profit Than A Recent Visitor

Another post I wanted to make to get people thinking and doing things differently for 2024 is based again on research Collen Dilenschneider and the IMPACTS team have done. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, they provide a lot of worthwhile data.

As with yesterday, this topic deals with how your organization is perceived by the community. In this case, it is people’s ability to correctly identify your organization as a non-profit to which they might donate.

While you might already acknowledge that not everyone knows your organization is a non-profit, it might surprise you to learn just how few people are aware your organization is a non-profit.  According to Dilenschneider, even those organizations enjoying the highest level of awareness don’t break 50% (subscription required).

Overall, only 38.6% of US adults believe that nonprofit exhibit-based organizations are nonprofits. This number considers visitors and non-visitors alike and the weighted attendance distribution of each organization type in the US.

Nonprofit performing arts organizations are in a similar situation: Fewer than half of recent patrons correctly identify them as nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit live theaters and live theater organizations are least likely to be accurately perceived as nonprofit organizations, and nonprofit orchestras are most likely to be perceived accurately as nonprofit organizations.

What is actually successful according to Dilenschneider, is emphasizing your organizational mission. She cites data that people who are unable to discern an organization is non-profit are frequently “cannot name a single meaningful achievement associated with the organization in question, despite being aware of or perhaps even visiting that organization.” She says making people aware of “unique meaningful achievements and missions” increases the likelihood that people can correctly identify an organization as a non-profit. Instead of continuing to mention that you are a non-profit, she advises emphasizing the “perceived values and impactful initiatives that an organization brings to its respective communities and constituencies.”

I go into a little more detail in my ArtsHacker post from October. If that piques your interest, check out Dilenschneider’s original post for more charts and data.


No One Knows You’re A Non-Profit (Sometimes Even After You Tell Them)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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