One of the key challenges faced by our grantees is raising the profile of their work. In what can so often be a very crowded sector, it can be difficult for small organisations to be heard. Sure, many people are familiar with the big NGOs, but how does a small NGO go about raising its profile and awareness of its work? This is what our grantee, Mzalendo, have been trying to do with a £10,000 grant we awarded them last year to increase their visibility and make people aware of their work. They’ve been pretty busy these last 12 months and here are some of the key approaches they’ve taken to their work:
- Building relationships: Despite being known as a funder of technology projects, we’re pretty keen on our grantees having good networks and links. Where possible, we would encourage all our grantees to form relationships with as wide a range of stakeholders as possible – from the worlds of technology, activism, civil society, business and the public. Joining an umbrella organisation that represents your interests may be something of an ‘easy win’, but it can provide you with access to a wide range of partners and supporters. It’s one reason that internet dating is becoming so popular. Think of an internet dating site as an umbrella organisation for single people and it makes sense that people would join to meet thousands of others with similar interests and in a similar position – you radically increase your chances of meeting Mr/Mrs Right. It’s the same for NGOs – joining an umbrella organisation makes it quicker and easier to meet the right people. That’s why Mzalendo joined Parliamentary Initiatives Network (PIN) Kenya. Joining PIN has provided Mzalendo with exposure to likeminded organisations and the opportunity to coordinate their work with that of other organisations for maximum effect.
- Boost your online presence: Increasingly, people are turning to the internet for their political news. As a tool, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide users with the opportunity to tailor content to their interests and needs. By following certain accounts or pages, you can get tailored political content for your needs. Mzalendo is increasingly becoming a provider of content tailored to people interested in the goings on of the Kenyan parliament. By expanding its offering to include a newsletter, live tweeting of parliamentary sessions and investing in its Facebook page, Mzalendo has been able to more than quadruple Facebook followers and increase Twitter followers by nearly 50%. Providing relevant, quality content through the right channels is a great way for small NGOs to establish themselves a presence. In a digital world, NGOs really do need to make sure they are where the conversations are happening.
- Do something new: Being spotted can be as simple as doing something new. Daring to do something that makes you stand out from the crowd or taking a new approach to an old problem can help distinguish you from other organisations doing similar work. In the case of Mzalendo, an awards scheme for Kenya’s parliamentarians has been just the ticket. Their People’s Shujaaz awards have simultaneously sought to shine a light on the good work being done by some parliamentarians and get Mzalendo exposure and awareness both within parliament and the media. Generating press coverage and improving relationships with parliament, the People’s Shujaaz awards have been such a success that Indigo is proud to be supporting the 2015 edition of the awards.
- Don’t forget the media: Social media and online networking are great ways of boosting awareness of your organisation (often at a very low cost), but in many parts of the world getting your voice into the newspapers or on the airwaves remains a vital element of any awareness raising strategy. Targeting traditional media by offering them something a little new or different is great, but reaching out to other sorts of media – community journalism or the blogosphere – is another great way of maximising reach. While political bloggers are rarely household names, they can reach significant audiences by offering something not being provided by the traditional media. Approaching both traditional and new media is a great approach that Mzalendo have been using to considerable effect.
While it may be difficult for organisations to raise awareness of their work, approaches such as those detailed above can be effective in allowing a small group to punch above their weight. If Mzalendo can do it with the relatively ‘unsexy’ work of the Kenyan parliament, then so too can any other organisation. Getting the basics of good relationships and media coverage in place can allow groups to try new ways of working and getting their message across that can be very powerful and often cost effective.