Charitable institutions must find unique ways to stand out among fellow nonprofits. It’s no secret that there are multiple, if not hundreds, nonprofit organizations working hard to fund similar causes. While the industry isn’t competitive in the same way that the for-profit sector is, charities still need to market themselves strategically in order to grow, make a difference and fulfill their missions.

For brand new nonprofits

If an organization is just launching or in the early, exciting phases of planning, it’s important for leaders to evaluate local needs and resources. Nonprofit Hub stated that every charity should fill a certain gap in the community with a clearly defined position. Its mission should respond to a particular need. Community residents should also be responsive to the organization and support its goals. If it’s unclear whether there is actually a need for a new nonprofit focusing on homelessness, try hosting a focus group or asking locals for their opinion on the matter. This is a great way to better evaluate the real issues facing an area.

Once a purpose has been chosen and the organization leaders have determined that a need does exist, conducting research on charities with similar missions is a must. If one or more large nonprofits are already working on eradicating homelessness in a city, consider joining forces or approaching them with additional goals, resources and assistance. It may be hard for a small, fresh nonprofit to compete with big, seasoned organizations. But that doesn’t mean the project should be abandoned.

If there are successful charities focusing on the same mission located farther away, it’s a great idea to connect with them to find out what strategies have worked well and whether they have insight into building from the ground up.

For existing nonprofits

The National Center for Charitable Statistics reported that there are currently over 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the U.S. They are public charities, private foundations, civic leagues, chambers of commerce and others. Many of the seasoned groups have relied on the same donors and strategies for years. However, as the number of registered charities continues to grow, all organizations will have to find new ways to stand out.

Guide Star recommended that nonprofits partner with a for-profit corporate entity to enhance their professional reputation and appeal to potential donors. This sort of corporate partnership actually benefits both parties. While charities can receive donations of time, energy and equipment from their business sponsors, the for-profit can benefit from tax breaks on capital spending and contributions.

When deciding who to partner with, nonprofits should consider their target market. Constituents will be more inclined to donate funding to a nonprofit that has partnered with a corporation that supports similar issues. For instance, AARP, a company that focuses on people 50 and older, partnered with LA Kitchen, a nonprofit that works to end older adult hunger. The company-cause fit is strong and will help each group raise more funding.

For all nonprofits

At the end of the day, The Storytelling Nonprofit claimed that each organization just has to ask itself two questions: What am I known for? What do I want to be known for?

Asking “What am I known for?” helps a nonprofit define where it stands within its community. It’s a realistic view of the group’s current state. Finding the answer may require conducting surveys or a little research, but it’s well worth the effort. Discovering what locals think of when they hear a nonprofit’s name and mission is a strong indication of how well its doing to market itself and fill a gap.

Asking “What do I want to be known for?” clarifies goals and identifies the ideal perception for a charity. This is an excellent opportunity for both leadership and staff to sit down and pinpoint what really makes the organization stand out. Which aspects of operations, story or impact can create a unique perspective on the charity’s focus?

If the answers to these two questions don’t align, or there are significant discrepancies, it’s time to step back and take a look at the ways in which an organization is working to stand out.