About The Campaign

The National Social Work Public Education Campaign is a multi-year outreach effort that was launched in 2004 by the National Association of Social Workers in collaboration with the NASW Foundation to educate key stakeholders, including American citizens, the media, policymakers, employers, and social workers about the importance of this profession. We need and appreciate your support in this ongoing campaign!

What We Hope To Achieve With The Camapaign

The goals of the public education campaign are to:

  • increase awareness and respect for the social work profession; 
  • educate the public on the depth and breadth of social work practice; 
  • expand perceptions of who can benefit from social work services; 
  • attract young people to the profession; and, 
  • improve employment opportunities for professional social workers.

To gain greater support for the social work profession, we must offer greater value to more of the general public. We need to build a widespread campaign that will resonate among American citizens, the media, policymakers, employers, and social workers. Changing perceptions and behaviors is a complex process, and it will take time and significant funding to build awareness of our cause.

What The Public Thinks About Social Work

From January-April 2004, NASW worked with Crosby Marketing Communications to complete Phase I of campaign development-public opinion research. We conducted several focus groups of social workers and average citizens in three cities: Anaheim, California; Atlanta, Georgia; and Baltimore, Maryland. During these sessions, we found that the general public holds social workers in higher esteem than we initially thought. They recognized the intense pressures social workers face in their difficult work and agreed that most are underpaid. In general, social workers are viewed as valuable to society.

But what most people in the focus groups didn't understand was how diverse the social work field is and that social workers are highly-trained to do this complex work. Furthermore, few middle-class Americans believed that they, or their families, would ever need the assistance of a social worker. They thought most social workers are employed in child welfare departments and other government agencies that only assist disadvantaged families. The general perception was that social work services are limited to those in dire circumstances and few people want to think about being in these situations.

How We Can Change Perceptions About Social Work

A key purpose of conducting focus groups across the country was to test concepts (words and graphics) that could represent the social work profession in a multi-media campaign. Both social workers and members of the public related best to creative concepts that positioned social workers as committed professionals who connect people in need with important resources-in multiple settings.

Given the public's basic understanding of social work as a "helping profession," and our desire to increase awareness about where, how, and to whom, social workers provide services, we have concluded that we want to own and build upon the "helping" position.  Based on what the public already believes, we want to further promote that: "Social workers have the right education, experience, and dedication to help people help themselves whenever and wherever they need it."

In this campaign, we plan to showcase the many ways Americans of all walks of life come in contact with social work services.  We want to tell compelling stories about the diverse people who benefit from these services-and the professionals who are dedicated to the work. We do this in magazine and newspaper ads, in materials sent to journalists across the country, through myriad partner organizations, on our websites, and on radio and TV programs.

More Americans need to know that social workers are valuable resources for anyone who needs help navigating complex support systems such as patient education, end-of-life planning, substance abuse treatment, crisis intervention, mental health counseling, and employee assistance, among other services. Social workers are everywhere, in every community, and they are helping all types of people every day.

As part of our campaign we have focused on individuals between the ages of 35-54 who we believe will be most interested in learning how social workers can help their families. Many of these people, especially women, in the "Sandwich Generation" are working to raise their own children, while also taking care of elderly parents and other aging relatives. They are looking for advice, tools, and hope, on a range of issues. Social workers can, and do, provide all these things.

Reasons To Support The Campaign

Here are six reasons to generously support the NASW National Social Work Public Education Campaign:

  • Change Perceptions The average American family believes they will never need the help of a social worker. A national public education campaign can help change perceptions about who benefits from social work services and encourage more people to find the help they need.
  • Celebrate Hope Social work stories are about people helping people succeed in the face of adversity. For less than $1.00 a week this year you can help ensure that more of these stories of hope are covered in broadcast, print, and online media across the country.
  • Demonstrate ValueSocial work matters. Help policymakers, employers , allied professionals, consumers, and others understand the value social workers bring to every community, and to all families.
  • Show PrideNot enough social workers identify themselves as such. Show your pride by wearing a gold or silver professional social worker lapel pin or by distributing Stand Up for Others wristbands to young people you know.
  • Build the FutureMany students have no idea that social work is a versatile profession with limitless career opportunities for smart, creative, and socially-conscious people. Help show them that social work is a rewarding career for life.
  • Make HistoryFor more than 40 years, the social work profession has published articles on the need for a national public education campaign. During the 50th anniversary year of NASW, we successfully launched this historic effort, but we need your support to continue to tell the Social Work story.

The NASW Legacy Project

The Foundation launched The NASW Legacy Project in 2001 and collaborates with the NASW Social Work Pioneers® to collect, preserve, and archive documents, photographs, and other artifacts that illuminate the rich history of NASW and the social work profession.  Learn more >>

NASW Social Work Pioneers®

The NASW Pioneers are leaders and role models in the social work profession. Since its launch in 1994, the Pioneer Program has inducted nearly 800 accomplished individuals to its rolls. A comprehensive collection of their stories can be found within the Pioneer Biography Index.  Read More >>

Social Workers Help Starts Here Logo

Social workers help people help themselves. People of every age. From every background. In every corner of the country – wherever we’re needed – starting here and now. Get professional advice, inspiring stories, and more. Follow this link to learn more >>