We investigate the relation between an applied potential and the corresponding stationary-state occupation for nonequilibrium and overdamped diffusion processes. This relation typically becomes long ranged resulting in global changes for the relative density when the potential is locally perturbed, and inversely, we find that the potential needs to be wholly rearranged for the purpose of creating a locally changed density. The direct question, determining the density as a function of the potential, comes under the response theory out of equilibrium. The inverse problem of determining the potential that produces a given stationary distribution naturally arises in the study of dynamical fluctuations. This link to the fluctuation theory results in a variational characterization of the stationary density upon a given potential and vice versa.