Tue, October 01 2013

The identity and promise of your nonprofit’s brand

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Branding •

In Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, branding and design maven Debbie Millman rounds up thoughts on brands, culture, and marketing from smart folks such as Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, and Virginia Postrel. This collection of interviews is a fascinating read for anyone who is in the business of communication and sharing ideas. Two key qualities of brands appear throughout these conversations between Millman and friends. These two qualities can help you focus your fundraising and marketing to clearly communicate your nonprofit’s unique viewpoint to donors and potential supporters.

Identity.
Your nonprofit’s brand is much more than your visual identity or carefully crafted slogans. The way your organization portrays itself to the world happens at a deeper level. The passion that fuels your mission, the people on the front lines, and the stories of those you serve— these are more powerful representations of who you are and what you do. Interestingly enough, your brand’s identity can take on a more personal meaning for your audience. When they become donors or volunteers for your cause, supporters take pride in owning the qualities of your organization and make it part of their identity, too.

Questions to consider: How is your nonprofit’s true identity portrayed? Is it different than the one you’re publishing in your marketing material? How would supporters of your organization identify themselves as part of your tribe?

Promise.
Brands can explicitly or implicitly offer promises to their audience—in most cases they do both (whether intended or not). Beyond the explicit promises you make to your donors in your fundraising appeals or in your annual report (we are good stewards of your gift, we will use 90% of funds for program activities), your nonprofit’s brand becomes a promise in itself, implying certain values each time someone encounters your organization. This is why your work to maintain trust and transparency with your donors is vital. Of course when you’re making promises, it’s important to keep them! It’s extremely difficult for an organization to rebound from broken promises in the eyes of their fans.

Questions to consider: What promises are you making to your community of supporters? What promise does your brand convey? Do these match what your donors would say?

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