Posted in NewsNotes Archive
What Does It Mean to Build a Nonprofit Brand (and Why Does It Matter)?
Another way to think about your brand perception is in terms of a simple metaphor. Consider your brand perception as a suit of clothing-it needs to feel good to be wearing it and it needs to make you look good. Ideally, it’s a little large…most brands are aspirational, something the organization needs to grow into. But it can’t be so large that it looks silly on you!
You build your brand perception on four key elements (or, to continue the metaphor, weave your suit from four threads):
While many nonprofit organizations now understand the value of a strong brand, there are still staff and board members unclear as to why a strong brand matters in the nonprofit sector. As you work to strengthen your brand, it’s important to educate those individuals. Here are some simple answers that generally make sense to those folks:
Focus: like an effective mission, a strong brand can help staff, members, etc. stay focused on what’s most important to the organization. It provides a helpful framework for evaluating new programming, strategic partnerships, etc. If you can’t show how an initiative supports the brand, you should not put resources towards it.
Efficiency: A strong brand allows you to quickly establish who you are and why you matter, which is crucial when it comes to fundraising, membership, media coverage. If people have to work too hard to figure out what you are about, they’ll move on to the next thing (and that next thing might just be an annual appeal from another organization!). On a more tactical note, having consistent brand tools (logo, visual identity, messaging, etc) simply saves time. No more hunting on the server for the correct version of the logo, or making up yet another boilerplate paragraph for the latest grant application. Translation: a streamlined approach to your brand could also streamline communications spending.
Clarity: If the marketplace is making up its own stories about your organization, and/or your staff and board are creating umpteen versions of your messaging, chances are there is a great deal of confusion about who you are, and where you are going. That confusion is challenging for both internal and external constituencies.
Impact: With so many marketing messages (also called “noise in the marketplace”) consumers tend to be overwhelmed. And when consumers are confused, they tend to stick with what they know (which might not be you!). Having a strong brand helps claim your space, gives your story a chance of being heard above the fray, and gives you a better chance of becoming the “safe” or “comfortable” option from which people don’t want to switch.
Momentum: This one’s simple…and you see it every day in your own life. The strongest brands become increasingly compelling to those most important to you (think of the momentum around the Apple iPhone, or around a winning sports team. People want to connect with brands they see as successful.
By the way, there is no such thing as an “unbranded” organization, company, product, approach, etc. You have a brand…whether you’re managing it or someone else is. Unless you are a completely new organization, there are perceptions of you in the marketplace, based on the experiences individuals have had with your organization. Ultimately, it’s easier and more cost-effective to manage those perceptions from the beginning, instead of cleaning up afterwards.
Meet author Michele Levy at Get Connected: Marketing and Communications Best Practices for Nonprofits on February 22 in Detroit. See sidebar to left.
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