Your Brand & Communications
This is a guest post by Howard
Levy, founder of The Nonprofit Brand
Institute a branding agency that creates effective brands, websites and
marketing campaigns for nonprofits to increase their visibility, fundraising
and effectiveness.Visit them at http://npbrandit.com/
How Well Do Your Donors Know Your
In large part that depends upon how well
you are communicating your brand - your vision, values and personality. If done
well, you can form deep and lasting bonds with your donors. If not, you risk
confusing your audience. In a short-attention span world, organizations that
are able to quickly communicate their value are the ones that attract the most
This article focuses on how you can
evaluate your brand and marketing communications. A 10-step brand review will
help you assess how your brand is holding up or, if you are just starting out,
it will help you develop a successful brand.
1. Uniqueness matters
With 1 million nonprofits in the United
States competing for donors' attention, your organization needs to stand out. A
clear and compelling mission is crucial for attracting people to your cause. Is
your mission unique, easy to understand, and inspiring? Or has it become
muddled over the years?
You know what your organization does, but
do other people? Getting others to understand your message requires
persistence. A recent survey we did of long-time donors to an organization
showed they didn't fully understand the nonprofit's services. Repetition is
key, and just as you begin to tire of hearing your story, it is probably just
starting to get through to your donors.
3. Brand personality
Personality is a powerful way of
distinguishing organizations with similar missions. For example, in finding a
cure for a disease, one organization may communicate in an authoritative tone
to establish credibility on policy issues, and another may speak more emotionally to inspire people to action. Your organization's personality is conveyed
through the language, images, colors, and even the media that you use (think
policy report versus Facebook). Review your marketing materials with this in
mind (or, better yet, have others do it) to determine how your organization
4. Emotional impact
People choose to donate to an organization
because they are motivated to do so in some way. They may feel an affinity for
the organization's values, be moved by a story of someone the organization has
helped, or feel inspired by the organization's mission or leader. Language in
brochures and websites that is organization- oriented and merely describes
services (often with industry jargon) misses out on the opportunity to inspire
donors to action.
Your brand can build trust and positive
perception when you speak with a genuine voice, are consistent in your actions,
and follow through on what you promise. Strong leadership, empowered employees,
and fiscal responsibility set the right tone. Decisions inconsistent with your
mission - such as partnering with a corporate sponsor that doesn't share your
core values - undermines your credibility. Are all of your organization's
actions in alignment with its values?
If you want people to take your
organization seriously, you have to do so as well. This starts with presenting
a professional face to the world. You wouldn't take someone seriously if they
wore jeans to a job interview, so why solicit donors with an unprofessional
logo, brochure, and website? To earn people's trust, you need to ensure that
all your marketing meets a high standard of excellence.
When your donor receives your newsletter in
the mail, visits your website and receives an email requesting a donation, do
they know that they come from the same organization? Is there consistency in
how your logo colors and images are used, the values and messages that are
conveyed, and the tone of voice that is used? Consistency breeds
familiarity, recognition and trust. And it maximizes your marketing budget by
reinforcing your brand at every opportunity.
8. Communication strategy
The method and frequency in which you reach
people can be just as important as what you say. Everyone has their own
preferences for printed newsletters, email, social media, and events. The
extent to which you can tailor your marketing to your individual donor
preferences will improve your responses and potentially save you money on
Planning your marketing budget for the year
is critical to maintaining a regular brand presence in front of donors.
Consider all the ways you reach donors and map out the costs for each in a
spreadsheet to see your total fundraising and brand investment for the year.
This will also help to plan for subsequent years and provide a good basis of
10. Ongoing measurement & monitoring
Developing an effective brand is part art
and part science. You may not get everything right the first time, but you
shouldn't repeat the same mistake twice. Establish systems to track your
responses and periodically review them to determine which tactics to eliminate
and which to increase. A combination of quantitative research, such as web
traffic reports, and qualitative feedback, such as interviews, will help you
keep your message, brand and strategy on target.
A brand assessment will indicate the ways
in which you can improve your message as well as give you a better
understanding of your stakeholders. The results may help you refine or redefine
your programs and mission. You'll feel empowered, knowing that you are proactively shaping your organization's brand, rather than leaving it to fate.
This assessment can help you to:
- Communicate more clearly with donors
- Build your organization's visibility and
- Allocate your marketing budget in ways that
are most effective
- Determine if you need outside help to set
up a marketing plan with ongoing assessment and refinement
To be most effective, the brand assessment
should be overseen by one knowledgeable decision maker who can communicate well
with both staff and board members. This "brand champion" can lead the efforts
to a more effective organization. There are many resources to help you get
started, including The Nonprofit Brand Institute (npbrandit.com).