Posts Tagged ‘nonprofit branding’

Corporations have much to gain from modeling great nonprofit brands

Spotting an exceptional brand is easy, but building one is one of the most important challenges every organization faces. So how do you build a brand that breaks through? And is there a difference from one sector or industry to the next?

That was the challenge that I was presented when approached to write a chapter for the internationally published book “The Brand Challenge”. It features some of the world’s leading brand experts from every type of business, industry and organization possible – from fashion to football; from hotels to city; from B2B to mass B2C brands AND more.

I was proud to write the chapter on branding in the non-profit sector. In contributing to the book I had a chance to compare with my fellow authors how brand building is similar and different in various categories.

My biggest takeaway – the power of great non-profits to create loyalty, drive passion, engage people and give a sense of higher purpose. There is no question that breakthrough non-profit brands offer some distinct advantages. What can other industries learn from great non-profit brands? Here are my key lessons:

1. Great non-profits serve humanity as the cornerstone of their brands
The best brands serve a societal need and stand for making more than just profits! Great non-profits have an aspirational societal goal at the heart of their brand. In serving a bigger purpose it positions the non-profit brand as a hero pursuing solutions that positively advance society and as a convener inviting others to join the movement.

2. Great non-profit brands create owners not users
The best brands are ones that create a sense of ownership. Inclusive, not exclusive, great non-profit brands create owner-based relationships with constituents; supporters feel pride of ownership and view the organization as an extension of themselves and a means to achieve goals they value. The most successful non-profit distribute power to shape the brand through tools, resources, and training that encourage creative engagement.

3. Non-profit brands are naturally VALUES driven, that is the ESSENCE of great brands
Great brands are values-driven, but many companies have not defined their values. For non-profits, knowing their higher-level values is easy because they are embedded directly into their own creation.

Values driven brands are ones where values are translated into tangible measurements of behaviour and results, where people are held accountable for living those values and achieving measurable goals. Regularly communicating social impact, non-profits bring their core values to life.

4. Great non-profit brands create a sense of community and build movements of like-minded people
The best brands are almost cult-like, creating movements of believers. Great non-profit brands create a sense of community, both inside and outside the organization. They are built on a simple, but central rule of our nature – people like to be around other people who share the same beliefs and care about similar issues and beliefs. Great non-profit brands unite groups of would-be strangers in a feeling of kinship through shared hopes and commitments.

5. Great non-profit brands have “Practical, Emotional and Engagement” benefits
Non-profit brand puts its constituents at the heart of its brand. It makes the brand personally and emotionally relevant and creates a sense of community around unifying values, commitments, and concerns. It offers a triple value proposition:

Convinces the head: Effective non-profits rationally articulate a unique and differentiated idea that explains what their organization does better than others. Then, they go further and demonstrate how this core concept is relevant to their supporters.

Touches the heart: Non-profit brands make an emotional connection by serving a higher purpose and focusing on driving outcomes. Emotional impact is in direct proportion to the social impact of the organization’s purpose.

Engages the hands: Breakthrough non-profit brands are built to engage as many constituents as possible in strategic activities that make the best use of the organizations and supporter communities’ collective energies.

6. Today, brand value is based on making a meaningful contribution society! Nonprofits have that in spades!
Non-profit brands are all about making a meaningful and impactful contribution to society and those they serve. A look at the Meaningful Brands Index, a new metric of global brand strength, shows that brands that positively affect humanity outperform the stock market by 120%.

If your brand story does not authentically and meaningfully contribute to the well-being of society or the environment, your brand will not be viewed as important. In fact, the Meaningful Brand Index report found that 73% of all brands could disappear and consumers wouldn’t care.

7. Business-community partnerships build and strengthen corporate brands

It doesn’t matter what a brand says, it what it does that counts. Building business-community partnerships with the right non-profits that align with a company’s value and help bring the brand to life are the ones that win. So whether it’s CSR, sustainability, community giving, employee volunteering, cause marketing or foundation alignment, the more good works your values support, the more favourable the brand.

Read more about my book the “Breakthrough Non-profit Branding”.

Or learn more and purchase the “The Brand Challenge.”

Special thanks to Jocelyne Daw for allowing us to cross-post this article, which originally appeared at

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Don’t let your fundraising suffer from “brandjacking”

Are you familiar with the game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” Sometimes I feel like I’m living that game show every day with my own fifth-grade son. He’s currently reading a book called Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know about Fast Food and shared a fact I didn’t know: Our world’s population more readily recognizes McDonald’s Golden Arches than it does a cross. In spite of the numerous global religions our societies celebrate and defend, the Golden Arches is a more familiar symbol. Wow. Talk about a powerful brand.

Nonprofit brands connect the donor with action

Can you imagine fundraising in an environment where everyone knows what your organization is and what it does? What a luxury, right? Our latest addition to the CausePlanet summary library focuses on this exact idea. Jeff Brooks, author of The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand, argues that a nonprofit brand must genuinely cultivate donor action.

Nonprofit leaders who follow the corporate sector’s lead on how to build a brand should follow no more. “Simply applying the principles of commercial branding to nonprofit fundraising is exactly the wrong thing to do. It’s the cause of most branding accidents,” says Brooks. He argues with an abundance of experience that a brand should inspire donors to give rather than convey abstract ideas or visuals that leave donors feeling as if they’re not needed. Brooks also guides you on how to avoid the most common pitfalls associated with branding efforts and to maintain the donor-focused approach that will ensure long-term fundraising success.

Why commercial branding doesn’t work

Namely, commercial branding focuses on abstract ideals of products or services. A nonprofit brand needs to show donors a problem in a realistic way and give them a way to combat it. It needs to show clear, emotional images to motivate and connect with its donors. It needs to know its donors and their preferences.

Don’t get “brandjacked”

According to Brooks, nonprofits must avoid “brandjacking” (“when ‘Brand Experts’ remake a nonprofit brand and render it ineffective for fundraising”). The warning signs include:

1) The new brand is not aimed at your donors.

2) The new brand requires you to abandon your donors to seek new, possibly fictitious ones, instead of expanding your base.

3) The work is not grounded in donor behavior (what donors do instead of what they say about your organization or understand in focus groups).

4) The new brand describes your cause in a symbolic way, instead of in a clear, realistic fashion to move donors to act.

5) The new brand requires absolute consistency, not leaving room for creativity or varying the messages for changing circumstances or relationships with donors.

6) The new brand is design—and little else.

We asked Jeff Brooks about “brandjacking” and his book in our author interview contained in the Page to Practice™ book summary. Here’s an excerpt:

CausePlanet: What is the most common form of “brandjacking” you observe in your client work today?

Brooks: Most common: a nonprofit hires someone from the corporate world and gives him/her carte blanche to transform the organization. That person has little or no understanding of the charity economy, and that lack of understanding plays out in branding and marketing activities that drive away donors. It typically takes two years or more for the organization to realize the size of its mistake, and by that time the marketing expert is ready to move on anyway. Then a bunch of staff gets fired or laid off, assuring there will be no organizational memory of how the brandjacking happened.

CausePlanet: What do you hope readers do with their brands after completing this book?

Brooks: I hope they’ll feel confident and equipped to build a donor-focused organization that loves and respects donors. I hope they’ll create amazing calls to action that empower donors to change the world. I hope they’ll start marketing to donors instead of organizational insiders. I regularly see organizations go through this kind of transformation, and not only does fundraising revenue skyrocket, but people in the organization start to love their work a lot more.

A widely known brand is a very tempting goal for nonprofit organizations, yet Jeff Brooks would caution you not to let slick corporate examples lead you away from a brand that genuinely connects donors to a call to action.  “The mistake many nonprofits make in fundraising is to think when it comes to talking about the cause, ‘bigger is better.’ They believe the philosophical underpinnings of the cause are more important than its specific activities,” adds Brooks. Think less about the Golden Arches and more about how your donor can help.

See more:

The Brand IDEA

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding

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