Archive for April, 2014

Reignite your brand management with a new IDEA

Using your brand as a fundraising and marketing tool is becoming outdated. Your brand must embody your mission, requiring everyone associated with your organization to participate in brand management. How do you manage today’s brand?

With the I-DE-A framework.
Julia Shepard Stenzel and Nathalie Laidler-Kylander inThe Brand IDEA give you a framework to revolutionize your brand, increase your brand’s impact and collectively manage it.

The IDEA framework:

I – Integrity:
Does your brand align with your mission and core values?
Does your brand identity (internal) align with your image (external)?
DE – Democracy
Do you engage all your stakeholders in defining and communicating your brand identity?
A – Affinity

Does your brand allow you to collaborate and extend your sphere of influence to maximize your impact?

Join us!

Join CausePlanet founder and publisher Denise McMahan for a lively discussion with the creators of the IDEA framework, and we’ll explore how to apply this innovative lens when making critical brand decisions that affect your mission.

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Where do most boards fail when managing their brand?

In many of the organizations I’ve worked with in the past, nonprofit leaders viewed their brand management as something that existed in a silo under marketing and quasi-related to their fundraising efforts. In reality, the most high-performing brands are those that are embedded in every aspect of an organization and are rooted in a connection to the mission. Rather than looking for brand management answers in the corporate sector, you can find a useful framework in a new book called The Brand IDEA.

Branding through the nonprofit lens

The Brand IDEA presents a revolutionary framework that acknowledges the interrelated concepts of Integrity, Democracy and Affinity. At first, you might be asking how these lofty notions relate to the business of promoting your brand. After a closer look, you’ll realize how The Brand IDEA authors, Kylander and Stenzel, have created a way to cultivate your brand in a manner that’s compatible with your nonprofit.

Put “IDEA” to work for you

The authors of The Brand IDEA have created a branding framework that is founded in three principles—Integrity, Democracy and Affinity—that produce the acronym I-DE-A. This framework is both a diagnostic tool for determining whether an organization is managing its brand effectively and a prescriptive model to guide organizations in their brand management efforts. The IDEA method helps you identify potential problems with your brand, clarify your organization’s core strategy and determine whether rebranding is necessary.

“We believe The Brand IDEA fills a critical need, providing a useful framework that is focused specifically on managing nonprofit brands. Our framework is based on what a number of cutting-edge nonprofit organizations are currently doing and it has resonated strongly with many people in the sector. During our [book] interviews, we learned how the terms of Integrity, Democracy and Affinity gave people a new language to talk about brands and provided an “on-ramp” to a new way of managing brands,” explain coauthors Kylander and Stenzel.

Where do we fail?

This week, I wanted to share two of our interview questions that touch on Kylander and Stenzel’s answer to why most nonprofits fail as well as how to broach the branding topic with your board. Let’s read on about how the coauthors address these two topics:

CausePlanet: Where do most nonprofits fail when trying to manage a brand effectively?

Kylander and Stenzel: Many nonprofits fail from the outset because they do not grasp the importance of their brands in driving their missions and they fail to see the value of proactively managing their brands. In nonprofits, the brand plays important roles both internally and externally in building cohesion and trust and generating capacity and impact. You have a brand whether you manage it or not. The first step is to view the brand as a strategic asset for implementing your mission. When individuals are stuck in the old paradigm where they see the brand only as a tool for fundraising or are skeptical about the role of the brand in nonprofits, they are not able to be effective in managing the brand to achieve the organization’s desired impact.

What should your board know about brand management?

CausePlanet: What rationale might you give a board that questions the resources (time, treasure or talent) necessary to manage a brand effectively?

Kylander and Stenzel: Brand management is less about the use of financial resources and more about embracing a brand mindset throughout the organization. If you understand the brand as the embodiment of the mission, a strategic asset that enables you to increase your organization’s impact, then the brand and brand management become part of everyone’s job. Brand Democracy suggests that organizations do have to spend time and effort including all stakeholders in the articulation and communication of the brand, but the result is not only much greater organizational cohesion but also a greater number of brand ambassadors. Many individuals spoke to us about how their brand acted like a “north star” for the organization or “the lines in the road.” When you have an effective brand, it facilitates decision making and can help clarify what programs, partnerships and people best fit the organization. It also allows nonprofits to reduce the amount of control needed to manage the brand. Organizations that have invested time in building brand Integrity, Democracy and Affinity have been able to subsequently build capacity and increase their impact.

Kylander and Stenzel have created a useful methodology by which we can effectively manage our brands while simultaneously acknowledging that we run mission-driven organizations. Ask yourself if your brand is embedded in every aspect of your organization and does it reflect the mission?  Consider Kylander and Stenzel’s I-DE-A framework and investigate whether your brand is bolstered Integrity, Democracy and Affinity. Consider reading The Brand IDEA to explore how high-performing nonprofits use their brand as a north star when making decisions.

See also:


Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding

The Nonprofit Marketing Guide

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Find out what’s missing in your funder conversations

Words can inform our mind, thrill our spirit or destroy our self confidence. Some call language a “tool of transformation.” No matter the intent behind your words, leading nonprofit thinkers agree the power of language is evident in every aspect of the sector. The influence of language couldn’t be more obvious than in the article introduced by Foster, Kim and Christiansen, coauthors of “Ten Nonprofit Funding Models.”

Foster, Kim and Christiansen argue nonprofit leaders face greater financial challenges due to the lack of nomenclature surrounding recognized nonprofit business models. In their Stanford Social Innovation Review article, the coauthors researched and identified the 10 most common funding models because they felt this framework was necessary to facilitate increased understanding between the nonprofit leader and funder.  As a result, CEOs and boards would have an easier time explaining their model and instilling more immediate confidence in a recognized model to potential donors.

The nonprofit equivalent to “corporate speak”

The corporate world has long benefited from this common language in that securing investors is made easier due to the fact that a shared awareness of successful strategies such as “low-cost provider” or “fast follower” already exists. Foster, Kim and Christiansen created the nonprofit equivalent to the corporate business models by grouping these funding models according to the dominant type of funder. I’ve synthesized their taxonomy in the following list:

Heartfelt connectors resonate with existing concerns of a large donor audience. Examples are Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Komen Foundation.

Beneficiary builders rely on donors and funders who have benefited in the past from services. Examples of this model are universities and hospitals.

Member motivators compel donors to give to the issues that are integral to their lives. Churches and associations are good examples of this model.

Big bettors have a primary donor who’s often the founder and tackles a deeply personal issue. This model is evident in many nonprofit types.

Public providers offer service delivery or outsourcing for the government funder. Examples are Success for All Foundation, Head Start, and Texas Migrant Council.

Policy innovators address social issues that are not clearly compatible with government programs. Youth Villages and HELP USA are nonprofits that use this model.

Beneficiary brokers compete to deliver government-funded services to beneficiaries who pay for them. The Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation and the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership are examples of this model.

Resource recyclers collect in-kind donations and distribute goods to needy recipients. Goodwill, food banks, and product recyclers are all examples of this funding model.

Market makers generate fees or donations directly linked to their activities. Nonprofits that facilitate organ donations are an example of this funding model.

Local nationalizers have grown large by creating a national network of locally based operations. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a local nationalizer.

Nonprofit leaders considering one of these funding models should be sure to visit this article and look at the questions you can ask yourselves under each type to determine if the financial framework is a fit.

One tax status, multiple strategies

Nonprofits that model corporations’ use of shared language when discussing business models has distinct advantages. Though nonprofits file under one tax status, nonprofit leaders have the multi-faceted challenge of addressing the nonprofit’s diversified funding model as well as its business model (cost structure and value proposition). The leader’s focus is twofold-one is on the funders while the other is on the beneficiaries of the charity’s services. Creating an overall plan that acknowledges these focal points while furthering the mission captures nonprofit executives’ constant attention. What’s more, ruminating over programs and services is a comfort zone for most boards and CEOs while looking at these elements in relation to funding, cost structure and value proposition is less so.

The authors of this article assure nonprofit leaders that if they learn to adopt this shared language and an understanding of how peer organizations leverage the same model, conversations about financial matters may come easier at board meetings, with stakeholders and fundraising prospects. As the CEO of a finance and accounting firm, I’m an advocate of any measure that makes talking about the financials easier, and I applaud the effort to give each model a name. Let the power of language work for us.

See also:

The Nonprofit Business Plan: The Leader’s Guide to Creating a Successful Business Model

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money, 2nd Ed.

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Brand management: sector trends shape new practices

“You have a brand whether you like it or not. Really the only choice you have is how actively you want to shape and manage that brand,” says Ingrid Srinath, executive director of Childline India.

Coauthors Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel share this quotation by Ingrid Srinath in their book because they identify with her passion and conviction for proactively managing your brand.

Last week we featured a revolutionary approach to branding, which Kylander and Stenzel present in their new book The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity. The authors argue that the nonprofit world is changing and so must our notions surrounding brand management.

We can no longer simply borrow corporate prescriptions for overseeing our positional growth. Instead, we must adopt a framework that is both a guidepost for decision making and a test for relevancy. Integrity, Democracy and Affinity (I-DE-A) are mutually supportive terms contained in the authors’ framework and serve as the foundational concepts you can live by and depend on for organizational collaboration and expansion.

We asked Nathalie and Julia about the paradigm shift they account for in brand management as well as the most critical concept within the brand IDEA framework. Join us for the answers.

CausePlanet: We like your approach to brand management and how the framework addresses a paradigm shift. Will you please explain how the IDEA framework accommodates this shift?

Kylander and Stenzel: The Brand IDEA framework builds on the paradigm shift we have been seeing in the nonprofit sector. The framework as a whole is about effectively managing your brand to drive your desired social impact. This is a central idea in the paradigm shift, where we see the role of the brand moving from being focused on fundraising to a much broader and more strategic focus on mission impact.

The new paradigm sees the brand not as a logo, but as the embodiment of the organization’s mission and values. This is captured in the concept of brand Integrity, which includes aligning the brand with the organization’s mission and values.

Communications are no longer one-way projections of a specific image focused on donors but are about participative engagement. This is captured in our concept of brand Democracy, which actively engages internal and external stakeholders in articulating and communicating the brand.

The positioning of the brand is not to gain competitive advantage, but to achieve greater clarity and effective partnerships. This corresponds to the concept of brand Affinity, which includes leveraging your brand to identify and attract partnerships and collaborations to achieve shared goals and increase your impact.

CausePlanet: While you acknowledge the IDEA concepts are mutually supportive, which of them is most critical?

Kylander and Stenzel: Brand Integrity and brand Democracy are closely intertwined and we believe these are the most critical and the best starting points for effectively managing your nonprofit brand. The participatory process of brand Democracy is essential in creating brand Integrity. The process of achieving Integrity, or the alignment of the brand with your mission and values and the alignment of internal identity and external image, helps in turn with implementing brand Democracy. Specifically, having this alignment allows you to empower brand ambassadors by letting go of strict brand controls and providing guidelines and templates for wide use. Brand Affinity is about using your aligned brand to support partnerships and collaborations. Increasingly, nonprofits are recognizing their social objectives cannot be achieved alone. Using your brand to support shared goals can substantially increase the impact of your organization. Once you have a strong brand identity with an aligned image, which you have built through a process of brand Democracy, you can then use this brand to drive key partnerships and collaborations to achieve greater impact.

See also:

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding: Seven Principles to Power Extraordinary Results

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money through Smart Communications



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How democratic is your brand? Two nonprofits answer.

“Defining and nurturing the brand should fit within the job description of every person working for an organization. And efforts to define and nurture an organization’s brand should involve its supporters and benefactors as they work on the organization’s behalf as advocates and ambassadors,” says Christopher Stone, professor and faculty director at Harvard University.

The Brand IDEA coauthors, Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel, agree. They believe that everyone involved in nonprofit organizations, whatever his or her capacity, has a role to play in managing the brand.

The intent of The Brand IDEA is to inspire nonprofit managers, board members, funders, foundations, consultants, academics and students with a new way of thinking about the critical roles that brands play in furthering mission and social change.

Nonprofit brands are growing in their importance and position in our society. Organizations command tremendous levels of trust with the public and their brand valuations are on par with those of major corporations. Nonprofit leaders who realize the importance of managing this incredible asset will find the IDEA framework an innovative guide and tool for managing brand potential. So what is the IDEA framework? Briefly, I-DE-A is an acronym for the authors’ framework and stands for the following:

Brand Integrity

The authors define brand Integrity (the “I” in IDEA) as the “alignment between the brand identity and image and the mission, values, and strategy of the organization. Brand identity and brand image are two sides of the same coin: brand identity is the internal reflection of the organization’s brand; brand image is the external perception of that same organization’s brand.”

Brand Democracy

The authors define brand Democracy as the “extent to which an organization engages its board, staff, members, participants, volunteers, supporters, and other stakeholders in both defining and communicating the brand identity.” Through brand Democracy, your organization can achieve alignment between brand identity and image, and brand Integrity helps implement Democracy. In other words, Democracy helps define brand Integrity and Integrity helps ensure that the brand remains strong and is not “diluted or hijacked in the process of brand Democracy.”

Brand Affinity

“Brand Affinity refers to the way in which an organization extends its sphere of influence beyond the organization itself, in order to maximize social impact,” according to the authors. They continue by stating that Affinity “represents a mindset and an approach to brand management in which the focus is on shared social impact, rather than on individual internal organizational goals.”

Implementation of the IDEA approach

Since Integrity, Democracy and Affinity are “interrelated and mutually supportive,” the next step involves discussing their implementation as a whole. They recommend three steps but for the purposes of this post, I want to explore the first step: Implement brand Integrity through brand Democracy. Implementing brand Integrity involves three activities that are completed together.

Know who you are

First, conducting research and assessments involves knowing who you are and how you are perceived and understanding key audiences and how you fit in the ecosystem. Gather information internally by brainstorming short descriptors of who you are and use interviews, focus groups, program data, etc., to glean information about external image. These are called brand audits. Then, segment your audiences to understand their needs in order to differentiate yourself among other related nonprofits. This can guide your direction and theory of change and create support as well.

Connect to the mission

Second, driving alignment in two ways is crucial: connecting the brand to clear organizational mission, values and strategy through a participative process (discussing the who, what, why of your organization) and aligning the brand identity and image through an iterative process of exposing and testing internal views. A steering committee with broad representation can work on the brand, integrating external stakeholders (possibly an advisory board) and data, continually gathering outside perspectives in order to monitor the data to address misperceptions, and communicating the brand identity using visuals.

Promote the use of stories

Third, support brand ambassadors through training and promoting the use of stories. To engage internal stakeholders, explain the paradigm shift and regularly train them on the brand’s message so they internalize it. Designating brand champions and brand teams and using tools such as retreats, role-playing, reading clubs, brainstorming sessions on how to talk about the brand, etc., can help engage your staff and volunteers.

The WWF leverages a speech contest

The World Wildlife Fund recently held an elevator speech contest that asked people how they would describe the organization in 30 seconds. It chose several descriptions as winners. Using data collection techniques on perceptions as well as social media can engage external audiences, including beneficiaries, as advocates. Invite your supporters to engage in two-way communication through the networks of their choice by sharing their stories and images. Social media engagement should be simple and focused on a goal. To support these ambassadors, it is necessary to decentralize responsibility for brand communications by guiding, educating, engaging and providing tools rather than policing and controlling, as discussed in the Brand Democracy section above.

Ashoka puts “templatable” tools to use

Bev Schwartz from Ashoka has developed “templatable” tools with similar graphics and language that people can adapt to creatively communicate the brand. Other organizations, such as Amnesty International, have created brand handbooks that “capture the essence of the brand and describe the brand parameters and guidelines.” Finally, storytelling plays a major role in engaging stakeholders and communicating the brand with the heart.

Next week, I’ll talk about which element of IDEA brand management framework is most critical according to Laidler-Kylander and Shepard Stenzel as well as a paradigm shift the authors have observed in brand management. For now, ask yourself if you have begun any of the activities related to building your brand Integrity and Democracy as the authors have described it. Are you leveraging champions in your community to spread the brand? If so, how have they been trained or kept informed?

See also:

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications

Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause and Raising More Money

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Where’s the leak in your bucket?

You put a lot of effort into your fundraising. Whether you are the executive director, the development director, a board member or a volunteer, you know that every dollar raised counts.

And you probably know that keeping a donor is much less expensive than getting a new one.

But what you may not know is that despite this fact and despite the enormous amount of homage fundraisers pay to the concept of retention, the truth is that nonprofits are failing–and failing badly.

Studies across the sector reveal consistently falling retention rates. Donors are simply not staying with organizations. More than 60 percent don’t return from one year to the next. And for new donors, the numbers are worse. In 2012, 7.5 out of every 10 first-year donors didn’t give to that same organization the next year, according to the AFP/Urban Institute’s 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Project Survey.

What about your organization? Do you know your retention rates?

Are you bringing on new donors?

Are you keeping your loyal givers?

Are your new donors renewing beyond their first gift?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s like throwing your fundraising investment dollars into the wind. They could end up in the right place, but they could make no difference at all.

Our new e-workbook from Front Range Source can help. The Leaky Bucket provides simple, straightforward instructions for how to determine your retention rates for both longer-term and new donors. It’s interactive so you can plug your numbers right into the workbook and determine what’s going on in your donor database and what to do about it.

Here’s how The Leaky Bucket works:

Think of your donor file (the people who give to your organization) as a bucket. New donors come into your bucket through acquisition efforts, like direct mail, event, or board contacts. Some stay in the bucket and even upgrade their gifts over time. But, all donor files have attrition or donors that lapse or do not repeat their gifts. This attrition forms the leaks from the bottom of the donor bucket.

There are four different kinds of leaky buckets in our workbook:

The Classic Leaky Bucket: You are bringing in new donors, but not keeping the ones you already have.

What can you do: Figure out why your donors give to you and what you can do to inspire them to give again.

The Second Gift Leak: You are bringing in new donors, but they aren’t making a second gift.

What you can do: Make sure that you have a welcome system in place that engages new donors from the beginning.

The Slow Leak Bucket: You don’t have any proactive efforts in place to bring in new donors, and your existing donors are  “naturally” leaking out of the bucket. No organization can keep 100 percent of its donors.

What to do: Put an acquisition plan in place that will get you the donors you want. Don’t wait around for them!

The most important thing is to know what your bucket looks like. Even if you have good acquisition and retention strategies in place, your organization could be missing opportunities.

Take a moment to download The Leaky Bucket workbook and plug in your numbers to determine what kind of Leaky Bucket you have. The workbook will also give you more specific strategies for what to do to seal up those leaks!

See also:

Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing

Married to the Brand: Why Consumers Bond with Some Brands for Life

Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Mondey, 2nd ed.

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84,000 reasons why your board should address this agenda item

According to a study by the Bridgespan Group in 2006, the nonprofit sector will experience a shortage of 84,000 leaders. A follow-up study in 2009 reported this gap is growing despite the 2008-09 recession.

Author Tom Adams addresses these statistics and common challenges below that prevent us from grooming enough new leaders to enter the pipeline, such as:

treating people as disposable commodities,

colluding with funders and government agencies about what it truly costs to run an effective organization,

preferring hero leaders to ordinary leaders,

romanticizing the private sector’s pool of leaders,

and overlooking potential leaders who are ethnically and age-diverse.

We must overcome these obstacles and embrace the opportunity to purposefully lead our organizations beyond the person who currently holds the CEO title. After all, since increased impact does come from successful transitions, preparing leaders for their jobs and retaining them are central to nonprofit sustainability.

Adams shares six more reasons why succession planning should be on your next board agenda

We interviewed Tom Adams about his book The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide and uncovered some essential conclusions about great transition planning:

1: Yield better organizational results by championing leadership continuity

CausePlanet: We appreciate your establishing the irrefutable connection between effective leadership and organizational results. What is the most important step in broaching the succession planning topic if it hasn’t already been introduced by the incumbent CEO?

Tom Adams: First make sure a positive working relationship and trust exist between the executive and board chair/board. Without trust, this easily goes off rail. A second early step is for the board chair/champion to understand this is bigger than the CEO–it is about leadership continuity for the executive management team, key managers, staff and board.

2: Build a culture of consistency

CausePlanet: What’s the best way to get the board and staff past thinking of succession planning as a “replacement plan” and more to considering the comprehensive approach of building a culture of a consistently well-led nonprofit?

Tom Adams: Ask them to reflect on why they do the work. What motivates passion for this mission? What have they co-created? What is their legacy? What actions are needed to ensure this capacity endures and is sustainable? Best practice involves initiating a sustainability and succession planning process together.

3: Work out the values to inform your succession policy

CausePlanet: Will you please explain the importance of a succession policy and the role it plays in the overall succession plan?

Tom Adams: There is a lot of emotion and urgency when an executive announces plans to depart. It is better to work out the values and procedures to guide the transition and search before the transition occurs.

4: Consider timing before you leap

CausePlanet: In phase four, the implementation stage, of a succession plan, you provide a list of immediate changes possible for most organizations before a CEO departs. Some of them include updating the website and communications materials or filling strategic positions before the new CEO is hired. Wouldn’t these be changes better implemented by the new CEO who will live with these changes?

Tom Adams: It depends on when succession planning occurs and if it is combined with sustainability planning. If planning begins two to four years before departure, these investments increase capacity and reduce possible distractions for the new CEO. If departure is in the next year, then most key hiring can wait until the new CEO is on board. This is all situational.

5: Overcome common barriers and misconceptions

CausePlanet: What’s the most common barrier to or misconception about succession planning that prevents nonprofits from engaging in the steps to begin a plan?

Tom Adams: There is a normal fear of misunderstanding–the executive feeling forced out or the board feeling the executive is concerned about confidence in her/him. So it is easy to put off. The second barrier is a narrow understanding of the benefits. Succession planning ought to be more than a check-the-box completion of some boilerplate documents. It is a strategic process that advances mission effectiveness and the leader development culture. When seen more broadly, it is still hard to find time. With the CEO and board champions, it happens and the value becomes clear.

6: Make inclusiveness a way of thinking, working and leading

CausePlanet: Having recently added Embracing Cultural Competency and Cause for Change: The Why and How of Millennial Engagement to our summary library, we applaud your chapters that emphasize an examination of ethnically and age-diverse leadership candidates. What do you want most current leaders to know about diversity’s connection to effective leadership?

Tom Adams: Effective leaders and organizations are connected to the communities they serve. To do this well requires diversity and inclusiveness among leaders and staff. Differences advance creativity and increase mission impact. It is too easy for older white folks to say, “We tried.” The older white folks are the privileged ones who have enormous opportunity and benefits. They have a business and moral obligation to embrace and advocate for diversity and inclusiveness. While it goes beyond race, ethnicity, gender and age, it needs to start there and become a way of thinking and working and leading.

It is obvious transition planning affects every aspect of leading a nonprofit, such as the invisible yet highly impactful forces of culture and values. And yet, organizational impact has the most to gain or lose from our willingness to address leadership transitions. We all work so diligently for the incremental success we achieve toward our causes; don’t let lack of transition planning put your efforts in jeopardy. Let these 84,006 reasons be enough to get you and your board putting a plan in place. Your cause deserves no less.

See also:

Match: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time

The Leadership Challenge

The Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide

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