[Podcast] Commercial brands need not apply with nonprofit donors

Sometimes the best way to teach others how to do something is to show them what doesn’t work first. This rationale was at the root of our question about nonprofit branding for donor communications author Jeff Brooks last week.

Nonprofits often look to the business world for inspiration and branding is no exception. Unfortunately, the branding rules for business don’t apply in the social sector.

Brooks explains that commercial brands operate successfully in the abstract ideals of good and services while nonprofits need to show the problem in a realistic way. In short, show clear, emotional images that connect.

Six warning signs that your brand has gone astray are:

The new brand is not aimed at your donors.

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

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

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

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

The new brand is design—and little else.

Listen to Jeff Brooks’ live answer about why commercial branding doesn’t work for nonprofit organizations: Jeff Brooks on Branding

Remember, to counteract the six warning signs above, you must call your donors to action. Hear more from Jeff Brooks in our podcast about communication strategies that set your organization apart from the rest.

Learn more about books on this topic and our summaries.

 

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