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

Image credit: organgecountycadesigner, build-biz




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