As of this weekend, it’s officially the year-end holiday season, and no season is more important for non-profits! Not-for-profit organizations are in their final fundraising push of the year, revealing innovative and sometimes a little insane fundraising tactics (polar plunge, anyone?) to attract new donors. In their end-of-the-yea annual mailings, not-for-profits should remember that the real catalyst to effect fundraising – around the holidays and throughout the year – is having an effective brand.
We often discuss branding in terms of major corporations like Coca Cola and McDonald’s, and view it as a big business marketing ploy. Branding is really about helping people understand what makes your product (or organization!) unique and valuable. A thoughtful branding strategy can give a non-profit a major competitive edge – communicating how your organization is innovative, unique, effective and a good donor investment.
Some of the nation’s biggest non-profits have cultivated successful brands with sticking power – think the American Red Cross, a trustworthy global institution; the grassroots and inclusive Salvation Army; or the fresh and energetic Special Olympics. These organizations have invested much resources in developing their brands, but it pays off in terms of developing an organizational identity that is clear, purposeful and easy for donors to understand, connect with and – most importantly – contribute to. In fact a recent study by Communication & Leadership alumnus Elizabeth Stebbins and program director Dr. Rosanne Hartman showed a direct relationship between donors’ perceptions of a charity’s brand personality and their giving behavior.
That’s only the external impact of a non-profit’s brand. Internally, developing and promoting a brand requires strategic planning, long-term thinking and identifying solid mission, vision, and values. This strategic planning process, requiring input from the board, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders, is key to building a strong and lasting organization. On this firm foundation, non-profits can engage in the branding process: designing a logo, tag line, and visual identity scheme; developing consistent promotional materials and aligning social media and online communications with this brand.