Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Making the Most of your Nonprofit's Brand
There’s a common misconception that branding is only something that “big” nonprofits can afford or have time to consider. But in truth, whether you’re thinking about it or not, your organization has a brand.
Not unlike the many brands of products on a shelf in a store, people have a multitude of options when it comes to giving of their time and money to nonprofits. Investing in and shaping your nonprofit's brand is the first step to building loyal and committed brand champions.
What is branding? And how does it affect non-profits?
First off, you must have a clear understanding of what branding is and how it affects your nonprofit. There are a few things branding is not. It is not simply your name or logo, nor is it only the visual aesthetic associated with the way your organization communicates.
Your brand is the sum of the total experience that someone might have when coming in contact with your organization. A nonprofits brand is how volunteers, staff, donors and clients feel about, experience and perceive your organization. From the way you visually represent yourself to the way you answer the phone, this total experience is affected by every way you communicate your brand.
Simply put, your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
How is branding different than messaging?
While your message is part of your entire brand, your brand is the platform in which your message is told or delivered.
For many nonprofits, their cause is truly their reason for being. Because of this, many organizations focus solely on how they “message” this cause. The downfall with this approach is that the brand experience is often times neglected.
While messaging is directly related to your cause, branding provides an opportunity to build loyalty and commitment to your organization.
What are the imperatives you must consider when exploring your brand?
Have a vision for your brand.
The vision of your brand is its reason for being. Often times the first step in developing your brand is looking at what you want to convey to someone that interacts with your organization. Your brand vision should speak to the higher calling of your organization.
Establish a clear position for your organization.
Let’s face it, even in the nonprofit landscape there’s competition. Lots of it. Everyday you’re vying for dollars, exposure, volunteers and time. Often times in the same sandbox.
With this competitive landscape, you must consider your unique position in the marketplace. What is completely unique about what your organization does or how you do it in the marketplace? This unique and compelling position should be embedded into every part of your storytelling.
Develop the voice of your brand.
The voice of your organization goes far beyond the cause (message) you’re trying to get across. It takes a deeper look at the personality of who you are.
Think of any great brands you know. Take Apple for instance. The cool and accessible personality they portray is communicated in everything they do; from their commercials to packaging to the Apple retail store experience. The result is fiercely loyal fans of their brand.
Although your voice will center on your cause, it is still imperative for any nonprofit to create a strong voice for their brand.
There is no doubt that your brand can be your organization’s greatest asset. Like all good things, it takes thoughtful consideration and development, but investment at this level can truly pay dividends in the end.
For more discussion on nonprofit branding, join the Center for Nonprofit Management Networking Event, Wednesday, April 4, 7:30 to 9:30 am at Café Express (3230 McKinney Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75204), where I’ll be talking about “7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Nonprofit’s Brand.”