Why Nonprofits Brand
When the economy slows, grant-awarding agencies, funding agencies and individual donors focus their support on the top-performing nonprofits in each service sector. From organizations serving social and youth causes to those dedicated to disability and environmental needs, nonprofits exist in a world where brand drives many of the factors affecting their long-term sustainability and success.
Consider that brand is key to attracting the best board members, staff and volunteers as well as maintaining strong relationships with funders, regulators and political entities. Specifically, your brand - which includes the visual, verbal and experiential interactions with your organization - must communicate concisely and consistently what your organization stands for and why it matters. And once that is established with your stakeholders, you must align experiences that deliver on that expectation.
In more than three decades of working with nonprofit organizations, we have found that the most successful organizations turn branding into an organizational asset that can be shared and implemented consistently by all. What’s more, their branding process is open to change as the organization evolves over time.
To the question of “why nonprofits brand,” we suggest the following highly desirable objectives:
- Share their mission
- Set expectations
- Gain attention
- Foster relationships
- Generate critical funds
- Secure partnerships
- Attract employers, volunteers, donors
- Ensure long-term survival
It may be argued that a strong nonprofit brand (and organization) is the product of having necessary resources on hand because of good fundraising and outreach, producing documented results and putting in place a talented team. On another level, a strong brand determines all these things, as strong brands attract more resources and drive acceptance and success.
There are obvious cases where operational excellence in all its forms leads to a nonprofit’s breaking through the crowded pack and emerging as a leader. In turn, there are also cases where organizations build strong brands and then coast for years, independent of what they are actually accomplishing programmatically.
The bottom line is that if donors don’t understand what you do and the difference it makes - the very essence of your brand and brand experience - they will likely donate less or move on to another nonprofit who does a better job of telling their brand story. The same can happen with volunteers. Or staff.
As the philosopher Aristotle once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act but a habit.” He may not have known he was talking about branding at the time, but that’s precisely what branding is for a nonprofit organization and why it matters.
In upcoming issues, we will talk more about nonprofit branding and address why your brand story is important as well as how you can identify strategic partners to elevate your brand and cause.
To learn more, contact Mike Smiley at 814-528-9416 or email MikeSmiley@DecisionAssociates.net