When you consider the word “branding,” what comes to mind? You may think of well-known companies like Apple or Target, that advertise on a large scale and whose characteristics are immediately recognizable to most of us, who come into frequent contact with them.
But the concept of branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for large companies. And, it’s an essential piece of increasing awareness for nonprofits as well.
The obvious reason for nonprofit organizations to spread awareness of their brand is to increase donations and build a reliable donor base. However, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, many nonprofits are stepping up their brand management in order “to explore the wider, strategic roles that brands can play: driving broad long-term social goals, while strengthening internal identity, cohesion, and capacity.”
Why Should You Build a Brand?
Like any other entity, your nonprofit has a unique set of goals, characteristics, and stories. When you bring these together to form a recognizable and repeatable persona, you have a brand. The first thing most people think of when they hear the word brand or branding, is an entity’s logo. While this is one branding element, it’s only the beginning. The style, graphics, and words your organization uses to communicate all convey your brand.
But what can branding do for your nonprofit?
Creating a brand around your nonprofit allows you to separate yourself from the crowd. There are a lot of nonprofits out there (over 4,000 in VT alone!) and invariably there are other organizations with the same general mission as yours. To make a connection with donors and bring precious fundraising dollars your way, you must tell a story that illustrates the unique mission of your nonprofit.
Illustrate Your Goals
Helping donors to understand the specific goals your organization is working to achieve is a critical reason for developing a brand. Branding allows you to project your mission as an indelible piece of your organization. Potential donors can recognize these goals as the core of your brand, helping to reinforce your purpose.
Nonprofits follow the same sales and marketing rules as businesses—it’s going to take multiple touches before a potential donor will make a gift. They will have to encounter your organization several times until it becomes familiar to them. Having a brand allows you to create one cohesive image that you can present to the world. The more a potential donor sees that image, the more recognizable you become, and the more likely they are to engage with you. Branding can also give you a professional image, increasing your sense of authority.
Strengthen Internal Identity
The Stanford publication referred to branding as a way to reinforce internal identity. While your brand works to become familiar to potential donors, establishing a brand also helps to give your employees, volunteers, and board members something to rally around. They will feel like part of a team, helping to strengthen internal bonds.
Importance of Consistent Branding
A key piece of developing a brand is consistency. By constantly presenting your nonprofit using the same language, imagery, and message, you’re helping to build awareness and create a reliable image for your audience.
You should update all your marketing and fundraising materials to reflect your branding. Your social media content should echo what a visitor to your website or a recipient of your postcard will see. Consistency helps to establish the notion that you have clear, defined goals, and the experience and authority to achieve them.
Consistency can also apply to the frequency of your communications. You may have more activity leading up to an event, but work to stay in regular contact with your audience without being overwhelming. For instance, you could send one mailing per month, rather than several mailings during your campaign period and none the rest of the year.
The Power of Print
Like many nonprofits, you may be using direct mail for your fundraising campaigns. If so, you know that direct mail is an effective way to spread awareness and increase gifts. In part, this is due to the physical nature of a mail piece in our digitally saturated world. It reflects the power of print to connect with an audience—print boasts a 70% higher recall than digital.
In addition to direct mail, do you have other print collateral, such as business cards, brochures, banners/signs, or letterhead? These are all elements that contribute to the building of your brand. Where do you source these from?
By collaborating with a single source for all your printing, you can ensure that the donor experience is consistent. Each print piece can be consistent in terms of color, paper stock, and the overall look and feel.
Also, when you work closely with a source for something as important as fundraising, that source truly comes to know your organization, and can suggest avenues to explore that will accurately and effectively reflect your organization.