A few months ago I wrote a piece called Three B’s To Focus on Now That You’ve Got Your 501(c)-(3). It identified three components nonprofit leaders should concentrate on once they are legally launched. I suggested they build their Brand, Budget and Board. I noted that getting these pieces right create the foundation for thriving nonprofit organizations.
There was a reason I started with Branding as that first B. There might be a few marketing professionals that will take issue with how I’m utilizing the concept of Brand and the activity of Branding here. Nevertheless, for ease of reference (Three B’s are easy to remember) and as a way to capture the big picture, identifying a nonprofit’s Brand stays true to form.
Chances are you’re familiar with some of the more well known nonprofit brands – their logos as well as what they stand for. A bit over two years ago, The Nonprofit Times published Consumers Pick Top Nonprofit Brands. The list included names such as The American Red Cross, ASPCA, Special Olympics and St. Judes Hospital. The survey was driven by asking consumers what they thought of the charity and whether they wanted to interact with it.
Larger and well-established nonprofits tend to have the resources to work with sophisticated marketing agencies that can respond to these questions. And I’m fully aligned with with Dan Pallotta and the Charity Defense Council in their assessment that this is money wisely spent. Nonprofits should commit a portion of their resources to marketing and building brand recognition: it’s critical to their ability to fundraise. Since I tend to work with newer and growing nonprofits, I wanted to offer a few suggestions for developing a nonprofit brand that will create ongoing trust and relationships with the communities they interact with:
Clear, concise mission, vision and values statements: I know what you’re thinking: We know this! Probably, but there’s always room for refinement. Even if you’re crystal clear about these statements, looking at who you serve and how you serve is a worthwhile conversation. Finally, clarity around what “puts you out of business” (we did what we said we’d do) should be known and within reach.
Consistent transparency: You know what it is and you know what it isn’t! Being forthright and honest about finances, success, mistakes and even failures and the inner workings of your organization is never a question. But it is always the answer.
Simple, direct messaging: Save your white papers, logic models and metric reports for your internal meetings. Messaging to your community – those you serve and partner with – should be in simple, easy to understand language devoid of industry lingo. Most important of all, these people are much less concerned with your goals, objectives and measurement than seeing and experiencing the real change your organization produces.
Focusing on these three practices might not be as cool and snazzy as a new logo. They will however, help your organization build the trust, recognition and support enjoyed by the best.
If you need help or guidance on the above, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or (917)733-8569.