How to build your non-profit’s brand

March 29, 2008

Non-profits need to think about brand image as much as organizations in the for-profit world. Some non-profits diminish the importance of building a brand because they think that should only be the concern of corporate heavy hitters. They believe donors should just support an organization because the cause is a good one, not because of the brand. It just doesn’t work that way. Take the cause of breast cancer as an example.

Breast cancer’s pink campaign has been wildly successful. You can’t enter any store these days without finding pink ribboned or pink-coloured products staring back at you from the shelves. Supporting breast cancer research is a good cause but it has also become trendy and corporate sponsors are bending over backwards to get a piece of the pink action.

The brand awareness for this cause is enviable and it’s one that has allowed breast cancer research to advance considerably over the past several years. The marketing for the cause of breast cancer has been so successful, in fact, that it’s experienced a bit of a backlash from some who are questioning the myriad corporate sponsorships that often benefit the companies more than the cause. The pink ribbon as brand has perhaps become a victim of its own success. That’s a topic for another blog post.

The point is, that kind of brand recognition doesn’t happen by accident. It comes from thoughtful planning and an unwavering commitment to promoting your organization’s message in a way that people can understand, get behind and want to identify themselves with.

What do you communicate to your community about your cause?

  • Do you have a logo and tagline that clearly conveys what your organization does and is passionate about?
  • Do all of your promotional materials use the same language to get your point across? Is your message consistent so that people begin to recognize it as YOUR organization’s message?
  • Do you use one or two narratives when making presentations or when meeting with donors that clearly illustrate why your cause is so important? These should be simple stories using real life examples of how people benefit from your work and how the donor will benefit from supporting that work.
  • Do you manage donor support in a way that makes you stand out from other organizations? Do you have a unique recognition program or way of reporting how donor money is being put to use?

There are many ways to build your non-profit’s brand. To begin, think about how you want others to think of your non-profit and what would motivate people to support it (i.e. What’s in it for them and what does it say about them if they support your cause?). Working from here you can then build a communications and public relations plan to promote that message in a way that makes people feel good about supporting your non-profit.

A strong brand can motivate existing and new donors to affiliate with your cause—just as those who support breast cancer want to declare their support to others by wearing a pink t-shirt or rubber bracelet or by buying a toaster, drill or a Vera Wang mattress…

Let me know your thoughts about what leads to non-profit branding success. Leave a comment below.

5 Responses to “How to build your non-profit’s brand”

  1. Suggetions for Barand Awareness in low cost (NGO) Says:

    I want to know defferents ways of Brand awareness in low cost for non for profit org.

  2. Terry Says:

    Great information and so on target. BIG BUSINESS is so devious they put their logos on the “pink ribbon” and then sell products with PARABENS and other toxic chemicals linked to CANCER! LOTS OF $ goes to CURE but not to PREVENTION…WHY? Cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical industries would be PENNILESS WITHOUT ALL THIS MONEY!
    There are good intentions, but the objective is MONEY!
    Where is the accountability for where the money goes? BRAND SUCCESS is marketing at its best and the general public fall for it every time! GIVE YOUR $ to a PERSON then 100% goes to THEM. THAT IS A NOBLE PURPOSE!


  3. […] on Let’s banish bad website…messagecom on English translation not 5 star…messagecom on How to build your non-profit&#…Lynda Gilchuk on English translation not 5 star…Lynda Gilchuk on How to build your […]

  4. messagecom Says:

    Thanks for your comment Lynda. I really like that phrase, “a symbol of the organization’s noble purpose.” That sums it up nicely.

  5. Lynda Gilchuk Says:

    I think when its effective, the brand becomes the symbol of more than the organization, it becomes the symbol of the organization’s “noble purpose”. For example, everyone recognizes the Red Cross — the brand represents the purpose of Red Cross and is recognized throughout the world. Most people couldn’t tell you exactly what Red Cross is doing this month or maybe even this year…..but they could tell you what the red cross symbolizes.
    All non profits hope to find their “pink” or “red cross” Thanks for the interesting article.


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