Nonprofit brands are definitely on the rise. Their ascent may have been a bit tentative at first, as they explored the best brand approaches for their organizations, but they’re finding effective ways to create and deliver brand value, and to build brand communities. As they move upward, they’re also bringing new fundraising options into view.
In this post I’ll discuss strategic brand approaches for nonprofit organizations. The time is ripe for such a discussion because many nonprofits have reached a “phase one” of brand development, where they’ve largely focused on building brand identities to aid in promotion and fundraising. They’re now ready to move to a more value-rich level of brand development using brand platforms and programs, and interactive brand communities. Freezing their brands at the identity level carries considerable downside risk.
Topics I’ll discuss include:
- Moving beyond brand identity
- The brand strategy imperative
- Building value-based brand programs
- The importance of brand context
- Brand partnership opportunities
- Leveraging the brand community
Three strategy areas for nonprofits
In general, nonprofit strategies fall into three areas:
- Strategies for mission effectiveness
- Strategies for fundraising
- Strategies for partnering and opportunity development
A nonprofit’s brand strategy can favorably impact all three areas. Historically, nonprofit brand development (as identity) has often been geared to fundraising, PR and publicity. This is probably the weakest use of brand and brand value. Brand programs produce their greatest results when they’re integrated into mission effectiveness (as collaboration tools) and into partnering and opportunity development (as value innovation.)
Moving beyond brand identity
In the nonprofit world the term “brand” has often been understood rather narrowly to mean “brand identity.” In this approach, nonprofits that seek to “build their brand” usually seek only an identity package designed to set them apart and make them more attractive to potential donors, sponsors or partners. This will typically include a memorable name, a distinctive logo or mark, a design guide to insure visual, symbolic and thematic consistency in all communications (including a website high in donor appeal), and perhaps a punchy slogan or tag line for positioning.
Once a nonprofit has its identity package in hand it usually considers its brand “done,” and is off and running with promotional campaigns.