You are known by the company you keep.
No nonprofit stands alone.
It may be born alone, or die alone, but it stands together.
That’s because it’s not about “I,” but about “we” and “us.”
Your nonprofit not only fulfills a demonstrated need, but it addresses problems other folks agree need addressing. All of you are “in” on addressing the problem and making the community and world a better place.
The company you keep should reflect your community.
Community based. Significance-based. Story-based.
Friendships. Deep connections. Relationship building.
This all creates the nonprofit brand.
Put another way, as my friends at The Ross Collective say: “People who are closest to the problems are weighing in on the solutions.”
Branding is Vital in Today’s Rapidly Changing Environment
First, let’s define “branding.” It’s likely not what you think.
It doesn’t mean advertising (promotion). Or marketing (how you build awareness).
Rather, it is the mark you make that reflects who you are and the promises you vow to keep.
In other words, it’s not so much what you say as what you do.
You are an actor on a local, national or world stage. And people are watching.
Success Depends on Matching your Heart and Soul to that of Your Community Members
You must show how the values you enact on a daily basis match the values your audiences hold most dear.
Begin by articulating your value proposition.
- What guides you on a daily basis?
- What matters most to you?
- What underlies all your work, and the ways you engage with your various constituencies — both externally and internally?
- What would happen if you ceased to exist? Would anyone care? Would enough people care?
Branding is not just what you personally stand for, or hope to stand for. That’s an individual thought exercise.
True branding is a community endeavor.
And everyone in your community (other staff; board; volunteers), should have clarity and agreement on what distinguishes your brand from others serving similar populations.
Brands are Built on Relationships
Truly, an under-appreciated part of the philanthropic value exchange is the relational one. So, consider what you might do to build opportunities for relationship building.
Bringing people together changes everything.
And, yes, you can do this virtually. Bringing people together is magical, because:
- It creates a new level of connection, belonging and mutual support.
- It’s emotional, not intellectual.
- It’s active, not passive.
- It’s ongoing, thus sustainable.
Once you have relationships with people who value your brand – essentially the promise you make, and the promise they now trust you to keep – you can fruitfully engage in calls to action.
Types of Calls to Action
Consider your goals, and what type of call to action will bring you closest to those goals. It can be tricky, because most nonprofits are woefully under-resourced in both marketing and fundraising. And they all too often keep marketing siloed from fundraising. When you can’t come together internally as one community, how can you expect to build community externally?
Begin with the audience your most want, and need, to reach. Also consider how much they know about you, or may be inclined to want to know about you. Here are the principle calls to action you’ll want to explore:
- Calls to public. Goes to everyone. Little dollars; lots of people.
- Calls to donors. Goes to philanthropic prospects. Lots of dollars; little amounts of people.
- Calls to government. Goes to a narrowly targeted prospect. Lots of dollars and power.
- Calls to community. Goes to an aggregate of supporters. Lots of word-of-mouth potential.
Getting the word out is paramount to creating awareness. An integrated marketing and fundraising plan is paramount to creating interest, engagement and investment. When you don’t give community members the opportunity to move along the marketing continuum — from awareness… to interest… to engagement… to investment — you’ll never achieve long-term fundraising success.
Successful Branding Builds on Community
Never forget this one simple rule of human nature:
People like being around other people who care about similar things; who share values and beliefs.
You need to know what people want from you in exchange for the value they offer you. Then you need to deliver.
Philanthropy – aka “love of humankind” – is a reciprocal endeavor. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Communities Care for their Members
This is a very human venture. Empathy, compassion and emotion are embedded in the notion of community.
People want to belong.
It brings them fulfillment, peace of mind and even joy.
Your job is to move people to act on this desire for communion.
- What can they do to feel they really fit in?
- How can you elicit an emotional response?
- What can you do to sustain the good feelings?
- What value can you offer that’s perceived as a more than fair exchange?
When values are shared, they gain power and traction, leading to:
- Sharing with others – extending your network
- Influencing others – extending your fundraising
- Collective engagement – extending the scope of your impact
An under-appreciated part of your job is to develop strategies to bring your community together.
This will solidify and amplify the knowledge, beliefs, values and traditions you all share.
In fact, it was Darwin who posited the notion that the communities who cared for their members were the ones that survived. It turns out humans are wired for compassion and altruism, and generosity is contagious.
Think about that for a moment. It’s powerful stuff.
Might it Be Time to Revisit Your Guiding Principles?
That’s why I created my 7 Clairification Keys eGuide,.
Through a series of “clairifying” worksheets and exercises you’ll flesh out your (1) Values; (2) Stories; (3) Brand; (4) Social Channels; (5) Support Constituencies; (6) Engagement Objectives, and (7) Resources and Systems. This 42-page e-guide includes a wealth of materials to help you develop the necessary mindset, and supporting infrastructure to unlock your nonprofit’s fundraising potential and show donor-investors what’s in it for them to affiliate with you. What value do you offer? And why is it better than what anyone else is offering?
If you’re not satisfied, for any reason, you have my 30-day, no-questions-asked, 100% refund guarantee.
Refresh your thinking, and refresh your plans!
P.S. Earlier this week I sent an Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Plan Workbook as a BONUS to Clairification School students. It’s another resource that will help you assure all your actions are the best possible ones to get you where you want to go. Not as an individual or siloed department, not as staff vs. board, but as a whole organization. If that sounds useful to you, enroll here as a Clairification student, and I’ll send it to you. Plus… you’ll get all the other benefits. Plus, if you enroll at the “Apprentice” level you’ll also get an hour of coaching thrown — any time you want it during the year — in at HALF my normal fee.
Image: Three San Francisco Hearts: Wash-Your-Hands; San Franswissco; Release. For benefit of S.F. General Hospital Foundation.