In this episode of the Strategic Nonprofit podcast, Trista McIver sits down with Amy Small, EVP of Creative & Brand at Media Cause, a full-service digital agency that works only with nonprofits. Join them as they discuss everything about nonprofit branding, particularly why you should be using branding to tell your organization’s story and the three pillars of branding that will help you get there.
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What is branding?
A brand is a set of associations that a person or people make with a company, product, service, individual or organization. These associations might have been intentionally implemented or promoted by marketing. Or some may be purely coincidental. So, what is branding? If a brand is a set of associations and perceptions, branding attempts to better leverage these controls. Ultimately, helping to define your business as a trusted, reliable and honest service.
Why is branding important for nonprofits?
You probably wonder why it’s necessary to focus on branding when you have so many things going on. After all, running a nonprofit organization isn’t easy. So consider that by having a solid brand, you’ll distinguish yourself from your competition, which in turn makes it far easier to increases donations, membership and get the results you want. Furthermore, it makes it easier to describe how you help other people so that you can continue to raise awareness for your cause by using your brand to tell a story.
What are the challenges of branding for nonprofits?
As with many other nonprofit challenges, branding challenges are usually centred around budget – especially in smaller organizations. This reluctance for organizations to jump into branding their nonprofit is only made worse because, like everybody, nonprofits are eager to see results, and brand is not an immediate ROI kind of engagement.
The three pillars of nonprofit branding
Below are the three essential pillars of nonprofit branding that every organization should have in mind when it comes to creating a compelling brand that resonates with your audience:
1. Your organization
Like many other consumer businesses, people want to join brands – not buy them. A big misconception among a lot of people, not just in the non-profit world, is that brand is a one-way conversation – but it’s not!
It’s about telling the world what you believe in and what you want to do as an organization by sharing information such as your mission, goals, beliefs, programming and strategic plan.
2. Your audience
Second, are you thinking of your supporters as humans or donors? If you lean towards the latter, there’s a good chance you haven’t researched thoroughly into your target audience. You need to know the ins and outs of your audience, because if you want to inspire the people who support you to take action, you need to be hitting on those things that are important to them and that they care about in their life in your messaging.
3. Outside influences
The third piece of the puzzle is the broader landscape, which includes thinking about your issue space. For example, what other organizations are there playing in your space? When branding your nonprofit, you want to make sure that you have a message that is different or stands apart in some way to be able to have someone say, “I want to donate to you vs. the other organization” or “I want to give to you both because you’re both doing something that’s great and different!”
Alongside your issue space, you want to contemplate contextual things that are going on in the world, such as current events, consumer trends, and political issues – particularly how they may impact someone relating to the work you do.
About Amy Small
Amy Small is the EVP of creative and brand at Media Cause, a digital agency that helps not for profits grow and accelerate them. They take a people-first approach to develop powerful creative, scalable growth strategies and targeted communications that connect with individuals across their entire supporter journey: from awareness and recruitment to fundraising and advocacy and every touchpoint in-between. She is also the managing director of RiseUP Marketing Fellowship, a purpose-minded career launchpad for people typically overlooked by the marketing and advertising industries.