Build your brand by looking outside yourself

The Non-Profit Marketer blog takes a good look at weak nonprofit branding efforts at The myth that you are different.

He cites the common brand-building practice of getting all the “stakeholders” to express what the organization is about and shape that into a compelling brand. (Stakeholders are usually leaders, staff, and board members. Sometimes beneficiaries. Seldom donors.)

While that internal approach can help rally the troops, it fails to produce a strong brand.

John’s concern is that the internal focus can make you miss the competition factor: When you look inward, you probably won’t notice that there are other organizations reaching out to your donors.

That’s true. But I think something even more harmful happens: You buy into the dangerous myth is that what you think is exciting is the same thing everyone else thinks exciting, and what you dislike turns off everyone else too.

Self-marketing brand. You end up with trendy design and high-flown, abstract descriptions of the mission. Amazingly often, nonprofits conclude during an inward-looking branding exercise that they don’t really do the activities they’ve been doing all along, but instead create hope.

There’s a way out of this trap. Look outward. Discover who your donors are. Then find out what excites them. Do a lot of testing and see what they actually respond to and give money for.

That’s how you build a brand that expands your reach and empowers you to do more.


Comments

4 responses to “Build your brand by looking outside yourself”

  1. Jeff, you are so right!
    John Suart
    The Non-Profit Marketer

  2. Jeff, you are so right!
    John Suart
    The Non-Profit Marketer

  3. Kyla Cromer Avatar
    Kyla Cromer

    To me this is related to the oft-heard “It’s not about you,” that so few people seem to get. A couple of always-grating examples I see: at the library, there’s a plaque on the wall listing the names of the county commissioners when the building was built. Who cares? They should’ve bought 5 or 10 more books instead. At some schools and companies, there’s a really great parking space with a sign “Reserved for principal (CEO, whatever).” Hmmm, who’s most valued there? Last example: organization anniversaries sometimes are often used as an chance to congratulate themselves. Tacking “we couldn’t have done it without you,” isn’t enough. It’s not about you….

  4. Kyla Cromer Avatar
    Kyla Cromer

    To me this is related to the oft-heard “It’s not about you,” that so few people seem to get. A couple of always-grating examples I see: at the library, there’s a plaque on the wall listing the names of the county commissioners when the building was built. Who cares? They should’ve bought 5 or 10 more books instead. At some schools and companies, there’s a really great parking space with a sign “Reserved for principal (CEO, whatever).” Hmmm, who’s most valued there? Last example: organization anniversaries sometimes are often used as an chance to congratulate themselves. Tacking “we couldn’t have done it without you,” isn’t enough. It’s not about you….

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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