Nonprofit brand: Who are you?

by guest blogger George Crankovic

This happened to me. I received a thank you letter from a charity, and my first reaction was, Who is this nonprofit, and did I ever even donate to them? Is this some kind of faux thank-you-letter gimmick just to grab a quick donation?

Turns out, I had donated. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the charity was eminently forgettable — obviously. It took them weeks to get that thank you letter to me, and I’ve yet to receive a welcome appeal or any other communication. Yes, they have my attention now, but not in a good way.

Which, naturally, brings us to this disturbing nonprofit fact — many of your donors don’t know who you are. Even those who have just given a gift!

And this, of course, brings us to branding. Lots of nonprofits think branding is all logos and typefaces when, in reality, what you do defines who you are. So the best course is not to worry so much about branding. Focus instead on positioning and action.

For example, when I got that thank you letter, I might have said, “Oh, this is from that charity that teaches sign language for free” or whatever the case may be.

The simple “This is the charity that _” statement is vital. This is your positioning statement. This is who you are.

So, if you ever find yourself in a meeting with folks spouting lots of vague, abstract musings on brand, try this to cut through the brambles. Simply ask, What do we do, and why does it matter? Then don’t rest until you have a clear answer.

Once you have it, you will have your positioning. Your fundraising and your nonprofit will be operating with clearer vision than ever and with clearer vision than most organizations, nonprofit or otherwise. Granted, it’s not easy to ascend to this level of blessed simplicity, but it’s worth it. In fact, in our segmented, fractionated, multichannel nonprofit marketplace, it’s crucial.


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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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About the blogger

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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