Build your brand on your donors — not yourself

In my experience, one of the things that often motivates a nonprofit to re-brand is a sense that “donors don’t get us.”

So a brand is cooked up that will set those donors straight: Touché you ignorant persons! This is what we are about! Love us now!

That’s the kind of brand that is deeply in trouble from the start. It’s going to cost you dearly to educate those donors. And you’ll fail to educate them.

That’s because if you do that, you’re flying in the face of the truth Roy Williams brings out in his Monday Morning Memo: Brands are Built on Core Beliefs. You don’t win people over by trying to change what they know and believe:

If you challenge a person’s core beliefs, they will avoid you. Agree with those beliefs and they will like you. This is the essence of brand building.

Here’s Williams’ recipe for a strong brand:


  1. Quit trying to change your customer’s mind.
  2. Tell them they’re right.
  3. Confirm their suspicions.
  4. Demonize their enemies.
  5. Let them see themselves when they look at you.

If expressing yourself is more important than raising funds for your cause, you may not be able to do this. That is to say, you aren’t really a fundraiser.


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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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