What to do if the brand police attack your fundraising

If your organization has brand police — people in charge of the public expression of your organization’s brand — you may have experienced a special kind of opposition to effective fundraising that starts with a comment like this: “Fundraising revenue is better than ever, but the way we’re doing it isn’t good for our brand.”

Don’t laugh. I’ve heard this from brand police. As far as you and I are concerned. that’s like saying, “I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, but I prefer the way I look when I’m sick.” Some extreme-case brand people don’t think that’s goofy at all.

In their world, “brand” is an important goal by itself. It’s independent of fundraising results. In same extreme cases, it’s even opposed to results. That’s why it’s hard to win arguments with brand police who think that way.

Of course, not all brand police are like that. The good ones are stewarding a tool that can help your fundraising soar. You can tell the good ones by the way they don’t remove specificity and offers from your fundraising.

For the other kind, the plague-of-locusts kind of brand police, here are two ways you can deal effectively with them:


  1. Test their beliefs. Do a mailing or email that’s exactly the way they want it. No matter how crazy it seems. When I’ve done this, I’ve seen the most spectacularly terrible direct response numbers of my career. I think we’d have done better if we’d dumped business reply envelopes into the ocean and waited for people to find them on the beach. Results are persuasive. If not to the brand police themselves, then to your bosses.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The small stuff includes logo, color, font, vision statements. It’s unlikely to accomplish the miracles the Brand police claim for it, but it isn’t going to do much harm either. Defend the essential, but let them play around with those things. It’s harmless.


Comments

8 responses to “What to do if the brand police attack your fundraising”

  1. Your brand should embody your mission/vision, if it does not, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider brand. The two do not need to compete against each other. They are complimentary forces.

  2. Your brand should embody your mission/vision, if it does not, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider brand. The two do not need to compete against each other. They are complimentary forces.

  3. Do you have any examples of the Big Stuff the brand police shouldn’t be driving? I appreciate your detail about what we don’t need to worry about, but it left me confused about what things the brand police are nitpicking. For example, if they want only pictures of happy people on the website, is that big stuff?

  4. Do you have any examples of the Big Stuff the brand police shouldn’t be driving? I appreciate your detail about what we don’t need to worry about, but it left me confused about what things the brand police are nitpicking. For example, if they want only pictures of happy people on the website, is that big stuff?

  5. Non Proft Fundraiser Avatar
    Non Proft Fundraiser

    I worked for a nonprofit where this was an issue. The org employed GREAT graphic designers with a strict style guide. One of their rules was “We don’t use the color black” — which meant a lot of pale or white text that older donors complained about not being able to read. Their style was meant to be cutting edge, artsy, and progressive, because their mission is very progressive. But it often lacked the warmth of a sweet, emotionally compelling photograph. The art factor was lost on the older donors.

  6. Non Proft Fundraiser Avatar
    Non Proft Fundraiser

    I worked for a nonprofit where this was an issue. The org employed GREAT graphic designers with a strict style guide. One of their rules was “We don’t use the color black” — which meant a lot of pale or white text that older donors complained about not being able to read. Their style was meant to be cutting edge, artsy, and progressive, because their mission is very progressive. But it often lacked the warmth of a sweet, emotionally compelling photograph. The art factor was lost on the older donors.

  7. F. De Flaviis Avatar
    F. De Flaviis

    The fact that someone does not understand how a strong brand can increase fundraising efficiency does not meant that brand consistency is not essential in creating a strong identity and a healthy donor base in the long term. Organizations with this fundraising mentality wake up one day and scratch their head asking themselves why their peers are growing 3x. Btw, good luck with obsessive negative framing 10 years from now, when the next generations are going to look at your brand like you look at a rambling schizophrenic patient.
    Sure you might be very efficient at fundraising in ONE channel but when you do not bother to look at how that affects other channels or most likely long term donor retention, how good are you for your organization?
    The point you should have made here is that fundraising organizations really need marketers that get fundraising and fundraisers that know a little bit about the power of a strong brand.

  8. F. De Flaviis Avatar
    F. De Flaviis

    The fact that someone does not understand how a strong brand can increase fundraising efficiency does not meant that brand consistency is not essential in creating a strong identity and a healthy donor base in the long term. Organizations with this fundraising mentality wake up one day and scratch their head asking themselves why their peers are growing 3x. Btw, good luck with obsessive negative framing 10 years from now, when the next generations are going to look at your brand like you look at a rambling schizophrenic patient.
    Sure you might be very efficient at fundraising in ONE channel but when you do not bother to look at how that affects other channels or most likely long term donor retention, how good are you for your organization?
    The point you should have made here is that fundraising organizations really need marketers that get fundraising and fundraisers that know a little bit about the power of a strong brand.

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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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