You’re Not Nike — Get Over It
"Our fundraising results have dropped since we put our new brand standards in place, but that's OK because the new brand so brilliantly articulates who we are as an organization."
— Marketing director at a nonprofit
Don't laugh. This is not satire. I've heard statements like this many times. Maybe you have, too.
According to some, communication rules that hurt fundraising effectiveness but make people in the organization feel good are perfectly OK. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd say anything you do with your communication that de-motivates donors from giving should be considered a failure. Silly me.
Once the brand people start positioning their failure as success, your organization is in deep trouble. You are on the top of a very steep and slippery slope that leads to crippling budget cuts — at best.
To be fair, we can be pretty sure the brand folks didn't set out to make your fundraising less effective. They fully expected the new brand to help. They worked hard on a good-faith effort to take your organization to the Promised Land.
The fact that their efforts didn't work is a devastating blow to them. How could their hard-won insights and the brilliant principles of corporate branding not work miracles? Their claim that organizational self-expression matters more than cause-supporting revenue is just a desperate rear-guard action to salvage not only their hard work, but their very sense of reality.
Trouble is, the entire branding exercise was destined to hurt fundraising revenue from the start. And not because they mucked it up: They may or may not have done that, but either way, corporate-style branding always hurts nonprofit fundraising.
That's right: Corporate-style branding backfires for nonprofits. No matter how well you do it. It simply chases away donors. You might as well mandate that every piece you send out has a big red label that says DONORS, GO AWAY!