Sleepless in 2013?
Let me start with the premise that people can’t give to you if they don’t know you’re there. And they won’t give to you until they’re persuaded of the importance of your work. So right there, I’m saying branding is really important for all nonprofits. There’s a solid business case — we have to have strong branding. You have to build awareness, you have to build positioning and you have to create an environment in which your fundraising is going to work.
But I would like to suggest that, by definition, successful branding for a nonprofit must support fundraising or it isn’t successful branding at all. And what we’re seeing increasingly at large and small nonprofits across the country — we could give too many painful examples — is that branding sometimes supports program and conflicts with fundraising.
For example, if a rescue mission’s branding focuses on giving hope to the poor instead of feeding hungry people or if a wildlife group’s branding focuses on the science of social warming instead of saving fuzzy animals. Donors care about those things. They just don’t care enough to give. So what happens is your branding is undermining your fundraising, and if your organization’s brand undermines your fundraising messages, you’ve got to change your branding. Otherwise you’ll have great awareness of a bankrupt organization.
So I think that the value proposition of nonprofits is the opportunity that we offer donors to address urgent, unmet needs … saving lives, saving animals, feeding hungry children, changing the world for the good. And if nonprofit branding powerfully communicates that value proposition, it supports fundraising and it’s a glad thing. However, when nonprofit branding reflects the programmatic identity of an organization apart from the donor interaction, it can really take away from fundraising.