Motivating Donors to Give — and Give Happily
I have scary news for you: Brand Experts are looking for you. These slick professionals from the commercial world see your organization the way a hungry lion sees an overweight, three-legged zebra. They’re salivating at the prospect of creating a new brand for you.
When they find you and offer to build a commercial-style, super-polished, look-at-me brand — just don’t do it!
If you do, you face a crippling loss of revenue and a large-scale exodus of donors that could take years to recover from. Anyone who’s been in our business for a while can tell you the horror stories.
Let’s look into the minds of Brand Experts when they’re doing their best work. Nike is a brilliant commercial brand that has made shoes stand for human aspiration.
Let’s face it: A shoe is a shoe. A great shoe is only slightly better than an OK shoe. Describing the features of a shoe only emphasizes how boring and undifferentiated shoes really are. It’s not effective marketing.
To raise its shoes higher in our minds than pieces of leather you tie to your feet, Nike looked upstream to the meaning of the purchase. They asked, “Why do people wear these shoes?” Answer: To help in the pursuit of athletic activities.
Then the Nike folks went farther upstream and asked, “Why do people do these activities?” Answer: Because in one way or another, they’re striving for achievement.
The branders connected that striving with the striving of famous athletes. Suddenly, a pair of shoes was a glorious thing: Just Do It.
That’s a well-built commercial brand. But the same thinking takes you down a different path when you try to apply it to a nonprofit brand.
Brand Experts assume a donation is just like a purchase. In their world, the purchase is not where the action is. So they pay no attention to the purchase and instead look upstream.