Night of the Brand Shamans
A strong brand — one that drives success in the marketplace — is a crystal-clear expression of your donors’ aspirations.
Here’s the deal
Donors don’t give because your programs are so brilliant. They don’t give because you’re so smart or strategic. And they don’t give because of your long history or superior achievements.
Your donors give because of what giving means to them. How it gives them personal significance. How it fills their hearts with joy, or eases their conscience. How it changes the world in ways they care about. What it says about them — to themselves or to others.
That’s what your brand must articulate: What about your organization feeds donors’ needs? What is it about supporting you that makes them feel proud, or fulfilled, or cool, or validated?
The brand shaman approach to branding ignores this. Their guidelines tell you that if you follow the rules, you’re “on brand” — when really, the navel-gazing focus of the document pushes you away from the real brand. If your brand consists of a logo, font choices and a color palette — that’s all it’s going to be. If your brand belongs only to the marketing department, it’s not really a brand at all.
Branding without shamans
So you want a real brand, not a brand shaman sham. Here’s how: Go easy on the externals (like design), but be a stickler about the internals — who you are. Here some steps you can take:
1. Get rid of your brand guidelines. This will allow you, force you, to build a donor-centered brand. Instead of rigid design rules, you can have design principles that are about the heart of who you are. Couple that with a well-told story about your organization — its founding or defining moment — that’s aligned with donors’ dreams.