Grappling With Growth
“There are no company-owned stores here,” Aschermann says. “Anything we do has to be done by force of persuasion or by providing such added value to their work, which is part of our strategy, so the clubs come on board.”
Prompted by a 1993 awareness survey that revealed only 14 percent of the U.S. public discovered BGCA on its own, Aschermann went into overdrive implementing an organization-wide communications and re-branding strategy to reach new and existing donors, with the support of the organization’s national board of governors.
Around this time, BGCA also recruited actor Denzel Washington — a former BGCA kid himself — to be its national spokesperson; 11 years later, Washington’s still active in promoting BGCA.
“I got so tired of our board saying we’re the world’s best-kept secret,” he says. “We came to the conclusion that following a for-profit communications and branding model was the right thing for us to do — figuring out what we wanted to say, who we wanted to say it to and how we wanted to say it. We got pretty ruthless with it, even creating our own unique selling proposition and tailoring all our communications against that USP.”
One problem BGCA faced — and had in common with many national nonprofits — is that its affiliate clubs weren’t uniform in their messaging to potential donors, resulting in what Aschermann calls “brand creep.” National headquarters was seeing different slogans, more creative uses of its logo and varying descriptions of what BGCA does coming from local clubs. Some were merely inconsistent, while others were inaccurate.
Part of the revamped communications strategy was to ensure all of BGCA’s clubs were communicating in the same way, from using uniform graphics and logos, to speaking the same language with donors. Aschermann, for example, is very serious about the so-called elevator speech.