Nonprofit Branding: 3 Questions to Ask Your Organization
When it comes to nonprofit branding, the three questions that will drive real understanding of your supporters to better connect them to your organization are:
- What do my supporters struggle with?
- What are my supporters motivated by?
- Is there a memory—emotion link that informs me of what is important to my supporters?
In my class, we discuss many kinds of research that help brands reveal who their customers are. And the data that is available for marketers is more robust than ever before. Big data has empowered us to cross-stich online behavior, demographics, buying patterns, predictive website searches and more that we’d probably want to know. And, artificial intelligence will make the patterns reveal themselves with more precision.
While the data and customer research about what people do can inform us about what they are likely to do in the future, there is also a more human aspect—that goes deeper than the data—to understanding your base of supporters.
As a nonprofit professional, you have a mandate to understand your supporters. The competition for discretionary dollars is extraordinary. Every supporter of every nonprofit everywhere gives money for personal and passionate reasons. Those reasons are the key to why they choose your nonprofit.
If your nonprofit is trying to become part of your supporters’ daily hearts and minds and understand them with more clarity and empathy, here’s a method that can help you think about each donor and their relationship to your brand.
While it takes thought, delving into these questions will invariably help with how you craft your brand’s relationships with your supporters. That’s because every person on planet earth has a personal and unique response to the next three questions.
1. What Do My Supporters Struggle With?
Everyone—including you reading this—has struggles. It’s a human condition. We question, doubt, have concerns, worry and are insecure or befuddled by something. Figuring out your supporters’ struggles interweaves with your brand’s promise and could unlock new ways to help them.
It might be a simple line from your nonprofit’s mission to your supporters’ struggles. If so, acknowledge it, but don’t stop at the obvious struggle your nonprofit works to solve.
Example: Starbucks could have been a terrific, mediocre coffee shop if they stopped thinking about their customers’ struggles at, “Our customers struggle getting a great cup of coffee.” Instead, they dug deeper. Starbucks learned that their consumers—in fact, all of us— struggled with having a place outside of work and home, where we could meet folks or be alone in a safe and comfortable environment.
The traditional Italian “Bar” and the role it served in communities was missing here in the U.S. So instead of just a place to get grab-and-go coffee, they solved for a “3rd place,” making a destination that went beyond the purchasing of coffee or treats. Starbucks knew that there were holes in communities they could fill, that there was a common struggle we didn’t even know we had.
2. What Are My Supporters Motivated By?
Every person aspires to be more than they are. The desire to grow is innate, and we all want our lives to get better in some way. We each are looking for ways to improve and gravitate toward brands that help us do that. The best brands understand that a simple transaction usually isn’t enough to satisfy us.
Example: Sur La Table knows that offering terrific cookware products wasn’t quite enough. Their customers are motivated to learn how to be better home cooks and make home life more enjoyable and rewarding. By offering the in-store cooking classes and posting a regular calendar of new ideas, the individual stores deepen their relationship with their customers and fulfill on this part of their aspirations.
3. Is There a Memory-Emotion Link?
Deep in the core of our brains is the Hippocampus and Amygdala, two connected centers of our biology that stores both memory and emotion. Memory-emotion is extraordinarily powerful in our lives, and these two magnificent aspects of the brain work in tandem to preserve the most deeply-embedded feelings and decision-making drivers in our lives.
It’s awfully hard to construct something that is a powerful connector to memory, but in a nonprofit, there’s most likely some kind of hook or common experience you can tap into. You’ll have to dig deep to find the connection that your supporters have in common to create that human experience.
Example: Subaru knows that their customers are active. They’re climbers, surfers, skiers, outdoors-folks. And they made the hunch that their customers owned pets. “Subaru owners are actually twice as likely to have a pet as other car owners, and 7 out of 10 Subaru drivers share their heart, home and, of course, their backseat with a four-legged family member!”
My neighbor purchased a Subaru after her elderly dog passed away—even though the Ford Escape had a better warranty and lower price. She bought from the emotion-memory place of her brain, not the cerebral cortex where “better warranty and lower price” lived.
Look, these are not easy questions to answer. But they’re worth discussing with your team as to what really drives your supporters to connect with your brand. This is really purposeful work.
Chris Foster is the vice president of business development at Modern Postcard.