Most nonprofits are so busy helping all the people in need of assistance that they deal with that they don’t take the time to build their “brand.”
“Nonprofits need a brand strategy just as for-profits do to achieve optimal brand awareness and loyalty,” according to Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch and all GrantWatch services.
What is Brand Strategy?
According to Hubspot’s Carly Stec, “Brand strategy is a plan that encompasses specific, long-term goals that can be achieved with the evolution of a successful brand — the combined components of your company’s character that make it identifiable.”
Your brand is much more than your nonprofit’s name, logo, website, and services. It’s the intangible elements that go into creating the overall sense of what your organization or agency is all about. It’s your mission and vision, it’s how you express them and the feelings they elicit in people who hear your story, and eventually, at the mere mention of your organization’s name.
In her article 7 Essentials for Strong Company Branding, Stec talks about the most important element being purpose. We’ve adapted her seven components for nonprofits.
Purpose of course is even more important for nonprofits than for businesses, but marketing experts for businesses also list this as the most important component. for a comprehensive branding strategy. According to Business Strategy Insider, purpose can be viewed as either functional or intentional.
Functional: This concept focuses on the evaluation of the success in terms of immediate and short term concerns.
Intentional: This concept focuses on success as it relates to the ability to make money and do good in the world.
Both Forbes Nonprofit Council experts and Hubspot list consistency as number two in importance in building your brand. Only include information, messages and images that relate to your brand. Whether in your emails or your social media posts and at events, keep your message cohesive.
“Consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty.”
Consider creating a style guide for your staff and volunteers who deal with content creation, copywriting, and all social media posting. This can cover everything from the tone of voice you use, to the color scheme you employ in your ads, posts and emails, to the slogans or catch phrases you use, to the backgrounds in your photographs and even at your events.
3. Emotion – Build Relationships
Nonprofits are all about emotion. Your mission, your vision, your values expressed in your story should elicit many emotions if done correctly.
People who read your story should feel they share a powerful connection with you and want to get involved. You can create a feeling of belongingness in those you serve as well as in your donors and sponsors.
Give them the opportunity to feel like they’re part of a larger team, or a tight-knit community.
The need to feel love, appreciation, and be part of a group or community, are important human needs.
Having positive, solid relationships help people feel like they’re a part of your organization and lead to greater loyalty and becoming more actively involved.
Be open to change and growth. Remain flexible and stay relevant. Flexibility enables you to make adjustments that build interest and distinguish your approach from other organizations with similar missions. According to Kevin Budelmann president of Peopledesign,
“Effective identity programs require enough consistency to be identifiable, but enough variation to keep things fresh and human.”
Continuing to update your marketing strategies and your brand can bring in younger people and expand into new demographics.
5. Staff and Volunteer Involvement
It’s important to hold everyone in your organization to your core values and to be consistent in the message they communicate when representing your brand. This includes for phone calls, customer service. Stec recommends having a look at Zappos School of WOW: zapposinsights.com./training/schoolofwow.
Reward the volunteers, donors and funders you already have with love and appreciation. Some of them have already gone out of their way to tell their friends about you and share your story. They’ve written about you, and act as your brand ambassadors. Cultivate loyalty early and keep nurturing it at every stage in your relationships. Show your loyalty to the people you serve as well as those who assist you in your mission.
Whether it’s with a call, a shout out on social media, a personalized letter, or sending them a special gift (with your logo, branded to match your mission, of course).
Ensuring positive relationships with all those you serve keeps them coming back and has a big impact on your organization.
7. Competitive Awareness
Keep creating more value for those you serve and those who assist you to keep building your brand. Stay abreast of developments in your sector and how other organizations are operating. What branding tactics do they use? What can you learn from them? What can you incorporate into your own programs, fundraising and social media efforts? You don’t need to copy everything they do, keep your uniqueness, but keep an eye on what they’ve got in the works.
For some more great branding strategies for nonprofits, read Forbes article featuring their Nonprofit Council: Nine Aspects to Consider When Branding A Nonprofit.
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About the Author: The author is a staff writer for Grant News and the GrantWatch brand.