Who Knows Your Brand?

An organization’s brand is that unique something that distinguishes it from all others.  It is more than a unique color or distinctive logo.  It is something that is meaningful, tangible, and valuable.  The uniqueness might be quality (meaningful).  The quality might translate to a higher level of durability (valuable).  The durability might translate to higher earnings potential for your clients over their lifetime (tangible).

If your nonprofit’s uniqueness is eclipsed by another provider or made irrelevant by some external change, your brand is diminished.  The sustainability and relevance of your nonprofit is threatened.  Clients and other forms of support will decline.

Your nonprofit’s brand is the unique mark it makes on its community.  Your mission statement promises the solution to a societal problem.  If the solution is meaningful, measurable, and durable, your nonprofit’s brand is a community asset which the community will happily support with donations, volunteers, referrals, and advocates.

Your nonprofit’s brand should be an asset of significant value.  The board is responsible for recognizing the need for a brand (meaningful, tangible, and valuable service).  It is the staff’s responsibility to create and promote the brand.

In a community of 100,000 people, making a significant difference in one person’s life seems like a small, almost insignificant, contribution.  However, making a durable change in a client’s life has significant value for the individual.  One client’s success is far more important to the nonprofit than it is to its community.  Therefore, communities seldom fully appreciate the value of nonprofit brands.

Nonprofit’s often see their brand as being more valuable than their community does.  This explains why most nonprofits receive significantly less support than their brand might appear to justify.  A nonprofit can bridge the gap by significantly increasing the scale of its success.  Increasing the scalability of a nonprofit’s services (capacity building) starts with increasing the consistency and reproducibility of its success.  When the nonprofit is able to create the same results more often with a more diverse group of clients, the scalability of its operations will naturally increase.

The first step is to enlist the current donors in the brand transformation.  They need to provide the initial funding for the improvement in consistency and reproducibility and then be ready to fund the scaling of the services.  As the scale increases, the community will embrace the growing value of the brand by providing more donations, volunteers, referrals, and advocates.  The growing value of the brand then becomes a source of sustainability and ensures the nonprofit will have a sustainable funding stream.

A key element in enlisting donors is the ability to articulate your nonprofit’s brand and the value of the brand.  Many board members and staff members talk about uniqueness without meaningful, tangible, or durable value.  Asserting that the unique value of South Side Nonprofit is that it is the only one on the south side of town is unlikely to be a compelling case for support.  If North Side Nonprofit’s services are undifferentiated but more meaningful, tangible, and durable, then North Side Nonprofit offers something unique.  The community is more likely to advocate that North Side Nonprofit start serving the south side than support South Side Nonprofit, which lacks uniqueness.

Your board and staff need to be equipped with the words, anecdotes, and evidence that will make a compelling case for the value of your mission (the strength of your brand).

Next Step:

Identify the uniqueness of your nonprofit’s services

Train your spokespeople (board and staff) to be compelling representatives for your mission and brand

Create a plan to scale your services to a significant level as defined by your community

Enlist donor support for your plan

Use the increase in community support as the success measure for your scaling efforts

Your nonprofit needs brand spokespeople so that your nonprofit will have brand sponsors in your community.  Train your board members and staff members to talk about the key points that make your nonprofit meaningful, tangible, and valuable using words, stories, and evidence that your community finds compelling.  Then commit to scaling your services to a level that your community finds significant.

Take It Further:

Audit your community’s perception of the value of your nonprofit annually


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