Let’s face it, your organization is being judged by its cover. Your audience has more choices than ever for shopping, services, donating, etc., so first impressions are everything. Your brand is key in communicating why your audience should spend or donate their money to you.
A strong logo is important, but it’s only one piece of your brand. Branding encompasses all of the ways in which you communicate with your audience: logo, messaging, marketing, print, web design, content, social media. On the other side, branding is how your audience identifies you. “DNA” is often used when referring to branding - that’s because your brand is who you are - a unique identifier. No two snowflakes are alike, and neither are brands. Branding not only defines what you do, it should also communicate who you are and the manner in which you do it.
"It is our vision that every organization, whether it be a small business, startup, or nonprofit, regardless of the size, be able to afford and maintain a robust presence and technology platform." (from Spry Digital mission statement)
Ask yourself, is your brand communicating the right ideas about your organization? If you are unclear where to begin when evaluating the effectiveness of your brand, start with your mission (find ours on our Who We Are page).
An example of an organization that has clear branding derived from a strong mission is Kiva.org, the popular microlending site. Take a look at Kiva’s About Us page to see how they describe their mission.
In 2009, I attended a talk by the co-founder and CMO of Kiva, Jessica Jackley, at the Olin Business School at Washington University on the topic of social entrepreneurship. Jessica shared how her personal mission for helping others grew into forming a nonprofit organization. In the presentation, Jessica discussed the organizational challenges Kiva faced in the early days. She emphasized the importance of Kiva’s mission being the beacon from which every decision in the organization is made.
In one story, at a time when funding was critical, Kiva made the decision to refuse large, sometimes multi-million dollar loans from corporations because it did not fit within their mission of connecting individuals to each other through microfinancing (where anybody can see the direct benefit of their loan). This mission of connecting people is what differentiates Kiva from other lenders.
Last month, Kiva celebrated their sixth birthday and, to date, has helped make over $255 million in loans from 600,000 lenders with a repayment rate of 99%. It’s been one of the most successful nonprofit brands in the world due to their clear mission and branding.
How does your organization compare? Consider these points:
- Does your organization have a clear mission statement, and is it somewhere that anyone can see what it is? (Franklin Covey provides a mission building tool here.)
- Does your brand communicate the ideas in your mission? What does your audience take away from the messages they see?
- Consider tweaking your branding to reflect the environment in which you are doing business. Is your tone rigid or relaxed? Does it speak to your audience?
- Explore the latest technologies. There are a plethora of web solutions these days for nonprofits and small organizations that can stretch your contribution and operating dollars and can help you reach new audiences with your brand.
It’s easy to overlook these points when you’re involved in the day-to-day management of running your organization. When making small and large decisions, try to take the time to remember that everything stems from your mission and brand. Setting aside time to focus on your branding will make your organization's fundraising and/or operations more effective.
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