8 behaviors that will take your nonprofit brand to the next level

8 behaviors that will take your nonprofit brand to the next level

By R. Trent Thompson, Brand & Marketing Strategist

Your nonprofit brand has never been more important than it is right now.

Yet, many nonprofit leaders continue to hold a narrow perspective when it comes to building and managing their brand. They often view their brands as simply a logo, color palette, and usage guidelines – with consistency being the overarching objective.

But that model is no longer enough in today’s competitive giving environment. In fact, it’s obsolete.

Brand strength and relevance can mean the difference between success and failure.

To acquire new and retain existing donors, your brand should tell a vibrant and compelling story. Putting a megaphone on inspiration and action.

Your brand voice needs to be clear, and more importantly, clearly different. It needs to rise above the rest of the voices and have alignment across all touch points of your nonprofit brand. All are critical to building donor trust and confidence in your organization, your leadership team and your board. It’s an absolute must when engaging new audiences to build long-term financial sustainability. And, equally important is your brand’s ability to quickly adapt and evolve to maintain relevance.

For your nonprofit to succeed in this competitive and challenging giving environment, I’ve identified the following eight behaviors you should master to raise your brand to the next level.

1. Clarity
First and foremost, you should have clarity. Know what you do, why it matters and how you’re different from like organizations. Your organization knows where it’s headed, how it’s going to get there, and always, always deliver a clear promise to those it serves.

2. Be quick to adapt
Technology is forever changing. Communication tools and channels continue to evolve. Whether you realize it or not, your audiences are keeping pace with these changes. If you don’t quickly adapt along with them, you could risk losing those important relationships you’ve worked so hard to build.

3. Be an innovator
Your nonprofit should not be afraid to explore and push boundaries. It should be a constant seeker of new ways to engage its many audiences, serve up meaningful and relevant content, tell its amazing story, and lift up its donors for the good they’re doing with your organization.

4. Go omnichannel
While direct mail is alive and well, it can no longer be your only communications channel. Know which channels your donors and key audiences prefer and take your messages directly to them, right where they are. To be successful, you must create consistent and integrated, but differentiated experiences to engage your donors, supporters, and beneficiaries — at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way.

5. Always strive to stay relevant
What do I mean do I mean by that? Volunteers always gravitate to causes that are near and dear to their hearts. Beneficiaries continually return to certain nonprofits because their unique set of needs are always met. Donors repeatedly give to other nonprofits because they can clearly see the impact of their gifts at work. While there are many other examples, the key is to stay laser-focused on your mission and what’s important to each of your many audiences. And don’t disrespect the millennial audience. They are essential to your future financial sustainability.

6. Be a great storyteller
We all know by now that storytelling is essential to your nonprofit’s ability to advance its purpose. Done well, you can use stories to connect your staff, board, donors, and beneficiaries to your mission. In addition to creating a brand story for your nonprofit, you should also continuously curate and share the stories of those impacted most by your work — your beneficiaries.

7. Maintain a clearly defined culture
Which is critical to building an engaged and motivated workforce. Your employees can be your best brand ambassadors, as they are often the first point of contact with your organization.

The key is to educate your employees, board, community partners, volunteers, and stakeholders about your brand and develop messaging they can use consistently to ignite passion in your mission.

8. Maintain a robust and agile infrastructure
And, the last is don’t underestimate the role of a strong, but agile infrastructure. You only have so much time and available resources to manage and leverage the power of your brand. The right technology and brand infrastructure will enable your nonprofit to maintain timely and effective communications with your donors and key stakeholders, implement successful fundraising and awareness campaigns, grow the number of those you serve, and increase year-round media exposure — all with fewer resources.

When you take these eight behaviors together, you see the emergence of a new, more powerful nonprofit branding model; a model that can help build relevance and financial sustainability for years to come.


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