By David McGorry
While some non-profits are uncomfortable thinking about their agencies as brands, a well-managed brand that becomes the driver of an agency’s actions can be a strategic advantage in attracting and retaining donors. Non-profits today need to speak to audiences that often overlap and a consistent brand experience can cost-effectively enable them to raise funds, attract the best employees, gain support from community leaders and ensure that people know when to reach out to them for support.
Branding is not just name recognition and a good reputation, even for non-profits that are only active on a local level. People need to understand what your organization does, when they should turn to you for support and why it is a good decision to donate to your mission. A truly powerful brand is consistent across audiences and ensures there is consistency in messaging and experience.
A messaging platform is a powerful tool that can bring an organization together and align communications with experience. Although people in an organization will have an individual style of message delivery, they should be aligned and consistent when stating the agency’s core values and how those values translate into value for the poeple they serve.
The messaging platform should reinforce the essence of the culture and its values with specific examples. Its foundation is the mission statement and it must be accepted and internalized by every person in the organization.
Once a messaging platform is established it can be reinforced by storytelling about how the mission became real for someone the non-profit serves. Each story must be communicated in the context of how it enables the mission. When an employee does something that exemplifies the mission, the story should be re-told by management so other employees deepen their own understanding of the mission and how they can embody it in their work.
Stories about how the mission was delivered, and the messaging platform was reinforced by action, should be a regular component of staff meetings and internal communications. When employees consistently see that these behaviors are rewarded they will look for opportunities to embody the mission as well. Agencies can also look to the people they serve to find powerful stories about how they have touched the lives of the people they support.
The criteria for any awards the organization establishes to honor employees should reflect on how the employee reinforced the mission through their actions and how those actions benefited the population they serve. This way each action taken by the agency is reinforcing the value and differentiation it provides to customers.
Whether people are donating millions of dollars to a global organization or one hundred dollars to a local organization, they are more likely to donate again if they believe in the work that you do and feel they have an impact on the people you serve. While non-profits do not have the marketing communications budgets of their for-profit counterpoints, they have numerous opportunities to reinforce who they are and what differentiates them both internally and externally.