Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 13

We live in a noisy and busy digital world. The average American is exposed to thousands of messages every day, and most of it becomes just noise.Big business spends billions pushing messages and brands above that noise, desperately working to say something different, to earn a small sliver of the shorter and shorter attention spans available. Developing a strong brand to them is about being more effective with the resources at hand. And it is no different for nonprofits. They are competing for the same short attention spans, working hard to appeal to those who can aid them in their cause. Volunteers, donors, and strategic partners are their audiences.With limited resources, how can the nonprofit be as effective as possible? Just like any big commercial brand, the nonprofit has a story to tell and, the more consistent and convincing that story, the more successfully it can accomplish its goals. It doesn’t matter that those goals are donations, volunteers, and awareness, rather than sales. We recently worked with a local nonprofit with a goal of an appeal to replace a labor- intensive $60,000 fundraising event. We suggested we first refine their brand, creating a consistent message on their website, social media platforms, and print media. We then launched an appeal that told that story via email, social media, and direct mail in a concerted effort. This single campaign raised over $70,000 and successfully replaced their annual event! Branding can absolutely move the needle when it comes to fundraising, connecting with volunteers, and driving awareness, by helping any marketing efforts cut through the noise. Organizational Culture There’s no denying that the culture within an organization can make or break that organization. How the staff, volunteers, and donors see the organization, and how they interact with each other and the community is absolutely critical. Most organizational cultures form organically, coming about by direct influence of the founder or director and the leadership, though much of it is left to chance based on the personalities of those who become involved.

Developing a strong brand with defining core values, a clear mission, and a brand vision and promise,provides a guide for that culture to reference. If all the stakeholders (leadership, board, staff, volunteers, and donors) know what defines the brand, a culture can be developed on purpose rather than by chance. For example, at Rock Paper Simple we have key core values that we build our culture around. The core value Integrity provides the team with an understanding that doing the right thing for our clients is paramount. Fun encourages the team to see that work at our office should be something we all enjoy (yes, we have nerf battles here!). Community encourages our involvement in making our community a better place to live, work, and play. Growth, Simplicity, and Teamwork speak to other areas that are vital in the culture we want to have here. Our core values and the value statements that go with them are on our website. Long-lasting organizations with strong cultures draw upon their brand for that inspiration. Community Perception How the community perceives any organization can greatly impact its success and effectiveness.This is true of for-profits just as much as the nonprofit. It can mean the difference between a community rallying around a cause and one that barely notices it exists. One of our team’s favorite events is our Galactic Fundraiser. We launched it in 2017 to coincide with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and partnered with a local nonprofit. Their brand was already very strong with a clear message, and the community loved them. We have established a brand perception for Rock Paper Simple also as being fun and very involved in our community. All we had to do was market a fun evening that promised Star Wars activities, food, drinks, raffles, door prizes, silent auctions, and a private showing of the movie at the theatre, all to benefit a great cause! Promoting that event was a breeze, and we raised thousands for hungry children in our community, on top of all the fresh exposure.

It was the power of community perception. People knew exactly what the nonprofit did and why they did it, and both brands tapped into a following for an event that was put together on very short notice! Leadership The leader of every organization has a huge responsibility. Among so many tasks and expectations, they are looked to for strategic decisions and planning, correction and encouragement of staff and volunteers, public speaking, and the presentation and stewardship of the organization to all stakeholders. All of these areas are influenced by having a strong sense of identity, mission, purpose, and core values. They provide consistency and stability in a long-lasting meaningful way, allowing decisions to be based on principles and guidelines set within the brand. During one of the early years of our agency, one of my TeamMembers (we don’t use the word employee here) asked me if he could do something of questionable ethics online to a competitor that had done something clearly wrong to one of our clients. I was able to respond with a simple question: “What are our core values?” and the response was, “Oh yeah. Integrity!” He had his answer. As a leader, it was a joy to later watch Team Members make decisions (or not) based on principles they knew were Branding isn’t just for big business. It truly has a clear and measurable impact on nonprofits and how they fundraise, generate awareness, develop their culture, cultivate community perception, and lead their organizations. I have seen a strong brand affect so many organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit. I look forward to hearing the stories of how branding has helped yours make an impact! Joshua Adams is the Head Honcho at digital marketing agency Rock Paper Simple, with a team of 14 that has served over 750 clients. He currently serves on the boards of four nonprofits, and served as a youth pastor for three years prior to his career in marketing. He lives to empower talented people and dedicates his work in every endeavor to the glory of God. true to our brand. Making an Impact

SynerVision Leadership .org I 17

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