Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 13

brands evolve, but those strategic shifts should be carefully constructed, not due to mission drift or the arbitrary brainchild of a new player on your team. What is the Minimum Branding Necessary? Branding doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be carefully thought out and genuinely reflect your institution’s passion. It’s the core of your organization, its beliefs, its promise, its delivery methods, and its client population. Branding is not a mission or vision statement, but it certainly takes those elements into account. Instead, branding is the outward-facing version of your internally focused mission or vision. It’s not why we work here, but why we want others to contribute time and treasure to our entity. So how do you create a brand or re-evaluate the brand you already have? Although there are many other elements your organization may need to fully implement its brand, start with the BigThree: brand foundation, look and feel, and brand book. Brand Foundation. Corral your senior management in the conference room, make a pot of coffee, and break out the whiteboard markers. You’ll form a brand foundation together, based on your collective perspectives. Try not to rush things, and try not to invite too many players to the party. Your brand foundation starts with the why, moves to what, the how, and the who. Ask your senior players to define why your entity is good for the world. Does it save lives? Lift families from poverty? Create more engaged citizens? Save the planet from harmful pollution? Think big. Once you’ve got your why nailed down, ask what the benefit is to your stakeholder.This is the practical application of your promise or why. By engaging your organization, will a donor or volunteer help ease tax burdens, inform more knowledgeable voter turnout, assure that fewer unwanted pets are destroyed, decrease illnesses related to environmental hazards? Think about

what’s in it for the donor and why they should care. How do you deliver your why? This is a short list of the ways your organization makes a difference related to its promise. For example, you may provide shelter and food for unwanted animals while your volunteers are reaching out to prospective pet owners. Or connect kids to mentors through…You get the idea. Finally, clarify who you’re serving. Don’t try to include everyone, just your core constituency. The why, what, how, and who form your elevator pitch. This is a couple of sentences that encapsulate everything into a description that your neighbor or great aunt can understand and get excited about, and then repeat to others. Start your elevator pitch and, really, all your marketing vehicles, with the why. Try it out. If your fitness buddy starts wrinkling his brow or searching her text messages, your pitch probably didn’t grab them with the why first, and it is too long, too convoluted. Edit; be brutal. Look and Feel. Branding is more than your logo, but your logo needs to be fantastic. It should be unique, inspired, and say something about your promise. People make judgments based on your looks. You wouldn’t go to a job interview in shorts, so spend some time and money on a professional logo. Develop an aspirational tagline and a descriptive tagline to couple with your logo. Are you an edgy disruptor, a safe alternative, or something else? The tone of your communications – the language, web design, collateral, color palette, testimonials – should reflect how your organization sees itself and how it positions itself against other nonprofits in the same space. Brand Book. Commit your brand to writing. Roll everything up into a short brand book that is shared with your staff and all your stakeholders (you know, those future ambassadors). Refer to it often. This is the blueprint for your marketing. When someone has a brainstorm, judge it against your brand book and ask if the

effort supports your brand foundation. Resist chasing the bright shiny idea at the expense of your core initiatives unless you have the budget and staff to do so. Branding Versus Marketing Okay, you’ve got your branding sorted out. Marketing translates your branding strategy into action.While branding doesn’t change quickly, marketing may, depending on emerging needs and opportunities that may arise. Your marketing plan details various tactics your organization will roll out to engage donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders. Tactics are tied to specific messaging and a call to action. (Think about a capital fundraiser with a matching grant deadline.) Your marketing efforts will lean heavily on a sharp, functional website, complete with baked-in search engine optimization and a Donate Now tool. You’ll most likely want to be active on internet registers and social media channels, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and a blog. And we haven’t even touched on collateral, direct mail, enewsletters, eblasts… Yikes! We’ll save marketing for another article. Ready, Set, Brand! Put on your metaphorical SCUBA mask and prepare for a deep dive into your brand review.The sooner you jump in, the quicker you’ll have your messaging and marketing synchronized for maximum results. Yes, you’ll have to ask difficult questions and demand candid responses. Depending on the dynamics of your organization, an outside consultant can be invaluable in leading this discussion and preparing an actionable, concise brand plan. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a pro. Lisa McMath of McMath Creative has worked in branding and marketing for more than 30 years. With roots in advertising agencies and design firms, she has participated in dozens of successful branding and marketing engagements for enterprises of all sizes and in nearly every industry, from high-tech, education, finance, and medical, to real estate, nonprofit, and retail.

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