Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 13

Ara: A lot of nonprofit people get nervous around the word branding. Maybe it seems too corporate, so there’s a sense that you are manipulating people. But branding is just a shortcut to help people know who you are. If you work with kids, your colors and fonts are likely to be more whimsical. If you work with survivors of domestic violence, your colors and fonts will probably be more serious, but also hopeful. Part of branding is choosing elements that fit with your mission. But the other side of it is that once people know your brand, it gives them a faster recognition when they see your materials. If there’s a table of brochures, they’ll reach for yours because they see familiar elements. And the other benefit of consistent branding is that it actually reduces the amount of work it takes to create documents, content, and other material. It’s so easy to have your logo saved accessibly on your desktop so that you can plop it into anything. If you create a series of graphics, it’s a simple process to move those between documents. And if you identify the words that you want to use, and those you don’t, you can write a quick press release without thinking about it too much. Cynthia: In your opinion, Ara, how does all of this fit into grantseeking? Ara: There are two sides to this: we can look at it from the grantee’s point of view as well as the grantor’s. I know that when I review grant applications (which I do for the Ohio Arts Council, as well as our local arts council, CultureWorks), I consider which organizations are going to be able to multiply the impact of awarded funds. And part of that is messaging. There are the obvious things like, can they manage to put the grantor’s logo on their printed materials, but also can the organization communicate clearly what they are doing – both with words and with visuals? If a grant application has clear and consistent language, grantors feel more comfortable that their awards will be used successfully. Again, this doesn’t have to be fancy. I don’t care if an organization has a black and white logo that was hand drawn, or one that was designed by an expensive marketing firm. But I do care that they have a logo, and that

they are using it consistently with their other messaging. Cynthia: And from the grantee’s perspective? Ara: This is the grantwriter’s side.Whether you are writing the grants in-house or hiring someone outside your organization, the clearer your sense of branding, the easier it is to compile the application. When I work with organizations writing grants, I always build up a nice collection of work samples, which are easy for me to attach to grants without going hunting.We all know that grant requests often include answering the same questions in slightly different ways, and if you know that you run an immersion program instead of a summer camp, or a nature preserve instead of a park, those words can guide more efficient answers. This takes us to a third way branding affects grantseeking: grant reviewers read a lot of applications. Frankly, they are going to better remember applications with clearer messaging and consistent visuals. There’s a reason your two-year-old recognizes McDonald’s when you drive by; it ties into the way our brains work. If you can have clear, concise messaging in your grant request (which becomes extra fun when you have to work in word/character limits), your application is less likely to get lost in Ara: If you really want to strengthen your application in comparison to others in the pool, make sure your branding includes some way to set you apart from other similar organizations. Cynthia Adams, President and CEO of GrantStation, has spent the past 40 years helping nonprofits raise the money needed for their good work. GrantStation exists because grantseeking requires a thorough understanding of the variety and scope of grantmakers and sound knowledge of the philanthropic playing field. Her life’s work is to level that playing field, creating an opportunity for all nonprofit organizations to access the wealth of grant opportunities across the U.S. and the brain of the reviewers. Cynthia: Any final tips, Ara?

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