Building Blocks of Strong Nonprofit Brands

A while ago I wrote Branding; when a refresh is in order and had some interesting feedback, with many saying it’s important to look at a refresh of an organisation’s brand from time to time, but that often people are afraid to refresh as it can be seen as a waste of time, money and other resources.

I came across The Eight Building Blocks of Strong Nonprofit Brands on Nonprofit Quarterly and thought it was a great piece and wanted to share it.

“To some, the very idea of nonprofit branding is a vulgar topic. No doubt, the nonprofit sector should be about mission, about performance, about excellence. We all want nonprofits to get the support they deserve, and we may sincerely wish that effectiveness were the coin of the realm—but it rarely is. Not only are measures of performance imprecise in many fields, the metrics we do have are incommensurable across fields. For all the talk of social investing and venture philanthropy, the reality is that brands still dominate the capital markets in the nonprofit sector. Decisions about support are a function of what the public thinks a nonprofit is doing far more than what it actually knows about what the organization is accomplishing.

“So, what is a brand? It is the construct that stakeholders hold about the identity, including the character, of a nonprofit organization. It is the sum total of perceptions about what a nonprofit stands for, what it does, and how much social impact it is thought to achieve. Brands are connected to reputations, in that recognizable brands are often, though not always, associated with good reputations. Brands can be tarnished and reputations ruined after scandals or bad press—and in that case, the brand may endure in the awareness of stakeholders but it will no longer be able to contribute to the organization’s ability to pursue its goals. Should one be fortunate enough to have a great brand, protecting it becomes an absolute organizational priority. Arguably, it is the most valuable asset in the nonprofit sector, because it is the gateway to all other assets, both human and financial.

Read the full article here

Are They Unregistered and Fundraising

Have only come across this a couple of times, but it may happen more than I’ve seen.

Actually, from memory there have been times where people have been seen out on the street with buckets or clipboards asking for support for some charitable cause; only for it to be later discovered that it was for a group/organisation that had no charitable status (they stated that they were a registered charity).

If you’re approached by someone saying they’re fundraising or seeking support in other ways for a charitable cause; make sure they are registered, ask for proof, if they’re out in public they are meant to have certain information with them – and one piece of information should be proof of their charitable status i.e. charity number. If they don’t have this – walk away.

Recently I have seen an organisation seeking support and, also talking about the support that have gained; in their “storytelling” they have said that they are a Charitable Trust, but in looking they have no charitable status with Charity Services.

I know that this organisation has no registration, they applied to be registered but withdrew or cancelled their registration for some reason.

Not only can “organisations” acting in this way have the potential to impact negatively on the charity sector as a whole, it can impact on those who “endorse” them.

When an organisation trots out people or businesses saying that they are ambassadors or the like; and have those people front for it, the potential for them to have their “brand” tarnished is real.

So, if a word of or two of caution:

Check the charitable status of any organisation that approaches you for support.

Ask for details about how your support will help, who benefits, what it costs for them to administer their organisation.

If you’re approached to be an ambassador, or show your support for an organisation, do the above, but also check what visibility the organisation has, do some background checks.

What’s been in the media about the organisation, has there been any negative articles published?

Check the Trustees, who are they, what do they do apart from being a name with the organisation, you can easily use LinkedIn, Facebook etc for this.

Ask around, ask people you know if they know anything about the organisation, it’s Trustees etc.

So, keep alert, ask questions before supporting.

Remember it only takes one bad apple to ruin the lot.

Wake Up

Ok, I have talked previously about knowing what’s going on the sector, what others in your same field are doing. But are you watching what people in general are talking about, issues, news items, documentaries and so on that have relevance to the work of your organisation?

It astounds me that there people in the sector who go to their office each day, do the work they feel needs doing; but aren’t aware of what people are talking about, what’s being shown and how this could be useful for their work.

Monitoring what’s happening is part of your job, well, I think it is. And for staff to only see their job as 9 to 5 is a little short sighted, especially when there’s so much competition for the charity dollar.

Staff should be encouraged to spend some part of their day looking at what people are talking about, someone in the organisation should be keeping an eye out for tv programmes etc that have some relevance to the work of your organisation. And, yes, someone should be monitoring FaceBook and the likes to see what others are talking and sharing that’s of relevance; and no cats are not really relevant unless they are at the core of what your organisation does.

So, who in your organisation is responsible for sharing news items, discussion papers etc? No one, tut tut, get someone onto this pronto, there’s likely gems you’re missing out on that could help you with your next fundraising campaign.

Remember, the people you are trying to gain as supporters are likely to have seen, read or talked about something that relates to your organisation, if you have seen something recently you can drop into a conversation or email; it could swing them to support you.

Who’s monitoring the social channels, again no one; no tuts this time, but please get someone to monitor, it won’t take them all day, just a few minutes each day is all that’s needed.

Ok, that’s a wee rant with some suggestions; so when you get back to your office, work out what you need to monitor and who the best person is to do this; unsure who – ask who would be interested, maybe someone is really keen but have been too shy to suggest that this is what you should be doing.

Now, get back to looking at what people are talking about in your sector.

Is it Slactivism or Something More – Commenting On or Liking …

We see them often, someone puts up a random update on social media, perhaps something on the lines of  “I have diarrhoea”, you make a comment and next thing you know you have a private message from them about how you shouldn’t have commented , “liked” or “Favourited” it.

There’s an expectation that you will now share something from a list they provide and that’s it’s all in aid/awareness of some cause.

I’ve avoided them, until the other night when someone said he’d been unwell and I made a comment, next thing I receive a private message instructing me to share something from a list of choices and, that it was all to raise awareness of a particular cause.

My first thought was … damn, I’ve fallen into a trap, then my mind went to how does this actually raise awareness of anything?

Actually, I guess it does raise awareness, as in the private message you get told what “cause” it is for, and in your sharing and others commenting etc on it they will receive a message telling them about the “trap” they have fallen into … so yes, I guess it raises awareness.

But, is this passive or positive awareness, can it help make a difference?

I wonder that it could actually have a negative effect, especially if people who get “caught” into this “trap” are already supportive of and share information about causes close to their heart do this; it could actually turn people of should the person sharing later share something important about a cause that needs immediate help.

Have you been caught out, have you participated or would it be something you would run a mile from?

Would you participate or would you run from it?

Some people have when I made mention about my friends diarrhoea, cottoned on to it immediately and I had some say it’s a pointless exercise, with others saying they would stop following or unfriend me should I do it again.

Is there a benefit to the “cause” or could it backfire and turn people off when you or the organisation has something important to say?

Please share this post – it will help save Unicorns, if you don’t you won’t win the lottery.