How a powerful brand strengthens your nonprofit mission


What’s in this article?

  • The difference between your nonprofit mission and brand
  • How your brand promotes your mission
  • The three components of your brand
  • How a powerful brand is built

  • Use a powerful brand to promote your mission

 

Does your organization believe that its mission is crucial? You have a lot of company.

All nonprofits believe their mission is crucial – that they help make the world a better place. But this belief, which is self-evident to your team, may not be obvious to your audience.

If you are trying to win hearts and minds by promoting your nonprofit mission, you are using the wrong tool.

Instead, you need a powerful brand.

A powerful brand is the public face of your mission:

  • It speaks to your ideal audience across all media channels
  • It builds trust
  • It builds community, both internally and externally
  • It differentiates your nonprofit from competitors
  • It furthers business goals, such as building capacity, fund raising and advocacy

When a brand is powerful, your mission gains support from your audience. When a mission gains support, your nonprofit delivers better outcomes. And better outcomes build trust, which makes your brand more powerful.

Your mission is not your brand

Does your nonprofit mission statement appear on your website home page? It doesn’t belong there.

Why? Because your mission is not your brand.

Your mission is intended for your board, leadership and staff. It’s not meant to be a public-facing document. It’s a compass that points to your nonprofit’s true north. It defines what your objectives are, what you do, and who you serve. Your plans and actions are guided by your mission.

On the other hand, the brand is your audience’s perception of your mission. So your brand lives in the mind of your audience. Your brand should permeate all audience-facing platforms, especially your website.

You own your mission. But your audience owns your brand.

Furthermore, your audience knows less about you than you might think. Their knowledge is typically fragmented and impressionistic. The brand is their gut feeling about you, not an informed opinion.

The powerful brand: 3 components

A brand has three components: Your audience, your competitors, and your identity.
A brand has three components: Your audience, your competitors, and your identity.

Your audience

A powerful brand targets your ideal audience. To create the gut feeling you want, you need to understand them in depth.

When your audience is engaging with your brand, their primary question is: “What’s in it for me?”  To answer this question, you need to know who they are.

And if you feel your audience is everyone, you are making a mistake. If you talk to everyone, your message will lack focus, and you will end up talking to no one.

Brand process: ideal audience

In a branding process, the first step is defining your nonprofit’s ideal audience. Here are some top level items to discover about your ideal audience.

  • Demographics
  • Lifestyle  / Employment
  • Consumer behavior
  • Attitudes
  • Needs/Motivations

Your Competitors

A powerful brand makes you different from competitors. How does that happen?

Brands live in the minds of your target audience. But they don’t think of you in isolation. They compare you to other brands they feel are similar – that is, your competitors.

So your brand lives in an environment with competing brands. And your relationship with the other brands is called positioning.

By studying your competitors you can learn how they are positioning themselves – and find ways to be different.

Brand process: competitive audit

In the branding process, we study competitors by performing a competitive audit. The most efficient way to do this audit is by comparing and evaluating your competitors’ websites.

Your identity and mission

Brands are powered by trust. And nonprofit brands are held to a higher standard than businesses. Doing what you say you do, and being who you say you are is crucial.

One way brands build trust is by keeping a brand promise. A brand promise is the most compelling, distinctive, and credible thing that your audience gets when they experience your brand. The core of a brand promise is your mission.

Brand personality is very simple: if your brand was a person, what would they be like? Brand personality comes out of your culture, mission, and leadership, and responds to your target audience and your positioning.

Out of the brand personality comes your brand voice – so when your nonprofit speaks, your target audience feels it’s authentic. Unfortunately, many nonprofit brands have timid, impersonal voices – they don’t express the passion behind their mission.

Brand process: strategy

In the branding process, brand identity is discovered through qualitative interviews with a non profit’s leadership and audience.

Once the ideal audience, competitive environment and brand identity are analyzed, the brand strategy is developed. The brand strategy leads to key messaging, visual branding such as logos, and tactical elements like a new website.

Repetition

Your new brand is built and launched – what’s the next step? It’s repetition. Brands get more powerful when key messages and visual elements are repeated incessantly, through all channels, forever. 

Because you never know what on what platform or channel your audience will engage the brand, you want the same experience on all.