January 10, 2014
When considering how to reach out to the donor pool, nonprofits may not throw around the term "marketing" a lot. Typically, fundraising serves the dual purpose of creating awareness surrounding the cause and then using that to leverage donor contributions.
However, consumers are interacting with brands in ways they never have before, and nonprofits can benefit from this as well. Thinking of consumers and donors, they are still turning over money to an organization. What they get in return will differ slightly for each individual. For some, it's the feeling of helping others, contributing to a passionate cause, or perhaps they just get a tax deduction.
Nonprofits need to market themselves much the same way that for-profits do. In fact, branding is really nothing more than declaring a promise. Due to their actions, most nonprofits probably slide by with a pretty high brand rating. Just the idea of no profits will raise their image quite a bit in the minds of many Americans.
However, nonprofits can quickly suffer from negative publicity, possibly more so than traditional businesses. For one thing, even a small decline in funding can cause serious budget shortfalls, so a minor PR problem is quickly amplified.
How nonprofits can improve their brand
According to Nonprofit Brand It, differentiation is one of the key reasons that nonprofits need to be conscious of branding. Just as companies compete for market share and profits, nonprofit organizations must show donors what they offer that others do not. One way to start, said the website, is to create a mission that is more quantitative.
For example, ending world hunger is clearly a daunting task that no single organization will ever be able fulfill. However, "providing families in Ghana access to clean water," is a mission that donors will see as attainable. The more specific a nonprofit is when designing its goals the more donors will be able to visualize the mission being accomplished.
Branding also improves a nonprofit's credibility. Marketing aspects as simple as an engaging logo can make an organization look more legitimate. When turning over money to a charity, donors want to believe that they it has gone to the group with best chance of using it to meet their personal goals.
Branding is becoming an increasingly complex concept
Make no mistake, while a good logo helps, branding is about much more than the sign in front of the building. Successful branding should encompass interaction with donors on social media, at community events and press in local news outlets when possible. Donors will want to feel like a part of an organization even when they are not contributing. That could lead to volunteering their time, or it could just mean they share social media updates from the group with their friends and family.
If nonprofits do not have a defined strategy for improving marketing and branding initiatives, board members should could consider developing one. Increasing awareness about the organization, its services and its needs throughout the year will improve the results of fundraisers.
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