You should never assume that people understand exactly what your organization does – its mission, purpose, constituency, people, programs, performance, plans, etc. In our consulting work, we see time and again that the public’s perception of an organization can lag years behind the reality, even among well-informed community leaders.
To most effectively present your organization to prospective donors, you must first understand how various constituents currently view the organization and what they value most about it. Many nonprofit leaders are now investing in a deliberate branding process to learn more about how their organization is perceived, and to best express its value-added proposition.
Through branding, you can reinforce your organization’s identity and position in the marketplace.
The current image of an organization strongly influences how people respond to it. The positive image of your organization in the donor marketplace can take a long time to establish, and just as long to change or erase unwanted perceptions.
In today’s competitive landscape, however, things can change rapidly, dramatically, and without warning. The organization’s revenues and even its visibility may be adversely affected. In such an environment, you don’t have years to act or react! You must move swiftly and surely to reinforce your organization’s brand and shift or strengthen its position.
To accomplish that, you must find out what your donor constituents and other stakeholders are thinking and feeling. How much do they know about your organization? What business do they think you’re in? What do they think differentiates you from your competitors? To what extent do they trust you to deliver on your promises?
The perceptions, ideas, and information you gather will provide the basis for clarifying and better expressing your organization’s mission and
purpose; what value it contributes; what people expect from it; and what kind of world it aspires to create. All of these elements will affect how the organization presents itself, verbally, visually, and person to person.
Building awareness and visibility
Verbally, a brand is expressed through a powerful and memorable message (or messages) that evokes what the organization is about. Graphically, it is expressed through a distinctive, attractive, and evocative look or style that reinforces and intensifies the verbal message.
Your marketing plan should identify key constituencies and outline your objectives and strategy for each.
With a vigorous and sustained effort to build and promote your brand, your organization will be able to create and maintain a higher profile, especially among those you want most to attract and influence (including donors and volunteers). For that purpose, you will want to work with the media and through your own channels of communication. To support these efforts, your organization will need:
1. A written marketing plan and strategy to identify key constituencies and define specific objectives, strategies and desired outcomes for each.
2. A coordinated, professionally produced, and attractive family of marketing communications.
When these tools are based on a well-conceived strategic plan and a compelling case for support, you’re sure to improve the marketing, and ultimately the results, of all your development programs.
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For more on Strategic Advancement, Aligning Your Resources to Attract Philanthropy, access Goettler Series Volume 12