Brand Your Business Like A Nonprofit

The spirit of the holidays inspires us to open our hearts and wallets to our favorite charities. It could be buying gifts for those who are less fortunate, volunteering at a shelter or food bank, or giving to a religious organization.

We give to these nonprofits — large or small, seasonally or year-round — because we are emotionally connected to them and believe in their cause. Americans gave $217.79 billion to charity in 2011 despite the recession – a 4% increase from 2010, according to The Center On Philanthropy at Indiana University.

It’s due in part to branding – even though most nonprofits don’t realize it or think of it as branding. Perhaps you wonder how nonprofits can establish such a strong brand image with out any funding for marketing or branding. (We’re not talking about large nonprofits with marketing budgets here.)

It is because they intrinsically embrace three strong brand qualities: a vision and mission, passion, and loyalty – practicing, in essence, grassroots branding.

For-profit organizations wishing to emulate the success of nonprofits can likewise embrace these three qualities to strengthen their own brands.

1. Vision & Mission
It starts with the founder(s)’ vision and mission for the nonprofit — its “highest calling,” as marketing legend Stan Richards calls a brand’s vision. It’s the reason for the organization’s existence. This clear foresight and purpose attracts people, unites them, and guides the organization. Our client, Pastor Rickie G. Rush of the Inspiring Body of Christ Church, expresses it this way: “Having a clear mission for your church is like having a compass pointing you in the right direction.”

2. Passion
Vision and mission are driven by passion; without it, the organization wouldn’t exist. Everyone involved shares the same passion for a cause or ideal. This strong, cohesive force is the catalyst for growth, actions, and change. Sometimes, one person’s passion can inspire an entire organization. Take the case of our client, The Joaquín Achúcarro Foundation. This organization was created in honor of maestro Achúcarro “to showcase, educate and benefit the careers of pianists, while developing and maintaining the legacy of pianist Joaquín Achúcarro in perpetuity.”

3. Loyalty
Along with passion is loyalty to the organization and its cause. Many great nonprofits deserve our support, but we usually give to the same ones year after year. Why? The answer lies in psychological factors such as trust, credibility, or nostalgia. Loyalty also means championing the cause. The shoe company TOMS established a loyal brand following due to their charitable business model, One for OneTM, which gives a pair of shoes to children in need for each pair purchased. TOMS credits their customers for giving away more than 2 million pairs of shoes to children around the world since October 2011. The company states that it is “committed to creating the biggest impact possible with the shoes we give — improving children’s health and access to education – for the long-term.”

Building your brand
A brand is an intangible, ubiquitous force. It isn’t just a logo or a sign; it’s everything that an organization does, says, and believes in. A strong brand has the power to connect with people and inspire actions, from making a donation or a purchase to starting a global movement.

Most for-profits have these qualities but struggle to clearly and consistently communicate them within the organization or in the crowded marketplace. Sometimes they lose sight of these qualities, or the qualities become less important as the organization grows and becomes more operations-driven. As a result, stakeholders, employees and customers become uncertain about their company’s brand and its purpose. This uncertainty inevitably affects the bottom line.

The value in developing your organization’s brand is tremendous and will contribute immeasurably to your company’s success. A clear, distinct, and consistent brand strategy will build loyalty and equity over time, just as it has for the most successful nonprofits.

If your organization can benefit from an established brand, Envision can help you focus on these three brand qualities and more with our 360-degree brand development services and expertise.