Your Not for Profit Brand Community – Why it Matters

Building a Not for Profit Brand Community – Why it Matters

Whenever we approach a new client opportunity – we undertake a deep dive into the client – culminating in an informed proposal and ideally, a mandate.

This time, we are sharing a few of our best practices and acquired knowledge when building a not for profit brand community via social channels.

According to Statistics Canada, there are over 170,000 non-profits and charities in Canada. For organizations that rely solely on the discretionary generosity and dedication of its stakeholders, competing for donor share and battling donor fatigue is challenging; but never more so than during times of economic downturns.

Not for profit organizations most able to weather economic storms have strong brand value, high recognition and an enviable level of trust amongst their brand community. Powerful not-for-profit brands, such as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, National Ballet of Canada, Earth Day, and Greenpeace, are not unlike the big for-profit brands such as Apple, Ford, Nike, and Coca-Cola. They have put considerable effort into honing their messaging around purpose, what sets them apart from similar organizations, and how they want donors and important stakeholders to view their organization.

Unlike the for-profit sector, not for profit organizations are selling an intangible feeling that is borne of being in alignment with the values of the organization, the cause it represents and the desire to make a difference.

Take the cause of breast cancer, for instance. In Canada, there are three main not for profits: Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Rethink Breast Cancer and the Breast Cancer Society. All vying for donor dollars to support education, advocacy and research. Each organization was created because a group of people believed their organization would contribute something more meaningful to the cause. Each of these breast cancer organizations has positioned themselves in a slightly different way to attract a unique donor and to enlist volunteer target groups interested in feeling good about supporting the cause.

Larger organizations certainly have an advantage when it comes to developing their brands. They have the financial capacity to engage in strategic soul-searching and to attract the talent or services that will assist them in making their brand more relevant. However, smaller not-for-profits, or those just starting out, can also benefit from taking the steps to building their brand. In fact, their long-term success in fulfilling their mandate depends on it.

Here are five steps smaller not for profits should consider when undertaking a brand community building effort:

1. Setting Your Not for  Profit Apart:

Whatever sector your not for profit falls in, there are likely other organizations engaged in the cause. The clearer you are about defining your vision and mission, the easier it will be for you to communicate what you do to others and to inspire them to want to support your cause.

2. Putting Your Best Face Forward:

A not for profit brand is made of many things: a logo, a tag line, consistent messaging, quality promotional materials, dealings with stakeholder groups, and an ability to deliver on a stated promise to make a difference. How are these components expressed in your non for profit? Do they make your organization stand out? Is there consistency in messaging and in the delivery of your mission and vision? Do your brand components work for your organization or are they confusing and alienating your stakeholder target groups?

3. Attracting Stakeholder Support:

All not for profits are started because someone felt passionately about making a difference. Take time on a regular basis to reconnect with the reasons why the organization was started. Doing so will help to recreate the emotional connection and authenticity necessary to inspire others to support your cause, either financially or as a volunteer. For many small non-profits, building a powerful brand will require guidance from outside marketing and branding experts. The investment in time and money, however, will be transformative.

4. Take Time To Listen:

If you are not taking time to obtain feedback from your key stakeholders, donors and volunteers, you are missing out on important information that can help you better understand how your organization is perceived. Listening to what others have to say can help you determine what messages your target groups need to hear along with ways your organization can expand its reach to audiences beyond those who are part of your immediate brand community.

Ready to get started?

Consider our approach when developing a social content strategy. Our formula is a mix of megaphone and conversation:

4-1-1:   4 pieces of content from others, 1 re-share, 1 self-serving post
5-3-2:  5 pieces of content from others, 3 from you, 2 personal updates
Golden Ratio:  60% others content, 30% your content, 10% promotional
Rule of Thirds:  1/3 posts about you, 1/3 curated content, 1/3 conversations

Incorporate what we call the 3 A’s when implementing:

Appreciation:  1/3 of your social updates should recognize your donors, supporters, volunteers, and employees
Advocacy:  1/3 should engage and share with the content of other groups or nonprofits who are relevant to your area
Appeals:  1/3 should solicit donations or help