Intercept. Interpret. Invite. Intrigue. Inspire.

These are the words that come to mind when I think about how I would establish and grow a nonprofit brand.

Intercept: perhaps nothing requires more marketing creativity today than getting in the face of your target audience with a relevant message at a ripe moment. Fortunately, even as the communications blizzard gets more dense, the methodologies for targeting are getting cheaper, faster, more penetrating and sophisticated, especially in the online universe.

The going rate for launching a new commercial brand is about $100 million … the amount Procter & Gamble is committing to launching a new toothpaste (Crest Pro-Health). Unless you have that kind of dough to saturate the entire breathing public with your message, you'll need to figure out how to place your organization directly in a purposeful path your prospect is already taking. For you basketball fans, sort of like drawing a charging foul.

If you've studied your audience carefully enough, intercepting its best members becomes affordable and cost-effective.

Interpret: having won some initial attention, the next requirement is to offer real value to your prospect. Many nonprofits are essentially in the information dissemination business. But simply furnishing information about human rights abuses, promising health research, or global warming, etc., while necessary, is no longer sufficient. There are too many alternative — and free — sources of even arcane information out there, mere clicks away.

Why should I pay (i.e., contribute to) your organization for mere information, when I can get it in a myriad of places at no cost? I'll do it only if your organization adds value by framing, interpreting and validating the information, helping me to understand complex issues and showing me how I can constructively channel my energy to make an impact.

You need to help me interpret what's happening in the world(s) I care about.

Invite: some, not all, of your constituents will welcome additional opportunities to interact with your (actually, their) organization. Invite them to do so and facilitate that process, especially online. The online environment offers many tools to engage, cultivate and empower members, donors and activists. And experience says the more deeply engaged your supporter becomes, the more valuable they become as well … they renew more and give you a greater share of their contribution “wallet.”

Many, even most, of your constituents will decline the invitation, but each will appreciate it.

Intrigue: do your best to be fresh and original. Americans in particular are trained through omnipresent lifelong advertising, like it or not, to respond to “new.” While you shouldn't stray from your core mission and identity, anything you can do to provide fresh or provocative insight, a different way of looking at recurring or familiar events, new accomplishments, emerging trends, or insider perspective will pay dividends.

No matter how important your cause, message or organization is, “same old, same old” is deadly.

Inspire: don't forget the power of hope in your messaging. After all, what are you offering your supporters that's more important to them? Some might say, results. I'm a HUGE fan of trumpeting results, but I would say that the power of doing so is based upon the further hope that is so fueled. Results impress and validate, but more importantly, they inspire even more hope.

Consciously try to inspire hope. Review all your communications through this lens. Hope is what we're tapping into when we engage others as our allies, activists, donors, collaborators.

Have some brand-building words you'd like to add to this list? Please do … and they don't need to begin with “I”!


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