Environmental Defense is seeking candidates for the following position:

Brand Marketing Promotions Director

A lot of job openings pass by me, so why note this one … beyond the fact that Environmental Defense is my most recent alma mater?

Because branding is becoming a survival skill for nonprofits. And somebody needs to carry specific responsibility for it.

Because I'm personally familiar with the organization, I can attest that other, more senior people at Environmental Defense — execs and board members — think strategically about the brand vitality of the organization. But the creation of this position confirms that the organization is serious about operationalizing that thinking.

[Indeed, when I arrived there as chief marketer several years ago, one of my most senior colleagues routinely chastized me, fondly I think, if I even mentioned the term “branding”! Made her skin crawl.]

From a strategic perspective, nonprofits need to be able to define themselves sharply and memorably, hopefully in a manner that is true to their soul and strengths, AND that differentiates them from other like organizations. Then they must be systematic about both defending and projecting that brand.

Even the “grandest” of nonprofit brands can suffer body blows, some more deservedly than others, when critics or skeptics begin to peer into them — think of Habitat for Humanity, ACLU, Nature Conservancy, Smithsonian, American Red Cross in recent times.

A strong brand can survive its own lapses, even calamities … but only with mindful stewardship.

Defense aside, only a strong and strongly presented brand can even hope to compete for public attention and donor/activist support in today's environment where …

  • communications are so numerous in volume;
  • new communications channels, mostly decentralized and even personalized, are proliferating, making delivery of consistent messaging hugely difficult;
  • entrenched internal silos stymie vital communications and marketing integration within nonprofits;
  • generational communications styles and preferences differ so much, both within organizations and across their constituencies;
  • the culture, at least in America, prizes “new” above all, and old nonprofit brands must constantly re-earn their status; and,
  • the “barriers to entry” for new brands is lowered by the relative affordability, content depth and global reach of the online medium.

Add to all of this the stampeding of corporations toward social responsibility (because it's increasingly critical to the bottomline). As corporations seek to attach their brands to noble causes, generally through partnerships with nonprofits, the nonprofits face additional challenges and opportunities with regard to their own brand management.

So I hope Environmental Defense succeeds in finding a brilliant, sophisticated and creative candidate for its position … maybe even an Agitator reader!

And if your organization can't afford the “luxury” of a dedicated staffer for something as non-nonprofit sounding and other-worldly as “branding,” I urge you nonetheless to assign this responsibility explicitly to someone. Ideally someone as high in your hierarchy as possible, but not to someone who isn't passionate about the challenges involved in branding, and not to someone who won't commit the time to think about it and advocate for its needs.


P.S. If you type “webmaster” into The Agitator's search box, or go here, you'll find three posts on my other favorite position of the future for nonprofits … Chief Digital Officer. Give me my branding and digital czars, and I'll build you an organization with legs for the future.

This article was posted in: Nonprofit branding, Nonprofit management.
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