The other day blogger Jeff Brooks headlined a post … How to kill your fundraising. And the answer he gave was: Investing in brand. Well, I thought that was one of the most annoying things I had ever heard from Jeff (who I regard very highly).

So I read on and discovered he was passing along the admonition of Sean Triner, another smart blogger. Sean’s original post was titled: The first of two good ways to destroy your individual fundraising. Now I was really juiced up!

So I read Sean’s post, and I came away thinking that neither title really did justice to the key point Sean was making. Here it is …

‘Brand’ is incredibly important for the long term survival of a fundraising charity.  Having a great brand helps keep loyal donors, win corporate donations and means you are more likely to be front of mind when people write their wills.
But branding is not about big ads, prescriptive fonts and cool logos – it is about how the charity behaves; what it feels like to be helped by them, to help them and to be thanked by them.
Brand is not about how a charity ‘looks’ it is about how people experience that charity.
The best branded charities tell fantastic stories brilliantly and use fundraising advertising activities (like online, direct mail, phone calls, direct response TV and events) to position themselves.  Good fundraising is good branding.”

The two pearls here …

“Brand is not about how a charity ‘looks’ it is about how people experience that charity.”

This is the point Roger has been hammering away at in his retention series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Retention is about donor attitudes. Attitudes are shaped by how donors experience and feel about the organization. The composite of those feelings/attitudes is — forgive me — your brand. Of course it’s important … and it requires tending.

“Good fundraising is good branding.”

Yes, a lot is communicated via fundraising activities … no question that all that messaging and story telling inherent in fundraising delivers an organizational image and shapes attitudes. But again, there are — or should be — heaps of other engagements with the donor that can have more value than all those fundraising messages. Things like donor service, transparency, surveying and other involvement opportunities (including donor-created content), non-fundraising communications.

I do disagree with Sean when he says “there is never a need for a charity to spend money on awareness for fundraising purposes”. Do I want my cause — and my organization’s pivotal association with that cause — mentioned positively and prominently in influencer media, the specialty media that covers my mission area, and social media? Of course I do. Fundraising messages will never create a need or issue out of thin air.

Yes, if I have the resources, I will invest in securing that exposure … even if just for a decent PR person and a well-promoted website. Would I raid my fundraising budget to do so (the scenario that most troubles Sean)? No. As Jeff Brooks says, to raise funds, you need to fundraise!

That said, fundraising tactics will only catch the attuned.





This article was posted in: Communications, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Nonprofit branding.
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