Here's a report on top brands as researched by marketing consultancy Brand Keys.

#1 on the list is Google; #2 is Yahoo. Catalog-driven companies do well, led by L.L.Bean at #4 and J. Crew at #6 (Sears, Eddie Bauer and Land's End were in the top 25).

The report cited above mentions convenience as a driver of brand loyalty. It's tough to conceive of (and nurture) loyalty to a nonprofit brand in terms of convenience, since most nonprofits do not deliver a service or products to their donor constituencies.

But loyalty is really built upon something deeper than “convenience” in the sense of facilitating or easing a purchase. And nonprofits can deliver on that “something deeper.”

The “something deeper” is trust.

A consumer would not pick up the phone or click the mouse if she did not trust L.L. Bean to meet her expectations of quality, service and suitability without question. That trusting relationship would have been built over time through a series of “successful” interactions between the consumer and the company, where her expectations were indeed met … and even better, exceeded.

Most interactions between nonprofits and their donors (sticking with that single constituency for this post) consist merely of the former passing along information to the latter, in the form of emails, web content, letters, newsletters and other publications. And at occasional junctures, a financial transaction occurs.

During that process, the donor forms an impression and draws a conclusion based on that impression. Ideally something like this …

“This organization knows what they're doing … they are effective and successful … they use my contributions with care and efficiency … they are accomplishing (or making discernible progress against) the needs/goals I had in mind … they appreciate me … I've begun to trust them … I feel good about 'them'.”

And where the organization offers meaningful paths and opportunities for donor involvement (e.g., volunteering, online networking), the process can and should reach even further, to … “I am one of them.”

How well do your interactions with your donors lead them down that path, which for them begins with an emotional need (save this, fight that, help them), proceeds through a “test” stage with practical questions and observations, and hopefully ends with an emotional commitment … at least trust, and maybe a sense of belonging?

Examine your nonprofit's interactions with donors through this lens. Are your communications meaningful and instrumental in terms of building a relationship of trust?

If so, you're on the way to building brand equity — and loyalty — for your nonprofit.

Tom

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