Brand smart from the start: that’s my advice to any beginning organization whether it be a business or a non-profit.
Last week I was invited to a meeting of the board of directors of a newly formed non-profit. A committee member had a bad feeling about how the organization was being formed and managed. He particularly saw a half-hearted and uncoordinated approach to branding.
The board was populated mostly by volunteer business people.
Yet, just after I was introduced, a restaurant chain owner claimed that “we weren’t starting a restaurant chain, and a non-profit didn’t need to go through a rigorous branding exercise. An IT company exec piped up and said since this was a small non-profit, and we couldn’t afford to brand it – at least not yet.
I know a lot of sharp business people who don’t appreciate the value of branding even for a growing for-profit business.
Don’t taint the non-profit in the gauze of a unified and powerful brand. Don’t attempt to sway people to contribute or volunteer on the basis of a prepared message and unified image. Don’t stand out from other non-profits – it may hurt them.
Little do they realize that people will “brand” the organization with or without the influence of a unified branding program.
People will classify and position a non-profit in their minds just as they do a commercial enterprise. They do it unconsciously and naturally.
So if they are given some integrated signals and messages that place a non-profit in a favorable light, their cause might benefit. So why shouldn’t the non-profit be branded? Why shouldn’t people learn what the non-profit stands for, what their contribution is to society, how it will help people in need, what it will take to meet its goals?
With reluctance, this particular non-profit got the message. They will take the next step. As I suggested, they will build a brand platform (with my pro bono assistance). From there it is possible they will take the next step and adopt a name that will be relevant and poignant.
Lets hope so.