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Principle One: Developing Your Nonprofit Branding

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This post marks the first in this year’s series of spotlights on key take-aways from our book, Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding (BNB). Click here to view the previous year’s last post. I hope that these bite-sized portions of content from it will be just enough to spark new ideas for you in your work! 

It is just as important for a nonprofit organization to develop a strong brand as it is for any for-profit business. Branding must articulate whom the nonprofit serves and what it stands for, in order to move from basic awareness towards deeper engagement. To build this awareness, begin by asking the following questions:

  • What does your brand stand for?
  • Is the brand powerful both internally and externally?
  • Is it consistent with what the organization does today?
  • Does it reveal a hope for what the organization will do in the future?

Successful nonprofit branding will appeal to the “heads,” “hearts,” and “hands” of key constituents by rationally convincing leaders to support the organization, by forging emotional and personal connections, and by creating opportunities for people to participate and get involved. This will lead to your nonprofit from the stages of what we call base and build, ultimately  leading to a breakthrough moment for your brand.

Due to a successful brand renovation in 2010, the YMCA was able to maintain its position as one of the most powerful non-profit brands in the country. The YMCA thoughtfully readdressed what it stood for, focusing on the potential of youth and teens, improving the nation’s health and well being, and social responsibility. This allowed the brand to maintain the principles it was founded on over 160 years ago, while embracing modern issues and opportunities. The YMCA also made efforts to simplify their mission so they could make it easier for people to connect with the Y through their head, heart, and hands. Today, the Y showcases a more unified, modern front, offering everything from summer camps for kids, to group fitness classes for adults, and even vocational training to assist at-risk members of the community.

How does your breakthrough nonprofit brand appeal to the heads, hearts, and hands of its stakeholders? What changes do you plan on making in 2013 to improve your organization’s position with its stakeholders?

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