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Principle Three: Using your brand meaning to rally internal ambassadors

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This post marks the third in this year’s series of spotlights on key take-aways from our book, Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding (BNB). Click here to view the previous post, and read on to learn about employing your brand meaning to rally internal ambassadors.

Motivated, loyal and creative employees, volunteers, and boards drive nonprofit organizations. They are the front line that represents the brand’s meaning.

Too often, nonprofits focus on branding as an external marketing function and neglect to appreciate that potential supporters are frequently introduced to organization through contact with internal constituents. If internal team members don’t understand and reflect the brand meaning, it’s hard for those on the outside to get on board. At the base level, employees and volunteers must continuously communicate and act in ways that reinforce a brand’s positive attributes. They must build an emotional connection with the organization’s supporters by enabling them to genuinely experience the brand meaning.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re hoping to turn your internal supporters into brand ambassadors:

  • Do you communicate the brand meaning and key messages to your internal stakeholders?
  • Do you give staff and volunteers the power to “live” the brand meaning via daily actions and interactions?
  • Do you instill a sense of pride and build an internal community to further drive the brand meaning externally?

The below chart will guide you in fulfilling all of the above goals:

Rallying internal brand ambassadors requires building a sense of community. By giving stakeholders the opportunity to bond around mutual commitments they will unify and develop a true sense of ownership around your nonprofit. Rituals, stories and symbols also allow people to feel they are working for something bigger than themselves. Both formal and informal rituals go a long way in creating a team out of seemingly random coworkers and strengthening the bond between employees and the organization. When all is said and done, it is also important to celebrate success. Working in the non-profit sector may be a thankless job at times, but by celebrating smaller milestones, employees know their work is being recognized and feel encouraged to continue.

Inspiration Corporation, founded in 1989, is truly a breakthrough nonprofit brand located in Chicago and serving men, women and families. The organization works hard to turn employees, volunteers and board members into brand ambassadors. Inspiration Corporation assists those affected by homelessness and poverty by providing professional food service training, employment services, housing services and other support ranging from meals served in a restaurant-style setting to individualized counseling and support. It is impressive to think that Inspiration Corporation, which now serves over 3,000 people each year, started out with Lisa Nigro serving quality food and coffee to homeless men and women out of her nephew’s red Radio Flyer wagon. This wagon acts as a reminder of Inspiration Corporation’s humble beginnings by adorning the walls of The Inspiration Café. All volunteers are required to attend an orientation as well, which reminds them of Nigro’s creed – to treat people like individuals and to provide an environment where those who need help can become self-reliant on their own terms.

What are other examples of nonprofits that are truly living and breathing their brand, thus rallying internal ambassadors?

Photo credit: Inspiration Corporation.

One thought on “Principle Three: Using your brand meaning to rally internal ambassadors

  1. I love your focus on non-profits. Folks can volunteer at any number of nonprofits, but where do they choose? The one with the best brand. I talk about this in my upcoming book – The Brandful Workforce. Good stuff!

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