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The Role Of Nonprofit Brands: Thinking Beyond Fundraising

Here is an interesting article about leveraging nonprofit brands “in the cause of greater public discourse and social impact”.  The authors  Nathalie Kylander & Christopher Stone “describe a conceptual framework designed to help nonprofit organizations do just that.” They call it the Nonprofit Brand IDEA (Integrity, brand Democracy, brand Ethics, and brand Affinity). Good food for thought for academic research institutions as well…

A decade ago, the dominant brand paradigm in the nonprofit sector focused on communications. Nonprofit executives believed that increased visibility, favorable positioning in relation to competitors, and recognition among target audiences would translate into fundraising success. Branding was a tool for managing the external perceptions of an organization, a subject for the communications, fundraising, and marketing departments.

(Today,) a brand is more than a visual identity: the name, logo, and graphic design used by an organization. A brand is a psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of the branded product, person, organization, or movement.

The question that interests me most is: Could research institutions have greater impact if they leveraged their brand in different ways?

The text includes several examples of brand strategies that are being developed in endowed, private foundations with no fundraising targets at all. Tom Scott, director of global brand and innovation at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, asks: “What difference could it make to attach our logo to things to move conversations forward or elevate certain issues? Can we use our brand to elevate other brands?”

And how do we measure the effectiveness of this type of brand management? The authors suggest to look at:

  1. increase in commitment and pride among staff and directors,
  2. reduction of signs of mission drift, and
  3. to answer the question whether the efforts have made choices about which projects, resources, and partnerships to pursue easier.

A strong brand should increase both the speed and the breadth of consensus decisions in governing bodies.

Keep reading: The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector


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