Your brand is what your donors consistently experience.
Your brand is also your logo and your colors and how you describe your work. Those things matter.
But in my experience, they don’t matter as much as what your donors experience during and after they give a gift to you.
A Brand is an Experience
There’s a big difference between a nonprofit brand and a product-based brand. When you purchase a product, you get to experience the product. You know if it’s well-made or not. You know if you feel good or look good with it.
But when your donor makes a gift to your organization, she doesn’t receive any product. The only thing your donor receives are your ongoing donor communications.
So it’s your donor’s experience of seeing, reading, and then feeling emotions caused by your communications that are your brand to her.
You might think it’s your logo and colors. But that’s a small part of the experience for her.
Three Branding Elements that Raise Money
Here are the three things that I see – the “brand elements” if you will – that make the most difference in small- to medium-sized nonprofit branding.
If your fundraising doesn’t have these elements, you can start raising more money immediately by adding them in the right places.
- Make your donor feel needed. Donors love to feel needed! Do you tell her directly that she’s needed? Do your communications reinforce that she and her gift are needed? Telling her you need “partners” or asking her to “continue our good work with your support today” do not do this. This happens best anytime you’re asking for money: appeals, e-appeals, events, etc.
- Make your donor feel great when she gives a gift. Does your receipt arrive fast? Does it acknowledge the intent of her gift (if you know it)? Is it followed with a phone call? A personal note? Any nonprofit can make a donor feel acknowledged – but does your Thanking process and content make a donor feel special?
- Regularly tell your donors what their giving accomplished. An annual report and standard-issue nonprofit e-news do not do this. You have to intentionally communicate to donors the impacts of their giving, in language they understand, and give them the credit for the change. Look at your donor communications and read the words carefully – do they tell your donor what your organization did, or do they tell your donor what she did?
I know most nonprofits don’t think about their brand in this way. But in my experience, these three elements, far more than elements like “your organization’s competency” or a tagline, are the active ingredients of a nonprofit brand that engages donors and keeps them giving.
So focus on these three elements. They move the needle more.
Add them to your brand and you’ll start raising more money immediately. And you’ll raise more money in the long term because you’ll keep more of your donors.