If your nonprofit were a person…
If your nonprofit were a person, how would you describe his or her personality?
It’s one of the first questions we ask when we’re getting ready to refine a brand for one of our clients. We think it’s an important one: knowing the tone and style you want to get across is key to being consistent in your communications.
But it’s not always an easy question to answer. Here’s the response I get most of the time:
“Should I describe who we are now, or who we want to be?”
On the one hand, your personality as it comes across right now may not be a good reflection of who you are or who you’re becoming. Maybe you’ve been pretty grassroots for a while, and you’re looking to become more professional and buttoned-up. Maybe your personality has long been defined by a charismatic founder or leader who’s transitioning out, and you need to seek out your own identity as an organization. Maybe your communications look pretty disorganized and uncoordinated to an outside eye, but you’re actually a remarkably efficient, effective deliverer of programs. In all of those cases (and lots of others), your personality as you express it now is not the one you want to enshrine in your brand—it’s something you want to shift.
On the other hand, the most important thing about personality is that it has to be true. If you’re a very focused, professional organization, it’s not going to be realistic for you to suddenly become funny or irreverent. If your community knows (and loves) you for your playful tone, it might be a mistake to try and force yourself to be too intense and serious.
So if you’re thinking about your nonprofit’s tone and style, know that there’s room for aspirational ideas and for challenging yourselves to grow—but it has to based in what’s true about who you are and how you’re evolving.