4 min Read
November 19, 2014

Five opportunities to get more mileage out of your brand

Rachel Hope Allison

Think of your nonprofit’s brand as a car. The point of having it is to invite your audience to hop on in and take a journey that inspires them to donate, volunteer, or spread the word.

All too often we find at Big Duck that organizations who have developed a strong brand aren’t sure what they need to do to take that brand out for a spin, much less strategically map out an inspiring journey for their audiences.

We’ve found that taking a moment to develop a strategic two- to four-year supporter engagement plan can offer the road map your team needs to get the most out of your brand. Here at Big Duck, we keep our process relatively simple: we start with a light research and fact-finding phase, then write a plan that includes clear goals for each of the coming years, strategies to achieve them, priorities for how to allocate communications resources strategically each year, and a high-level calendar and content strategy.

However you decide to capture your plan, there are some common big opportunities for getting more mileage out of your brand that we’ve noticed. If you’re thinking about how to get more fundraising, recruitment or list-building return from your communications (and let’s face it, who’s not?), here are some opportunities you might want to make sure you’re not missing:

  • Have you chosen a destination wisely? And does the whole team know what it is? Hopefully, you have developed your brand with goals in mind: to increase fundraising, to differentiate yourself from other organizations, to recruit a new kind of supporter. The risk here is in either losing sight of those goals, or simply expecting your team to achieve them 100% the week after your brand roll-out. To find a productive medium, set milestones for the fundraising, engagement, and list-growth gains you want to achieve each year that are grounded in industry norms for growth, the lifecycle of your program, and the time and money you are investing in communications. Make sure these goals are accessible to your whole team, and report back on at least a monthly basis on how your communications are stacking up.

  • Do you have on-ramps for new supporters? We see that many organizations can be so focused on the end-goal—say, high-dollar fundraising—that they don’t build any communications or low-bar actions into their calendar that will help new prospects get ready for making that first gift. Either as a part of each one of your communications campaigns, or as an annual campaign in it’s own right, try to look for creative ways to let prospects engage at lower levels. It can be all too easy to forget to make room in your calendar for the caption contests, advocacy actions, or photo campaigns that can inspire a new supporter who’s not quite ready to give, but you’ll pay the price down the road with dwindling prospect pools.
  • Are you encouraging existing supporters to put on the gas? It would be wonderful if your existing supporters knew to engage at higher levels automatically, but sadly they will need a bit of an extra nudge. When you’re planning your campaigns for the year, try to think about crafting more ambitious calls to action for existing supporters. You could ask repeat donors for a monthly gift, rather than a one-time donation. Or ask high-dollar givers to make a stretch gift to hit a campaign goal. You’ll need time to craft these “upgrade” calls to action specifically for donors, so make sure your team knows this is a priority.

  • Do you know what opportunities you should be seizing along the way?  The communications opportunities you seize can often say a lot about you. Want people to see you as more than a disaster relief organization? Then don’t just send out emergency appeals. Want people to understand your positive, optimistic brand? Then make sure you are touting victories as well as threats for your mission. The key is to make sure your team knows what kinds of news and opportunities to prioritize in your communications calendar, and what kind of content to develop. One organization even developed a decision tree for the kinds of news to respond to and now as a team resource. Smart!
  • Are you making time for team maintenance? As you take your brand out for a spin, make sure you are building time for the check-ins, report-backs and review cycles that can keep your internal team inspired and engaged. Have you started establishing a pattern of annual campaigns planning meetings with your team members? Monthly reports to programs staff? These regular opportunities to coordinate and educate your team take care and feeding, but can add momentum to your team’s communications journey.

And how about you? As you try to set and share goals for getting the most out of your brand through communications — what do you find the most helpful to include or share with your team? We’d love to see them in the comments below!