2 min Read
July 19, 2017

The difference between your nonprofit’s brand and its campaigns

Sandra Miniutti, the Vice President for External Affairs at Charity Navigator, says donors regularly search Charity Navigator’s website using campaign names and terms hoping to verify its credibility before they give. When they can’t find what they’re searching for, they call Charity Navigator asking for help, eager to verify if the organization is legitimate and worthy of their support. In many cases, the organization behind the campaign has simply failed to leverage their own brand clearly and specifically enough that prospects understand who it came from.

Campaigns that don’t effectively reflect their organization’s overall voice miss an opportunity to help audiences connect to the big picture. We want people who loyally support an event or a campaign to see beyond that one initiative and start supporting the organization more generally. Or maybe that client who was successfully recruited into Program A might benefit from Program B too, but just doesn’t realize it’s also a part of the organization. (Daniel Buckley’s article, “Do your supporters support you—or just one thing you do?” offers more on this topic.)

A nonprofit’s brand is its voice—beginning with what you say and how you say it, and ending with what people actually hear, feel, and experience. But unlike a human’s voice, your brand is expressed by everything and everyone in your organization—and reaches a much wider audience.

Rather than giving your campaign a distinct look and feel, we recommend using colors, language, and visuals that feel connected to your overall brand. If you’re not sure what that entails, or where to start, here’s a checklist for creating a successfully brand-aligned nonprofit campaign.

Every day, clients, donors, volunteers, staff, and others form opinions about you based on their experiences with you. An organization that hasn’t consciously cultivated its voice can’t be sure that the perceptions people have of it are accurate, mission-aligned, and positive.

A campaign, on the other hand, is more like a conversation. Campaigns invite and engage specific people to take a specific action. They can be tied to a program or initiative, a fundraising goal or event, an advocacy agenda, or more, and they usually run for a specific length of time.

If you’re trying to build successful relationships, meaningful conversations are imperative. Every multi-channel campaign, #GivingTuesday appeal, or recruitment initiative is an important exchange that will ideally welcome people in, motivate them to act, and help them see themselves as a vital part of the dialogue, too.

But a strong campaign that doesn’t leverage, connect back to, and help build the organization’s voice can fail to develop those relationships—or even become a problem on their own.

Think of your campaigns as the doorway to your organization. Once you’ve successfully welcomed someone in, she should see the connection between what caught her attention in your campaign poster, microsite, or social media post and your organization’s voice as a whole.

Before your nonprofit launches its next big fundraising, recruitment, awareness, or capital campaign, take a look at the state of your brand first. (This webinar recording might give you a useful starting point if you’re not sure how.) Will you deliver your first “hello” in a voice that’s disjointed, unclear, and disconnected? Or will your welcome ring out melodiously, with a strong voice that expresses your true value and inspires people to join your larger conversation?