Branding 'Not-for-Profits'

01 Dec 2013 by Brian Slade

What is the role of brand in the not for profit sector?

In summary, a good NFP brand:

  • Promotes the Cause/Raises awareness of the issue
  • Attracts funders
  • Attracts the right sort of funders with aligned values
  • Attracts partners, suppliers and community engagement allowing better results to be achieved and costs to be managed.
  • Ensures those the NFP works to help trust they will get the right sort of assistance from the NFP so fully engage with the organisation. Fuller engagement leads to better outcomes.
  • Drives a positive internal culture where staff are engaged by the cause and the good the organisation does and are motivated to do more. A positive value aligned culture leads to increased productivity.
  • Drives efficiency in decision-making.  A clearly articulated brand which is strongly aligned with the organisations mission and values lays a platform for quicker and better decision-making.  This leads to increased results and reduced costs.

Why is branding important in the NFP sector? Is it more than simply a tool to improve fundraising power or raise profile?  In what way? How does a strong brand work in the NFP sector?  What can it achieve?

Branding is important to all organisations because it represents who they are and what they stand for. 

A brand allows an organisation to make an emotional connection with its key audiences, who develop a level of expectation of their brand experience based on their perceptions of the brand.  Effectively, a strong brand builds a level of trust in an organisation.

This is idea applies acutely in the NPF sector where the usual market-forces don’t apply in the same way. 

Those making a financial contribution (funders) aren’t the ones who will experience the NPF’s core brand promise. They aren’t necessarily looking for the ‘What’s in for me?’ that consumers consider when looking at brands. Therefore funding is significantly influenced by a belief in the cause and in an emotional connection with a brand’s ability to deliver. A strong, well-considered brand appeals to funders because it is closely linked to a cause they feel connected with and instills a high level of trust that their money will be used well to help the cause.

In many ways the NPF and the cause are interchangeable and therefore a NPF’s brand must be closely aligned with promoting the cause.

But it’s not just about attracting funders, but the right sort of funders. For many funders the decisions is also about brand equity exchange - what does the NPF’s brand add to my own brand. An organisation which is positioning itself as being community-minded, action-orientated and progressive would look to support organisations with similar brand attributes. Having a brand which showcases what you stand for attracts the right sort of funders who believe in what you do and how you do it. 

A similar line of thinking applies for NPF’s partners. NPF’s heavily rely on the support and goodwill of other partner organisations and the community. A clearly-articulated brand attracts partners with similar brand values, making irt easier to work effectively together.

Those who receive the benefit from NPF often don’t have to pay a consideration for it and therefore don’t make the brand value decision consumers often have to make. Their perception of value comes from a belief that the NPF will deliver the benefits they need.  For example, families need to trust that Stand can help them get out of the situation they are in. If they have a level of trust and fully engage with Stand’s programmes then they are more likely to achieve the results. Therefore a good brand leads for better outcomes for those a NFP is trying to assist.

An organisation’s culture is an extension of it’s brand and is often called the internal brand. A strong external brand drives a positive internal culture where staff are engaged by the cause and the good the organisation does and are therefore motivated to do more. A brand aligned culture delivers increased productivity and can also drive innovative thinking as staff actively look for new ways to do more.

Most not-for-profits operate on tight budgets and therefore have to be very considered in how they spend money. A clearly articulated brand, strongly aligned with the organisations mission and values, lays a platform for quicker and better decision-making. This leads to increased results and reduced costs.

How does the process for creating a NFP sector brand differ from a more commercial proposition?

The process of developing a brand is largely the same across the commercial and NFP sector. It starts with a clear understanding of the organisation’s mission, vision, values and positioning.

The strongest brands are developed in a customer-centric way, telling the organisation’s story with the needs and wants of the end-user in mind. NFP brands need to do the same but at the same time they must appeal to funders. These two audiences often have conflicting needs and, because of their differing profile, have a different way they want to be communicated with.  

All good brands have a strong framework which allow the visual identity to be tailored for the specific audiences. For example, how the brand is applied at corporate level vs at product level or as an employment, community or investor brand. This leads to a structured brand architecture with certain elements ‘dialed’ up or down for specific audiences or markets.

NFPs don’t tend to have the same level of layers or clarity between brand functions (nor do they have the funding to develop complex brand architecture) which means that the framework needs to be more fluid. The cause, the organisation and the offering are often synonomis meaning the visual identity elements must be adaptable to allow tailoring the needs of audiences and the specific messaging.  For most corporate brands, the visual and written message is generally made to fit into the brand architecture, allowing a consistent brand identity to be presented. For NFPs, the brand framework needs to be developed to be more fluid to adapt to the messages, and its audiences, while still instilling a level of brand consistency.

For NFPs, surely the need is simply for a great, attention grabbing visual identity/logo? If not, why not?

A brand is more than just its logo. Its visual identity also includes elements like colour, typography, photography, graphics and tone of voice. Most brand perceptions are however formed by experience rather than the carefully constructed visual identity. Our views of a brand are formed by what we read in the paper, see on TV, hear from our friends and family and from our own experience when we deal direcly with the organisation.

Therefore developing a great brand is about thinking about the entire brand experience and in particulr those moment of truth which shape people’s perception of an organisation.

NFP are not exempt from this. The need isn’t only for an identity which grabs the attention of the audiences they are trying to attract but also one which conveys the right brand promise. An effective brand sets the expectations for the brand experience.  Expectations are then delivered (and exceeded) leaving the audience with a positive brand experience.

In what ways will the rebrand to Stand Children’s Services help Children’s Health Camps?   How does Insight believe the rebrand will help the organisation achieve its mission?

Children’s Health Camp felt their name and identity conjured up images of an organisation not so relevant in today’s world and this hindered their ability to attract funders, discouraged families from fully engaging with them and didn’t get children excited at the prospect of being part of one of their programmes.

The brief was to develop a name and visual identity that “captures the magic we perform with New Zealand’s most vulnerable children and to express the passion and urgency we bring to our work.”

The rebrand is very direct in the way it has addressed CHC’s concerns and objective.  Stand is a brand which is very clear in who it is and what it stands for. It is modern, relevant, engaging to all stakeholders and places its cause – the wellbeing of children- at the heart of its brand promise. These elements combined will attract the right funders and partners and will fully engage staff, parents and children to achieve the best outcomes possible.

What are the risks of rebranding a venerable organisation like Children’s Health Camps? E.g. heritage/reputation vested in the existing brand etc.

Children’s Health Camps have been around for 94 years and have built considerable equity in their name and brand. For their existing funders, partners, parents and children the brand holds meaning and history. Change creates the risk that these audiences feel less connected to the brand and therefore may not want to continue their association, or lessen their engagement, with it.

The challenge is to bring the trusted brand elements of CHC across to the new identity and to take audiences along on the brand journey. The Stand rebrand was initiated by stakeholder feedback. Stakeholders were clear in their feedback about what they liked and didn’t like about CHC’s brand. The positive elements form the attributes of the new Stand identity. 

A key feature of the development of the Stand brand was the consultation process. The name and basic visual identity was developed late last year.CHC actively engaged in discussing the change with all their key stakeholders and feedback has been critical in shaping the final visual identity. This process has allowed stakeholders to understand the need for change and has allowed them to feel engaged in the new brand by being part of the development process.

Tags: Creative
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