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Branding Vs. Marketing: What Every NPO Leader Should Know

Branding Vs. Marketing: What Every NPO Leader Should Know

Branding and Marketing: Different but Complementary

There are two essential strategies for attracting donors: marketing and branding. If you think they’re more or less the same thing, then you’re not alone. However, you’d also be wrong. Marketing and branding are different but complementary approaches to fundraising that are essential for you to master. In short, marketing is about activating while branding is about educating. It’s crucial to master both approaches if you hope to achieve your fundraising goals.

Branding Educates

Branding is the tool to use when you want people to understand why your organization does what it does. Branding creates emotional responses in donors and supporters. It turns curious people into supporters and converts supporters into donors.

For many people, “branding” is mostly concerned with logos, fonts, and color palettes. But it’s much more than this. Branding is about storytelling, about finding creative ways to explain your organization’s mission in terms that are personalized and meaningful to each supporter while demonstrating your proven ability to achieve meaningful goals that serve your community.

It’s not just a matter of telling people why you exist. Branding is about perception and experience. Your brand – what you represent – is the story you tell donors and supporters that helps them fit your mission into their worldview.

It’s the difference between saying, “We’re a nonprofit working to eradicate childhood cancer,” and telling the story of a courageous ten year-old girl with Leukemia and how the services you provide are making a crucial difference to her and her family. It’s about crafting human stories that touch the heart, not about making pronouncements about your organization and goals.

Branding Requires Planning and Discipline

Your brand is also your identity. It’s the story you’re living every day. One of the biggest responsibilities you’ll have as a leader is to keep that identity from drifting. That means crafting a branding document with an explicit set of branding messages and organizational values that inform everything you do. Your branding should be reflected not only in your messaging but also in the ways in which you interact with donors and supporters. It should also inform how your team communicates internally. Good branding is all-pervasive. This takes discipline and consistency.

Leading with Your Brand

Branding sets the stage for marketing. Once people feel a personal connection to your organization, they’re much more likely to pay attention to your asks and respond to your outreach efforts. Marketing is essential as a way to communicate your brand values. But it’s ultimately the story that donors and supporters associate with your mission, not the cleverness of your marketing copy that wins the day.

Educating Your Team

Your team might have difficulty understanding why branding is so important. “After all,” they might say, “our goal is to serve our community. We’re not a giant packaged goods company trying to sell products.” This is a mindset you must work to overcome.

As leader, it’s your responsibility to help your team understand how branding creates deeper, more meaningful connections with supporters and stakeholders and that the quality of these connections is what ultimately determines the success of your fundraising programs. People give more and more frequently to organizations they trust, organizations who have earned their loyalty. Branding is your most strategic tool in achieving this.

Marketing, on the other hand, is tactical. And here’s the thing about tactics: they change frequently. Branding, on the other hand, embodies a consistent set of messages and values that you maintain for the life of your organization. Branding instills an emotional connection between you and your stakeholders and supporters. It’s about crafting a story that is so personal and compelling that supporters learn to see it as their very own.

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