If you’ve ever been asked, “What does your organization do?” or “Tell me about your organization?” and you hesitated, thought about where to start, or even began your response with, “It’s complicated,” then it’s time to think about your organization’s messaging.
The organization that I volunteer with has this same issue. Depending upon who you ask within the organization, you’ll get a different answer about what we do. And if you ask the community we serve, you’ll surely get responses across the gamut of our entire program offering. When I suggested to a staff member that we could benefit from a brand message strategy, they replied, “Isn’t that for consumer products and corporations? It doesn’t sound like work that fits who we are.”
I was a bit surprised. Granted I work for a firm that helps build brands for nonprofit organizations, but I realized that this sentiment might be shared by many nonprofits, and understandably so. With program-focused staff and lean communications budgets, a brand messaging strategy may not be considered essential for many nonprofit leaders.
But I’m here to tell you otherwise.
Brand is just another word for reputation, and every nonprofit and company has one, whether or not they manage it intentionally. A brand message strategy enables your organization to communicate your value in a concise, consistent, and compelling way. It answers the question of what you uniquely do that differentiates you from peers and competitors, and why folks should care and support your mission. Brand message strategy is and can be for everyone.
This undertaking includes:
- Establishing your organizational values
- Defining the experience you wish to create in every interaction with your audiences
- Positioning yourself in the sector relative to your peers and competitors
- Articulating your value—what you promise to deliver to your constituents
- Delineating the personality and tone of your communications, and
- Developing an elevator speech, or what we at Mission Minded call a Belief Message
If you have a colleague who believes that brand message strategy is not for your organization (or maybe you are that colleague!), here are four reasons why your organization may consider engaging in this work:
1. Your Organization is Evolving
Has your organization expanded into new lines of service or service delivery (like virtual offerings in light of the pandemic)? Have you changed your program model or the definition of whom you serve? Have you expanded into new geographies or need to appeal to broader audiences? If so, it may be time to update your brand messaging to reflect the new you. And while your brand should transcend programmatic details, ensuring it reflects the totality of your work is critical.
2. You Don’t Know How to Distinguish Yourself Amongst Similar, Mission-Driven Organizations
There are thousands of great organizations out there doing impressive work to which your audiences may compare you. This can be challenging when you’re competing for support. While we want all worthy causes to succeed, you need to stand out in the minds of donors to achieve your organization’s mission. Focusing your brand on what makes you unique demonstrates to supporters why you are an important “voice at the table.”
3. You Want to Attract and Retain Great Staff
Job seekers choose their employer based on a matrix of information that includes how it will advance their career, how it will look on their resume, and how proud they’ll feel to tell their friends and family where they work. Having a brand that powerfully conveys a compelling idea will help you attract employees who are committed to your mission—and will help you retain them when another organization tries to lure them away.
4. People Have a Difficult Time Describing What Your Organization Does
If your organization has been asked, “What do you do?” and staff default to listing a line of programs that serve everyone including your grandma’s cat, then you’re missing an opportunity, again and again. Instead of focusing on all that you do, engage audiences in why you matter—the big, bold idea that both unifies your organization and compels your audiences to get involved.
When it comes to communication, you have a brief window to hook your audience. A brand message strategy makes it easier for everyone inside your organization to be great ambassadors and compels others to support your work. And what’s more essential than that?
If your organization is running into one of these obstacles, reach out to us so we can explore the brand possibilities with you!