Know what the secret to a great brand is?
One thing – just one thing.
Focusing on one thing when branding for nonprofits is admittedly the hardest part of creating an amazing brand. The trick, as Jack Palance in “City Slickers” reveal, is figuring out what your “One Thing” is. It’s going to take discipline and fortitude to choose the “One Thing” your brand stands for. Allowing your brand to be distracted, taken off course, and waylaid is far far easier than maintaining your allegiance to just one thing.
I was recently meeting with a local chapter of a national nonprofit organization. As is true for most nonprofits with national affiliations, this group raised money for its national charitable fund, as well as it’s local charitable fund. (If you’re keeping count, that’s two things). The local nonprofit organization also wanted to demonstrate it’s commitment to the local community and give away money to other non-profits in the region. (That’s three things). Now, in good economic times, that’s marginally acceptable, at least there is enough money to go around and support all three of its charitable goals. But in a tough economy, three things is at least one too many (and in all likelihood two too many), there isn’t enough money to go around, and unless this nonprofit organization makes some difficult decisions about what the brand stands for, they will be unable to support all three charitable goals.
The Bigger Branding Problem
The bigger problem, however, is that the local nonprofit’s chapter membership and potential membership doesn’t have a clear understanding of what the chapter’s reason for being (brand) is. The nonprofit chapter struggles with its identity and providing potential donors a reason to join this chapter instead others. In failing to stand for something, their brand has failed to stand for anything. The root of the problem in branding for nonprofits is simple to explain and almost impossible to change.
By trying to raise money for three distinct and separate causes, the local nonprofit chapter’s brand fails to stand for anything. When the chapter fails to stand for something, new members cannot choose to affiliate with the ideals and goals of the Chapter. Existing membership struggles to remain conscious of why they affiliated in the first place. And what we see begin to happen is an inevitable march toward obsolescence — a fundamental problem for the brand.
Branding for Nonprofits Must Focus on its One Thing
Brand focus doesn’t just happen to non-profits, it happens to every brand that loses focus on what it’s One Thing is. Changes in staffing, business opportunities, and community needs, all have the potential to throw a non-profit or business off its One Thing. When that happens, unless the organization has the fortitude to check itself and return to its One Thing – or have the guts to step away from it’s old One Thing and create a new One Thing, then the organization will slowly slip away out of it’s donors/customers’ minds, and donation/buying patterns. One Thing — and sticking to it — that’s it, that’s the secret to a great brand.