Branding: The next and final frontier

Published by Tony Elischer on

The New Lexicon of Fundraising Part 8

“Love is friendship caught on fire.”  Northern Exposure

One of the core lessons of leadership and management is that people can only take so much change. So, on the basis that we have come to the last of an eight-part blog series to define a new lexicon for fundraising, I want to end with one final major challenge as we move into 2014, the reinvention, reinvigoration and redefinition of what we call branding.

Every charity I have ever worked with has invested time and resources in branding, rebranding or refocusing the brand, the challenge with all of this is the understanding of branding in the not-for-profit sector and what drivers the charity has behind wanting to put energy into the brand. This is a key area where silo structures and internal divisions come to the fore, as fundraising is very rarely the department or discipline that leads on branding. We entrust this to the communications team and have to fall into line with their view of what branding is and how it can work for a charity. However, in my view, fundraising is the central stakeholder in brand development as, to be successful, we have to interface with the public, our supporters and the other groups to which a charity links.

BrandingConsider this ‘yesterday the most successful charities were those that donors knew best; today the most successful charities are those that know their donors best’. So the future is not about awareness or, heaven forbid, advertising, it is about connections and inspirations. Smart charities know that they have to build relevance and meaning to their missions and visions. If we accept that donors support charities that express their values and beliefs, then we have to think that a charity’s brand is the framework that attracts, connects and delights a donor. I have long believed that branding for charities is about share of heart and share of mind, in that order. Strong charity brands allow a person to belong to something that is greater than themself and feel a level of significance in the support they give.

In commercial branding people relate to companies or products that they feel express themselves, that they are comfortable with, have a connection with or ones that they simply love. People choose brands based on who they are or who they want to be; Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi Saatchi Worldwide began describing branding ten years ago as  ‘Lovemarks’, a wonderful way to bring the ultimate human feeling of love into the business world. He argues passionately that Lovemarks are brands that develop loyalty beyond reason. “The idealism of love is the new realism of business. By building respect and inspiring love, business can move the world.”[1] While this is central to the success of Apple, Harley Davidson, Sony and many other companies, surely this is the ultimate goal for charities.

We live in a world of extreme choice and people are now firmly in control of what they want, what they like and to what they relate. You could almost say there is too much choice. There are 163,000 charities in England and Wales and 1.1 million in the USA and the majority of them all want money, time and loyalty. Our ‘cut through’ into this busy market place is to invest fresh thinking into our brands, to build brands that help supporters create meaning for themselves in the crazy world that they live in. Branding for charities is not about how we look, what we say or our overall identity, it is the collective of everything we do to help people notice us, embrace us and to love us. I also like the idea that central to love is trust and the promises you make. So, what are you doing to build trust and what promises are you making to build differentiation and make sure you are the preferred partner to bring a particular change to the community or world?

Jeff Bezos famously said “your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”, a great insight for charities when you consider that word-of-mouth marketing is now central to future growth. In the New Lexicon of Fundraising, ‘branding’ is the only word that should remain the same; but we need to change the way we view the meaning and significance of this word going forward.

[1] Kevin Roberts


Everyone has a unique gift to initiate change and truly achieve great things in fundraising through the power of their words and mindset. This is the final of the eight part blog series that has challenged and hopefully inspired you by outlining new words, new language and new ways not only to think about fundraising but to transform your strategy and day-to-day actions.
Earlier published blogs are:
  1. Building a New Lexicon Part 1: Fundraising
  2. What Does a Donor REALLY Mean To You?
  3. Quality not Quantity is the Key for Future Growth
  4. Do We Know What We Need?
  5. So we have some ‘investors’, now what?
  6. ‘Major Donor’, who are we kidding?
  7. How does your garden grow?

Tony Elischer

Tony Elischer

Tony has over 30 years hands on experience in the not for profit sector. He has been a consultant for the last fourteen years working at the highest level across a wide range of causes and organisations and is the founder of the leading international consultancy THINK Consulting Solutions. He is an internationally regarded expert on fundraising and marketing, having extensive experience of helping charities worldwide with strategy, fundraising, management and troubleshooting. In the last 12 months he has worked in over 20 countries.

1 Comment

When nonprofit branding does the job | Print My Recipes · January 27, 2014 at 00:30

[…] A recent post at 101fundraising captures this important distinction at Branding: The next and final frontier: […]

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