A View from Blue Grotto

Monday, November 13, 2006

Messaging affects branding

Can a nonprofit have a brand? Just like that of Starbucks or McDonalds?

Absolutely, according to authors John A. Quelch and Nathalie Laidler-Kylander. Both were interviewed in a March 14, 2005 Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Newsletter Q&A{http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/4686.html} to promote their book, The New Global Brands: Managing Non-Government Organizations in the 21st Century.

It took me a minute to think of as well-known a brand as Starbucks in the nonprofit world, but I nodded in acknowledgement when the authors mentioned the American Red Cross (an internationally-known brand) and Habitat for Humanity.

The authors remind us that funding for nonprofits is becoming more competitive and that corporate partnerships are seen as a viable option for new development dollars. Branding becomes especially important when seeking corporate funding. Quelch and Laidler-Kylander refer to the co-branding opportunities of corporate sponsorship.

Companies are looking for the right fit in sponsorship packages. Sponsorship of an organization’s mission gives the corporate community a specific role to play in your efforts. Conversely, a sponsorship initiative allows leading community businesses to demonstrate their participation and investment in achieving your organization’s vision.

Many Blue Grotto clients are in the process of developing sponsorship relationships to support their development efforts. And in working with clients on these new opportunities we find that an organization’s brand is a reflection of, an extension of, even the result of the organization’s culture and philosophies.

One important facet of a nonprofit’s branding and outreach is key messaging.

Key messaging helps an organization to:
· Define what you know about yourselves
· Understand how others perceive the organization
· Articulate your best practices

Key messaging can be used to communicate and reinforce your organization’s culture and core values - to staff and clients, current and future board members, partners and donors, legislating bodies and the community in which you operate. Duplicating a consistent message is an important, but often elusive, element of a nonprofit communications and development strategy.

Consider how any one person’s description of your organization can affect another’s view of your nonprofit - the domino effect. Then imagine how that same person’s message, when consistent with the key messages of your organization’s values can be propagated over and over. Imagine further, the impact if everyone connected to your organization - your board, staff, and volunteers, your own donors, the media, even competing nonprofits – were duplicating your key messages. Thus the critical branding process – full circle.

Email me with examples of how your own messaging and communications reflect your organization’s culture and philosophies.

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.