August 21, 2018
Effective Brand Differentiation for Nonprofits
Within the business world, brand identity and value are trending topics, especially when it comes to digital marketing.
This is for good reason, as online sales and internet usage continue to rise among consumers and society. This growth has spurred tremendous competition, as both businesses and non-profit organizations vie for attention from over 4 billion internet users, including 287 million in the U.S. alone.
The same branding best practices espoused in the business world pertain to nonprofits as well, yet nonprofits are in an even better position to use brand identity and values to differentiate themselves from their competition.
Nonprofit Competition and Opportunity
Standing out among the 1.41 million other nonprofits in the U.S. and gaining part of the $410 billion that Americans gave to charities in 2017 are worthy objectives for nonprofits, as is gaining international support, government grants, sponsorships, and other revenue sources totaling $2.26 trillion in 2013.
With personalization tactics and innovative giving platforms emerging online, non-profits have more resources than ever to reach donors and supporters. Improved technology, innovation, and optimization are several reasons Americans have been steadily increasing online donations in recent years.
Key for Nonprofits: Clear, Purposeful Mission and Vision
One of the reasons nonprofits are uniquely-positioned to gain online traction and differentiate themselves from the competition is their inherently purposeful mission and vision. While many for-profit businesses struggle to formulate effective brand identities, nonprofits have copious amounts of inspiration and purpose to draw from. This translates into meaningful, authentic brands that build trust and resonate with audiences.
As for directly competing with similar nonprofit organizations for a shared target audience, those nonprofits who can effectively align their brand identity with their core values will excel past those that can’t.
As competition increases, it becomes more important to clearly differentiate your organization’s work. Non-profits can portray their brand promise and value proposition accurately and effectively by:
- Assessing operational capabilities
- Defining and renewing their mission and vision
- Developing strategic solutions for operational inefficiencies and mission/brand alignment
- Optimizing their online presence (website design, mobile solutions, digital marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, PPC ads, affiliations, etc.)
- Aligning offline and online marketing strategies
- Leveraging online donation platforms to optimally facilitate audience engagement
Maintaining Brand Integrity to Resonate with Target Audiences
After a nonprofit’s core purpose is found, defined, and expressed in their renewed mission and vision, they’ll be ready to formulate an authentic brand promise.
Building an authentic brand and clearly portraying it with online efforts is key for nonprofits to extend their reach, increase visibility, and resonate with target audiences. This may filter out audiences at first, yet will eventually result in a more passionate and informed membership and donor base. Quality over quantity is the idea. By building a deeper, more trusted relationship, impassioned members and donors will turn into influencers with the potential to exponentially grow a brand organically.
Core branding principles are universal. Relating to a target audience, engaging them emotionally, and then adding value to the relationship works for all nonprofits to some degree.
Donor and member relationships with nonprofits are more personal compared to most business relationships. The cause or interest that attracts donors and members creates a deeper commonality within the relationship and those affiliated with the organization. When this commonality is clearly defined and leveraged, nonprofits will successfully resonate with their target audiences.
With well-defined missions and visions, nonprofits are in the perfect position to differentiate their brands from the competition. And by honestly assessing their operational capabilities and inefficiencies, nonprofits can develop strategic objectives and build authentic brands that resonate with target audiences and build lasting brand equity.