June 21, 2023

Why Grant-Making Foundations Should Care About Branding

Designing a brand

Organizations of all kinds rely on branding as a type of shorthand — when executed strategically, branding creates strong associations for the people who encounter your brand. Your messaging and visuals are your first impression, but what do grant-making foundations stand to gain from considering the strategy that goes into a beautifully designed brand?

Clarifying Brand Purpose Makes Communication Easier: 

A strategically supported brand purpose can help clarify the foundation’s messaging, making it easier for stakeholders to understand and support the foundation’s goals. That same purpose helps align the foundation’s internal culture and values with its external image.

Brand purpose encompasses your vision, mission, values, and positioning: 

Vision: This is the long-term goal or “big change” you want to see in the world. It should be improbable, but not impossible. 

Mission: These are the day-to-day steps taken in service of your vision. If a vision is our destination, the mission is your map. 

Values: These are the beliefs that guide your execution of the mission. They define the way you act as you carry out your work. Ideally, your audience shares these values as well. 

Positioning: This is the nuts and bolts of who you are, what you do, for whom, how, and, most importantly, why it matters. 

It’s challenging to communicate your organization’s goals (and why they matter to your audience) if your organization hasn’t carefully considered its purpose. And so-called “mission-driven” organizations like grant-making foundations are particularly vulnerable to skipping this step. Why spend time defining the purpose when it’s baked right into what you do? 

But think about it this way: if you ask 10 people within your organization what your mission is, and get 10 different answers, imagine how many different answers you’d get from your target audience. Clearly defining your purpose creates consistency in your messaging and visual presentation, which are the first things that people will see and associate with your brand.  

BRANDING Increases Recognition (And Trust): 

A strong brand can help increase your audience’s awareness and recognition of your foundation. Being consistent in your presentation means that each time someone encounters your brand, they build upon the last encounter, rather than starting fresh each time. Over time, this can help attract more potential grantees, supporters, and donors who are aligned with the foundation’s mission and goals.

But consistency accomplishes something even more important than name recognition – it builds trust with your grantees and donors. A number of studies, including the Edelman Trust Barometer, have found that a well-established, consistent brand positively influences trust and confidence in organizations. For a grant-making foundation, a well-established brand can create a perception of authority and expertise, which can in turn increase confidence in your foundation’s decision-making as well as your ability to make a positive impact. 

Strategic Brands Inspire Action: 

Making a consistent impression goes a long way in building trust, which is a huge driver for action. Stakeholders, including corporations, individual donors, grantees, and even other foundations are more likely to take the action you want them to if they believe you’ll hold up your end of the bargain. A well-established brand can help attract more funding and support, increase grant applications, and create partnership opportunities. That positive impression ultimately increases your audience’s belief in your foundation’s ability to make a positive impact.

In summary, strategically building your brand can help your grant-making foundation clarify its purpose, both internally and externally, build trust among stakeholders, and convert that trust into meaningful action. When trying to maximize your impact, every brand interaction counts. It’s essential for grant-making foundations to invest in strategic and consistent branding to maximize that impact.