Branding is a marketing and communications concept with potential for dramatic impact on retention rates in annual fundraising.
Nationally and globally-known companies go to great lengths to establish and sustain a strong brand. Their brand is their identity, their voice, their distinct place in the market. It is their statement or promise to the customer about what they can expect from the product. Once the strategy is built, the brand image is driven to customers and potential customers through deliberate choice in words, images, colors, and all facets of integrated marketing.
Small, local or regional organizations and even non-profits have begun branding on a scale appropriate to their capabilities. Branding applied to annual fundraising looks similar. So why brand it?
One desired goal of branding is to create long-term recognition, sustainability and customer loyalty. By being who you say you are and being great at what you say you do, you begin to transform transactions into lifetime relationships.
An annual fund is a reoccurring, timed, goal-driven fundraising campaign that provides mission-supporters opportunity to make repeatable investments in the organization. By creating and implementing a strong brand strategy for annual giving, you too can transform transactional gifts into lifelong relationships with the organization.
In my upcoming book by Charity Channel Press titled Five Strategies to Increase Your Annual Fund I talk about branding as one component of a five-fold strategy that helped my colleagues and me increase annual fund revenue more than 30 percent at our organization. I share proven methods on how to uniquely apply a branding process to annual fundraising at organizations big and small.
Ultimately, branding is driving the best possible message in a thoughtful and deliberate way over a long period of time. That can mean more lifetime giving from donors for the essential mission your non-profit organization provides to the people in your community.
Year one as a Vice President taught me lessons I will carry throughout my career. These behaviors made my first 365 days productive and stable - a time for team building, ideation, vision casting, new strategy, and implementation. They set us up to begin reaching higher and deeper in year two.
1. Be humble.
You were hired because you are capable. You have the right mix of skills, ability, knowledge and experience. Perhaps you’ve managed major projects, achieved stretch goals, won awards, or earned difficult degrees. Whatever the case, you are in a new environment. Even with a solid set of experiences in your wheelhouse, this is a specific opportunity – new people, new obstacles, and new structures. Not everything you know will apply. There is much to learn and it begins by studying, asking, and listening. Spend time in the earliest days observing people, systems, reports, and culture. When you feel compelled to teach, be collaborative with the person or group you are teaching. Show the value-added or place the lesson in the context of questions and discussion. Follow the notion “assess first, decide second.” In doing so, you gain valuable insights and your attitude will win people over.
Humility is essential, but don’t be passive. You are on the leadership team now and it is important to behave like a leader. When issues come to the table for a vote or discussion, speak. Ask questions. Share your opinion. Be willing to listen, adjust, and re-state or change your view when necessary. All of this can be done in a non-aggressive way. Make it conversational. Great teams – perhaps the most innovative ones – include people with diversity of viewpoints, skills, and life experiences. Don’t be afraid to share your point of view. It will add value to the conversation. After all, it is our duty to dig deep so we can make the best decisions for the organization – for the customers we serve and the people we employ.
As you observe, assess, learn, and discuss, begin to form strategies in your mind. Think about the how and why of moving your department forward. What changes need to be made? What resources can be maximized? What is working well that can be touted? What is missing from the system? Who can you collaborate with? What tools or skill sets do you need? As you begin to answer these questions, bring them to team meetings and one-on-ones with your supervisor and other key players at the organization. Understand the who, why and how. Build a strong case for strategies you will employ so you can garner the resources and support necessary to make them successful. And finally, know that some of your strategies will fall flat while others go off like fireworks. The ones that fall flat don’t equate to failure. Instead, they are important lessons learned. You build upon them. Simply re-assess, re-state a new case, and share how best to move forward.
4. Make tough decisions
In today’s competitive landscape, resources are precious. We are not just accountable to the bottom line of the business. We are accountable to our consumers, those whose livelihoods depend on the company, and our communities. A soft heart and empathy are beautiful things and I believe I possess those, but balance must be found and it comes in the form of assertiveness. You manage important resources – people, money, equipment, and intellectual property. You are responsible for aligning those resources in the best way to achieve your department’s objectives. Sometimes change is necessary. Don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions that will maximize resources toward great outcomes.
Leadership can be a real joy when marked by balance – balance between humility and assertiveness, study and strategy, listening and acting. It is a balance between being purposeful today and planning for tomorrow. Good luck!
Pamela Witter is a published author, fundraiser, and life-long student of leadership. Browse Pam's blog entries for possible conference session or keynote topics. Pam customizes training opportunities for her clients.
Email me at BeASeedPlanter@outlook.com.