Can your nonprofits brand have a greater impact for your charity? Part 2

          To understand how an organizations brand can have a greater impact for a charity it is likely useful to understand the/a definition for “brand”. Kylander and Stone (2012) define brand as:” A brand is more than a visual identity: the name, logo, and graphic design used by an organization. A brand is a psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of the branded product, person, organization, or movement. Brand management is the work of managing these psychological associations. In the for-profit world, marketing professionals talk of creating “a total brand experience.”  In the nonprofit world, executives talk more about their “global identity” and the “what and why” of their organizations. But the point in both cases is to take branding far beyond the logo.” Defined in this way it is not difficult to take the leap to what groups or individuals beyond donors alone who may have a “psychological construct” of what your organization is and what it does. It is also understandable that an organization may want to manage these psychological associations for volunteers or other NPO/NGOs who may collaborate with your organization.

             These authors quote Diane Fusilli, (a global brand consultant and former communications director at the Rockefeller Foundation) who suggests “A strong brand helps bring greater credibility and trust to a project quicker, and acts as a catalyst for people to want to come to the table.” In this description beyond providing financial supports or revenue your brand can be useful in getting people on-board or to become engaged. Kylander & Stone (2012) don’t stop at external constituents but illustrate brand as a factor in rallying internal stakeholders or constituents as well. They describe brand as having the power to make organizations more effective. For example:” When an organization’s employees and volunteers all embrace a common brand identity, it creates organizational cohesion, concentrates focus, and reinforces shared values.” The authors go on to elaborate:” Strong cohesion and high levels of trust contribute to greater organizational capacity and social impact. A cohesive organization is able to make more efficient and focused use of existing resources, and high external trust attracts additional talent, financing, and authority. This increase in organizational capacity enhances an organization’s social impact.”

          With the potential benefits to nonprofit organizations it is easy to imagine how important the role of your MarComm team (whether they are paid staff or volunteers) is in developing an brand that is understandable and embraced by not only your external stakeholders but also your internal stakeholders. In this case it seems very reasonable that the organization have a much broader definition of internal stakeholders. Board members, staff and volunteers are clearly internal stakeholders but when it comes to brand stakeholders  you should include social media followers. These followers can also become strong assets in sharing your brand, but will do so only if they embrace it as much as stakeholders who your organization may have traditionally viewed as closer to you. As mentioned in part 1 of this article not only should your followers embrace your brand but also your team must be willing and able to create content and collateral that makes it easier for these followers share your brand with their contacts and followers. This is a place that may feel very challenging for traditional marketers. Losing control of who is sharing your message and your brand –or if they are creating their own twist on your messaging. Kylander & Stone (2012) introduce the concept of Brand Democracy and how it can be utilized to share your brand –however inevitably your team will have less ability to control this sharing of your brand. They describe;” Brand democracy means that the organization trusts its members, staff, participants, and volunteers to communicate their own understanding of the organization’s core identity. Brand democracy largely eliminates the need to tightly control how the brand is presented and portrayed. The appetite for brand democracy among nonprofit leaders is largely a response to the growth of social media, which has made policing the brand nearly impossible.”

           It is likely that the notion of being able to control your brand is becoming less and less probable. Based on the psychological construct described earlier –likely we don’t really own our own brand anyway as it is largely based on how others perceive us. These authors quote Alexis Ettinger, (head of strategy and marketing at the University of Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship) in saying;”  “Given the rise of social media it would be insane to try to single-handedly control the brand.” Instead of trying to control your brand Kylander & Stone (2012) suggest:” Brand democracy requires a fundamental shift in the traditional approach to brand management. Organizations aspiring to brand democracy do not police their brands, trying to suppress unauthorized graphics or other representations of the organization, but strive instead to implement a participatory form of brand management. They provide resources, such as sample text and online templates that all staff can access and adapt to communicate the mission, strategy, work, and values of the organization.”  Reading this quote for the first time made me think about the Mario Andretti quote:” If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”  If we feel like we have total control of our charities brand it is possible that we are not adapting quickly enough to how the internet, web-based technologies and social media are changing how our supporters will perceive and interact with our organization. The authors do recognize that for Brand Democracy to work, an organization does need a strong internal brand identity and organizational cohesion. Just to be clear the authors do not advocate abandoning all efforts to manage your brand. Kylander and Stone (2012) do caution;” Brand democracy is not brand anarchy. Organizations need to establish parameters for a brand, even if the space within these limits is large.”  Certainly some cautions should be applied and organizations should manage to the best of their ability how their brand is perceived. However some days it does feel like we should heed Andretti’s advice and go a little faster.


If you would like to read part 1 of this post:



 Kylander,K.  & Stone, C. (2012) The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector: Stanford Social Innovation

          Review; V34, Spring 2012, as retrieved from: 



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