On development, vision, and budgets.

Let us roll up the sleeves and try to answer that one. But before we do, does any of this ring a bell?

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Because the Earth needs a Good Lawyer

Telling stories that make a difference

These are taglines of some of the most commendable non-profits; UNFC, EarthJustice and Barefoot Workshops respectively. What do these have in common and why do you think people even care? What makes them so distinctive that you look at them and say, ‘Oh, I can recall that one!’

As you read along, you will find most of the questions answered. So let’s begin.

You have a superpower

What are you? A non-profit that has committed to the well-being of animals? Or a social enterprise creating business opportunities with a cause? Is your purpose a campfire idea or is it a more solicitous approach towards social upliftment? It doesn’t matter if you run a charity foundation for the specially-abled or walk a rally for human rights. What you need is a vision that is strong enough to move mountains.

So being a non-profit, what’s your superpower? Since we want to put this across in a much-disentangled way, let’s say that your dominion lies in the vision that drives your organization. It also consists of the assembly that supports your cause. Of course, in today’s world, you need a bridge that connects your vision to the swarm and that bridge is named as branding. But let’s talk about why the superpower precedes the die-hard need to market your cause.

Back then in the 1970s, digital didn’t exist. It was not like a #metoo movement getting viral in two shakes. But even then nonprofits existed and did herculean social tasks. Think about small, inconsequential movements that went unnoticed but still contributed for good.

In 1973, a social movement flared up for the protection of Silent Valley in a small district in Kerala. The protest aimed to stop the valley from being flooded by polluted water from a hydroelectric project. This protest continued until 2015 and positively strived to save the evergreen tropical forest of the region.

Similarly, the Chipko Movement saw people protesting against deforestation by hugging trees to stop from being cut. The action ignited when in the early 1970s a group of women opposed the cutting down of trees. Their actions spread like wildfire (despite any branding) and thousands of people across the nation stepped forward to support the green movement. We could fill pages if we sit down to pen down thousands of such movements backed up by small yet phenomenally-thought organizations.

Why? They never used a billboard that asked people to hug trees or created brand elements for their organization. Then what was the fuel that pushed the wagon forward?

These movements had a strong cause behind them. Their actions were supported by a purpose to establish some concrete change. And that is a non-profit’s greatest imperium; It’s vision for why it stands tall and what it aspires to do.
The vision is also the first building block of branding. When boardroom meetings go to a different level (or go nowhere), this is the first and most important thing that’s canvassed; an organization’s vision and what it wants to realize. Most often, with businesses, the problem is that shuffling market dynamics and shifting consumer behaviors affect the orientation of its goals. A company set out to solve a problem X might think of problem Y because in course of time maybe that’s what its consumers want.

For non-profits that rarely happens. No matter what is happening in the world out there, you are going to stay true to your vision. Your purpose of educating underprivileged children, or empowering a community of grassroots women is going to remain just the same.

When vision is strong, unified and singular, it only needs an audience to support it. That’s where branding comes into the picture. You have a vision, which means you have a story. What you might be missing on is a compelling way to narrate your story so that it attracts the masses, the sponsors and donors, the stakeholders and even the beneficiaries. Without your cause, you just exist. You don’t really make a difference.

The role of branding in a non-profit
Having a cause that’s for society’s betterment is not enough. The requisite lies in building a perception that people resonate with, feel and would want to help.

Imagine you sent an email to your donor list with a payment link and asking them to support your objective. You might get a response or two and if you are lucky, you might get some more. But what if you present your worth-noticing, worth-sharing tenet on a platform like GlobalGiving? What if you come up with compelling stories, project themes, and explanations that define the need for funding. What if you can tell your donors how they can be effective in filling the ‘need gap’?

Doing this will make the visitors stop by, scroll and consume your story. They will be convinced that your organization is genuine and the money they will donate will be put to good use. It will help generate a positive image and people across geographical boundaries may want to help. They might even join the bandwagon by sharing your story with others, and helping you get more eyes and finally, more donations?

When there are so many organizations fighting for AIDS or Cancer or Violence, branding will help you stand out in a world with several interests. When you have an intriguing tale, branding helps the public learn about your story. It helps everyone — those in need and those who want to help. In a world full of atrocities, branding is a sure-shot way to bridge the gap between angst and benignity.

The ideal strategy to put across your ideal

When brand strategists break their necks to develop a logo, a business tagline or a company name, it is an extensive exercise. Non-profit branding is no different. All the elements of your brand should fall in place to narrate your ideal. If you hand a card to a stakeholder or a donor, your logo or name should be catchy or self-explanatory. People either want to give their attention to something worth listening to or want it something simple and neat. The New York Peace Institute, Mind, Ford Foundation, etc. are perfect examples of organizations that have brought out their identity well; a careful approach towards timeless branding. Similarly, these awesome taglines at the beginning of the piece had a thought behind them. And that’s not it. They were successful to brand that thought so that the audience can connect to their cause.

Your vision and your story is the heart of your project. So keep it close to your marketing strategy and craft your creative elements in a way that they contribute to share your story.

The case study of (RED)

Founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver, (Red) harnesses peoples’ power and companies’ potential to fight a battle to end AIDS. It partners with the world’s most distinguished brands to create products and experiences that raise money and awareness to end HIV/AIDS. The amount generated form this goes to the Global Fund, hence, each time you buy a (RED) product, you are making a conscious effort to join this cause.

Since the time of its establishment, (RED) partners have been successful in generating more than $600 million for the Global Fund. And that’s not for AIDS alone. It stretches out to fight Tuberculosis, Malaria, and HIV across geographical boundaries such as Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, and many other places. All the money generated by (Red) partners, one hundred percent goes for the fieldwork to fund HIV/ AIDS programs and no overhead is collected.

A (RED) product is like any other regular product except that a (RED) product helps people fight AIDS. Hence they contribute to saving lives. Global Fund grants that (RED) supports have touched more than 140 million lives including prevention, treatment, counseling and care services. A simple yet unique strategy has been impactful in spreading the organization’s cause and it turns out that just like the iconic brands that it partners with, (RED) in itself is a brand with an amazing superpower.

Final Thoughts

A lot of organizations take the help of their in-house team to create the logo, messaging, communication; which is ok. But in the case of a non-profit or an NGO, branding not only becomes more important but also more effective with all the brand elements. With non-profits, the cost of investment behind branding is something to take into consideration. It is a resource that might be more useful for development work than the branding of the organization itself. Most organizations are driven by funding; unless they also have an empowerment unit of its own. Organizations like AWAG (Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group) parallelly incorporate social enterprise structure in their frame and hence do not depend totally on funding. For such NGOs, it’s all the more important to think of branding. Besides the noise they want to generate, they also want their products or services sold.

But, the approach of branding is long term, timeless, even. This means when the amount is used for development purposes, it is a use of the resource, it is an expense. When the amount is contributed towards branding of the organization, it is an investment, Branding will help not only strengthen the vision, but to also give it more power to reach more people, and finally, make a substantial and bigger change. It is an investment that is bound to give you results.

In reality, branding is like an ice-berg. What you see when you hold someone else’s card or read a company newsletter is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s one-third part, the strategy behind that messaging comes later. Experts at Slangbusters recommend you recruiting the expertise of professionals to craft your organization strategy. When in doubt, you can start small with your branding efforts. We can also recommend options that require minimal investment; though in the long run, you will only agree that it was worth it!

Branding is a crucial link to help you dictate your cause as a non-profit. You don’t have to be an expert and go about creating something weird and wonderful. As far as your story is worth the salt, things will fall in place.

Besides, we at Slangbusters are here to help.
We know, non-profits are known as non-profits for a reason.
Money is not an issue.
Contact us, we will be of help.

Author's Bio: 

I have been fascinated by brands since childhood and loves collecting touchpoints of his favorite brands. I bridg the gaps between Research, Strategy, and Design at the studio and leads the Slangbusters through each project. Now I create my favorite brands at Slangbusters.