As social purpose organisations, Not for Profits and charities have hitched our wagons to causes that many people may not even recognise as being an issue let alone, ever need them. So, what role does our brand play in our achievement of purpose?
The most important aspect of our brand is that it is everything that we are and want to be. It’s not just our logo, as this is just a visual device that has to encapsulate and communicate large amounts of information succinctly. It is everything that seeing your logo or hearing your name arouses for the recipient. It should differentiate you from others BUT… it should also attract others to want to partner with you.
It needs to reinforce your individuality when another organisation in your sector might find themselves embroiled in scandal that hits the news and it is the message that a member of the public gets when I’ve never heard of you but a friend shares information about you on their social media feed.
Brand needs to communicate your promise to clients, funders, service delivery partners and the general public. It sets the expectation for who you are & what others should expect from you.
For many organisations, the dominant perception of brand is focused on communications. The primary purpose of an organisations brand is considered to be about increased visibility, favourable positioning in relation to competitors, and recognition among target audiences that translates into fundraising success. Branding is considered a tool for managing the external perceptions of an organisation, a subject for the communications, fundraising, and marketing department to be concerned about.
However, this perception needs to be expanded. Organisations need to view their brand as having a strategic role in an their core performance. Our brand is the vehicle by which we can bring our social purpose and social impact together…but social purpose is complex and social impact is only achieved when all elements of your purpose are in sync.
Five key functions of brand are:
- To bind people together. For purpose organisations tend to have cultures that are underpinned by consensus building and structures that are possibly more decentralized. Brand needs to help align people;
- Employees are typically intrinsically motivated to create social change and derive rewards that are non-financial;
- Collaboration to achieve outcomes is viewed as more critical for success and an awareness that we need partners for our business models.
- Because of the complexity of our customers and/or beneficiaries our organisations can be complex to manage. We tend to have a broad spectrum of stakeholders and audiences and we often operate in complex environments. To make it easier for prospective clients and partners to understand us our brands need to act as a container for everything that we do;
- As well as making us easier to understand, our brand needs to act as a goal for the future and a rallying cry for the type of world we want to see. The purchaser of our services will often not share the experience of our beneficiaries so our brand needs to help create a sense of impact achieved or trying to achieve.
We need to be looking at our brands through a new lens. One that is focused on our social purpose and social impact, that strives to distinguish our organisation amongst peers and continually reinforces the goals and objectives that we have. It needs to align our internal sense of identity with our external image.
Our brand needs to be about the expression of core purpose, methodologies, and values that attract, engage and retain not only supporters but also the best staff that you can. Branding is a matter for the entire executive team and it needs to be aligned with helping to build operational capacity, support, and maintain focus on the social mission.