In the nonprofit sector, marketing is often considered a dirty word, a necessary evil that no one admits spending too much time or money on. But to build a successful nonprofit organization to help people, you still need to follow the laws of branding. Because powerful nonprofit brands will raise more money, attract more volunteers and help more people.
Kate Atwood started a nonprofit organization in Atlanta. I met her through a mutual friend, Thomas Smith, from Northwestern, and I have been overwhelmed by her instincts and guts every since.
Still in her mid-twenties, she has already been built a strong brand in just a few years. The brand is Kate's Club, and its mission is to offer hope, community, and fun for children who have had to face the death of a parent. Like many nonprofit founders, Kate started the club after her own experience with childhood grief.
When Kate was six years old, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and died when Kate was 12. Losing a parent at any age is difficult, but it is especially traumatic for a child.
I understand this first hand. My mom lost her father when she was 14 years old. My best friend Amy lost her father in high school. My friend Perry lost his father in middle school. And Thomas lost both his mother and father in high school. It is a terrible, lonely, frightening journey. Thank goodness that Kate's Club is here to help guide and empower such children on their grief journey.
So here are my Seven Steps for Building a Strong Nonprofit Brand. (They are really the same as building a strong for-profit brand, since the goal is the same: to own a position in others' minds.)
1. The name
This is the first and most important decision that any nonprofit has to make. Too many charities have generic names that describe what they do but lack the ability to distinguish them from similar organizations in the mind. How many American Associations of this or that are there? Too many, in my opinion.
Laura Ries is president of Ries & Ries (www.ries.com), an Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm that she runs with her father and partner Al Ries.