Brand vs Fundraising – 4 ways to prevent war

I’ve been here before and, sadly, I think I’ll be here again. A major brand refresh almost at the point of implementation that does not support fundraising, and could seriously damage it. Let the battle between brand and fundraising commence! Again.

With charities desperate to increase fundraising income, or at least maintain it through uncertain times, it seems incredible that these situations arise. And yet they do. Jeff Brooks’ recent post on brand redirection succinctly highlights the fundraising pain that can result. Click here to read it.

But often there are genuine, inescapable reasons to change the brand. The charity’s remit may have moved or expanded, they may be crucial new audiences to connect with or two brands may have joined forces. So here’s 5 ways to avoid the battles and ensure that your brand change helps you raise more money.

1 – Keep fundraising at the heart

If your charity relies on fundraising professionals to fund its work, then these professionals need to be very closely involved the brand project. Fundraising cannot be tacked on, or even just consulted – it needs to be a driving force behind any changes. Fundraisers should be involved in the project objectives, briefing, development, implementation and evaluation. If not, you’re in trouble.

2 – Ensure the audience focus is right

Where does your income come from now, and where is it likely to come from in the future? Keeping these priority audiences firmly in sight throughout the process will ensure you don’t veer off into la la land. Your charity will have multiple audiences, all of them important, but if the brand message isn’t right for those that give, it just isn’t right.

3 – Differentiate meaningfully

The values wrapped up in your brand can help you understand and communicate why your charity is special. And yet there is very little variation in values from charity to charity. Spencer du Bois created this chart, showing the most common values of the UK top charities – it powerfully illustrates the problem. Many of these values communicate the essence of charity rather than what’s special about the cause and the charity’s approach. This is at best useless, but at worst it’s very damaging. It creates a sea of well meaning but ultimately bland brands, and bland is not good for creating valuable emotional connections with people.

4 – Test and adapt

If you can, push for some simple tests of the key elements of your brand redirection before launch. Qual research amongst key audiences will guide your thinking, but it’s worth checking your decisions in the real world too. Response can be a world away from researched opinion. This should be done with tonal changes, guidance on imagery and changes to core propositions. And most importantly, act on the results even if this means going back to the drawing board.

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