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If your marketing isn’t working, it’s either because your promises aren’t useful (and big) enough or we don’t believe you’re the one to keep them. – Seth Godin

I’ve spent some time lately talking and exploring brand, why charity: water’s is great  and why others (maybe even yours) is not  but ultimately it comes down to one thing: your nonprofit brand is about trust.

Your organization is working to do good. So are the other 1.5 million organizations in North America. It’s not a matter of getting people to believe that you are doing good, it’s a matter of getting people to believe that you can actually do it.

Fundraising and nonprofit marketing has many unique strategies, can be quite complex and is almost always difficult but the basic premise that underlines any and all quality fundraising is dead simple:

  1. Tell people what problem is that they are helping you solve by giving you money
  2. Use their money to help you solve the problem
  3. Tell people how their money was used to help you solve the problem

That’s what it is about. If you can’t do that, it doesn’t matter how cool your logo is, how many people “Like” you on Facebook or what your (bogus) overhead ratio is because in the long run you will fail. This work, fundraising, is based on trust and the fulfillment or promises so as you look to strengthen your brand (and you should as we enter the next decade of what will be a brand battle… more on that soon) don’t start with logo, or colours, or message, or Facebook or any of that. Start with figuring out what promises you can make to donors and how you can fulfil them. Because your nonprofit brand is about trust. Period.

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  • Lynn Stevenson

    I agree with you, you are so right. The basis behind quality fundraising is simple, yet it is not easy for most nonprofits to do. Beginning with telling “people what problem is that they are helping you solve by giving you money”. This implies that the nonprofit is focused on their very clear mission statement. “Using their money to help you solve the problem” implies good stewardship. Telling “people how their money was used to help you solve the problem” implies good execution of the mission with good record keeping and great communications. Good mission statement, good stewardship, good mission execution, good record keeping and communication are signs of a strong organization which is worthy of the public’s trust. And you are right, all of the logos and FB postings are no substitute for the real thing. For sure, trust is key.

  • bradyjosephson

    Thanks Lynn. As you point out, it really isn’t overly complicated at its most basic point. I’ve said to people before, if all you do with your fundraising/marketing approach is ask yourself “will this help us build trust with our donors” before you do anything and only proceed with things where the answer is yes, the organization, its people, its donors and the sector would be better off.

    Side note, have you read Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey (the son, not the older guy)? Some great stuff in there about management, marketing, customer relations and life that really apply to the nonprofit sector as well. Check it out if you’re interested.

  • Wobbly_Nonprofit

  • bradyjosephson

    Thanks for the thoughts Mark. Not much else to say as you expanded on the points well and I agree that adding specifics or transparency around why the donations are needed and how they will be used is key if you can do it. Working in international development I know where you are coming from in terms of “can’t guarantee results” so organizations should tell donors. Under promise, over deliver and communicate throughout the process. Thanks again Mark.

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