Building Brand and Reputation for Your Charity or Not-for-Profit

Whether your organization is in peril or in good shape, having a bullet-proof brand and reputation is a critical component to advancing your cause.

Your brand is not your logo. Your brand is how others – your donors, clients, and community – perceive your organization. Your reputation is a measurement of how much your community trusts your organization. Are you honest? Do you have integrity? What is your stature in the community?

Every plan – strategic, operational, fund development, and communications – requires a focus on brand and reputation.

Building a resilient reputation begins with a focus on building infrastructure. Do you have a strong, transparent and accountable governance model? Do you have a strategic plan? Are you promoting the key pillars of that plan? Is your staff team engaged? Are staff viewed and treated as a critical organizational asset? Do you have a suite of policies that guide decisions and operational systems? You need to answer yes to all of these questions in order to ensure you have integrity and can be trusted. You also need to promote these strengths to your key audience.

Messaging is key component because it reinforces perceptions about your organization. Always focus messages on the cause and the Mission. Tell your communities about the great work that you do. Promote your strong model of board governance, the credibility of staff leadership, transparency, and 3-4 organizational priorities (i.e. a new program, a fundraising initiative, or embarking on a strategic planning process) to inform the community of your successes. These all form the foundation of your brand.

Messaging must be customized to the target audiences you identify. While advertising, earned media, blogging, websites, and stakeholder newsletters all contribute to advancing reputation and brand, nothing beats personal 1:1 or small group interaction.

Focus on the quality of your target audience. Most issues are too complex and detailed to be delivered in any other fashion than face to face and intimate group settings (i.e. service group meetings, neighbourhood associations). Opinion leaders must be a priority. These include elected officials and community leaders. Every community has 25 individuals who have a platform and influence. These are the people who will tell others about your good works. Get to them first. In their office, at a local coffee shop, or networking events. This is your chance to advise them of what your organization is up to. Nothing beats 30 seconds to 20 minutes with an opinion leader. Quality trumps quantity every time.

Constantly focus on a strong infrastructure, messaging, and the quality of your target audience and your brand and reputation will endure even the most trying times.