From Traditional to Breakthrough Branding

By Jocelyne Daw



As the number of nonprofits grows and corporations expand their work in the community the philanthropic marketplace is becoming more complicated and crowded.  A deluge of overlapping messages is often overwhelming and difficult to distinguish. How can you stand out?  How do you maintain and grow support for your work?  The answer lies in building a clear, focused and compelling brand.   Whether you are a nonprofit, foundation or corporation building a brand for your work in the community  is no longer a nice to do - it is the new imperative. This November I had the privilege of speaking on this topic at the TELUS Vancouver Island “Celebration of Giving” event held in conjunction with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Vancouver Island.  I am pleased to share highlights of the speech.Brand is a new topic for many working in the community and confusion reins between what people traditionally think of branding to what a true breakthrough brand is.   The diagram below outlines the differences as simply as possible.



Logo, look, line

Demonstrates what you stand for

Communications & fundraising tool

Puts the mission, vision, values in action


Establishes a long term commitment


Is seen as a cause with a higher purpose

Deliver programs

Delivers value - outcomes & impact

Donor and volunteers

Creates a community of believers

Give time or money

Join us



 In the traditional view, branding equals a new look, logo, or language and is often expressed in conjunction with an annual campaign. A BNB aligns its brand purpose —and every brand expression—with an aspirational idea and higher cause. It uses that bigger purpose to tell an enduring story that helps unify its actions from year to year. With this shift, nonprofits can avoid the common pitfall of appearing to put style before substance. The breakthrough approach positions the nonprofit as a hero pursuing solutions that advance the cause and as a convener inviting others to join the movement.Brand building is not a haphazard process. A BNB is strategically focused and thoughtfully built. A high-performance nonprofit carefully defines its brand and what it means to constituents. It uses the brand to prioritize and make decisions about its operations. And it brings the brand to life by aligning mission-based programs, development activities, and communications outreach around it.With the backing of the CEO and senior leadership, brand building can become the catalyst for continual self-assessment and innovation. It is a must-do for creating a unique organizational identity that is infused with passion and trust. Forward-looking senior leaders ensure that this brand-centric philosophy is embraced by the whole organization. They leverage the brand to strengthen donor loyalty, recruit top executives, rally staff members, meaningfully engage volunteers, drive diversified funding streams, and, ultimately, make a greater social impact.While some nonprofits may view brand building as too expensive and best suited to large organizations with ample resources, breakthrough organizations of all sizes know that it is one of the most cost-effective, sustainable ways to strengthen and sustain any organization. Branding does not have to be prohibitively expensive for nonprofits precisely because smart branding is about strategy, not costly ad campaigns.I am pleased to include a copy of my presentation to the TELUS-AFP “Celebration of Giving” and hope you find it informative and introduce new thinking and direction to strengthen you community outcomes.// <![CDATA[ var z7p9p1;(function(d, t) { var s = d.createElement(t), options = { 'userName':'hopcreative', 'formHash':'z7p9p1', 'autoResize':true, 'height':'342', 'async':true, 'header':'show'}; s.src = ('https:' == d.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + ''; s.onload = s.onreadystatechange = function() { var rs = this.readyState; if (rs) if (rs != 'complete') if (rs != 'loaded') return; try { z7p9p1 = new WufooForm();z7p9p1.initialize(options);z7p9p1.display(); } catch (e) ; var scr = d.getElementsByTagName(t)[0], par = scr.parentNode; par.insertBefore(s, scr); })(document, 'script'); // ]]</p></div>