Why Your Nonprofit Needs Both Branding And Marketing Strategies

Why Your Nonprofit Needs Both Branding And Marketing Strategies

Julia Claire Campbell Marketing, Nonprofits Leave a Comment

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Guest blog by Ryan Ozimek, CEO and co-founder of PICnet

In both the nonprofit and business sectors, the terms “branding” and “marketing” are often used interchangeably.

They’ve also become buzzwords in the nonprofit sector recently. However, branding and marketing are not actually the same–and yes, your nonprofit should be doing both! 

We’ll unpack the difference between marketing and branding and offer some insights about why your nonprofit should invest in both!

Branding vs. Marketing: What are the differences? 

Really, the difference between branding and generic marketing can seem subtle. They are very related and interdependent but serve very different purposes. 

What is branding? 

Branding is how you present your organization and how people perceive it. Your brand is your culture, messages, and all the rules and processes in your nonprofit. It goes far deeper than any marketing, advertising, or fundraising activities you use.

Your nonprofit brand is the way you tell a story about your organization and your core mission. It encompasses how you communicate who you are and what you do through words, images, colors, graphics, logos, and other tools. 

The overarching goal of branding is to build trust and rapport with current and potential supporters. A secondary benefit of branding is that it helps your donors understand what you do and why that matters. 

This means everything from your printed materials, website, and social media posts to your interaction with donors is part of your brand and how people perceive your nonprofit.

What is marketing? 

Marketing includes specific activities and strategies that your nonprofit uses to put your goals into action. You use marketing to raise awareness about your organization, solicit donors, enlist volunteers, or accomplish other specific objectives.

Marketing is based on a shorter timeframe than branding, and it almost always includes a call to action of some kind (donation, volunteer, sign a petition, etc.). Essentially, marketing is the process of promoting your brand and a specific goal to a large audience.

So, when you launch a custom donation page for your latest fundraising campaign, host an educational event, gather signatures for a petition, or any other act, it’s all part of your marketing.

In summary, while branding includes WHO you are, marketing is the act of TELLING people who you are. Marketing encompasses various strategies, including search engine optimization, blogging, appeal letters, social media posts, email updates, donor care, and much more. 

Marketing and branding work together

As we said earlier, marketing is the process of promoting your nonprofit or organization. Branding is meant to tell people who you are and shape their opinions about your nonprofit. Some nonprofits can–and do–function without a recognizable brand or organized marketing strategy, but their ability to expand their network and increase funding over time can be compromised. 

Successful nonprofits develop strategies for both marketing and branding with specific goals and desired outcomes for both.

Here are some ways that marketing and branding work together to accomplish your goals: 

  • Marketing makes a potential donor aware of your organization, and branding keeps their attention and draws them in.
  • Branding raises recognition levels and deepens trust and loyalty from your donors, while marketing helps you reach specific fundraising goals.
  • Branding is meant to last a long time, whereas marketing tactics and strategies should change to meet each goal and context. 

Perhaps a helpful way to think about this is to treat marketing as a way to introduce people to your brand and tell people about your short-term goals. Your brand, on the other hand, communicates who you are for the long term. 

Build Your Brand Before You Market It

Many experts argue back and forth, which comes first, branding or marketing. However, you can’t effectively market a brand that doesn’t yet exist! For that reason, we strongly suggest you invest time, energy, and resources into developing your nonprofit’s brand before you launch major marketing campaigns (and it’s never too late to start). 

Before you put on your next major fundraising campaign, take the time to answer some key questions that will lay the groundwork for your brand:

  • Who are we as an organization?
  • What specifically do we want to accomplish, or who specifically will we serve?
  • What are our core values? 
  • How will we communicate our core values to current and potential donors?
  • Does everyone within our organization understand how to use our brand consistently and effectively?

Nonprofits have a unique branding challenge of having multiple audiences–donors, program recipients, volunteers, and other groups that might not fully overlap when it comes to brand messaging. However, having a consistent brand can help bring these groups together around your common goal.

Why It’s Important To Understand the Difference between Branding and Marketing

You could create marketing and fundraising strategies with little more than some keywords and appeal letters, but your fundraising and marketing efforts will surely be much more successful if your supporters feel connected to your organization and your cause. 

Branding leads to loyalty and trust. Your branding is what helps build that strong connection between you and your donors. Over time, this will help your donor retention and even bring in larger gifts. 

Developing your brand is not an overnight event. It takes time and buy-in from everyone in your nonprofit. Once you build a strong brand, you can develop a cohesive marketing strategy that meets your needs and goals. 

Balancing branding and marketing becomes easier over time and when you understand them as distinct but interdependent tools and strategies. You and your team will create a strong brand and identify the best marketing strategies to help you accomplish all your goals.

Now that you’ve got the hang of marketing and branding, here are three more resources to help boost your fundraising efforts. 

Email Marketing Tools for Nonprofit Success: Email remains a popular marketing and communication tool–and for good reason! It’s easy, cost effective, and convenient for everything from sharing about accomplishments and needs to inviting people to upcoming events. But there are loads of email marketing tools and software on the market and it can be difficult to know which one to choose. This quick guide will help you find the best email marketing tool for your nonprofit.

5 Marketing Strategies Every Nonprofit Should Implement: No matter what kind of nonprofit you work for, quality marketing is essential. Quality is almost always better than quantity. There are several marketing principles and strategies that every nonprofit should understand and implement. This blog will help you understand and begin to utilize five of these core marketing strategies.

Make a Fundraising Calendar in 5 Simple Steps: Creating a fundraising calendar can be an excellent way to set yourself up for year-round fundraising success. The good news is you can develop a fundraising calendar any time of the year. This blog will help you build an effective fundraising calendar in five simple steps. 

About the author: Ryan is the CEO and co-founder of PICnet, whose flagship product Soapbox Engage, makes online fundraising and engagement more effective and affordable, enabling organizations to raise more money and change the world. Ryan lives in Washington DC, and is a graduate of UCLA’s graduate school of public policy. He’s also a fan of burritos, and is always looking for global taqueria tips.

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