The other day, I spied an interesting conversation on Twitter about author branding. And while the conversation revolved around those who write books for a living, I think many of the ideas apply to nonprofit organizations as well.
Here's the tweet that started it from author Chuck Wendig: Referring to your "brand" is another way of saying "here's the carefully constructed, safe, corporate lie I need you to believe about me."
One of the things I love about writing for nonprofits is that, when I get it right, it can take all those meetings and reports and outreach that you do each and every day and make it all personal. The donors reading your direct mail -- or, really, any marketing or fundraising copy you write -- should be able to feel the conviction, passion and tireless effort behind what you do and get a sense of the personality behind your organization...not the brand.
So here's my PSA for the day: Stop talking about branding!
It's boring. It's obnoxious. And your donors don't care.
Instead, talk about who you are -- your identity.
Your brand is an image. It's helpful when you want people to recognize your organization at a glance. It's great shorthand for marketing. But it's not who you are.
Your identity is the soul and vision of your organization, what you hope to achieve, now and into the future. What does your organization care about? Why do you care? Why is it so important? What will be better in the world because you're working on this issue?
That's what your donors care about. Branding is just the fancy icing your marketing and communications team puts on the delicious cake that is your organization.
Don't let the marcomm team tell you "That issue isn't part of your brand." That gets you stuck in a rut, and there's no better way to stop caring about what you do than to make it so rote and routine that it ceases to matter -- to you or to anyone else.
If you're working on it, and you care about it and it will make the world better, it's part of YOU.
Are you a scrappy band of rabble-rousers? Or a firmly established group making changes from the inside? You may be tempted to straddle the line or try to be all things to your donors, but if you want your identity to be authentic -- and you do -- you have to make a choice about who you are as an organization. And then stick to it in all your copy.
As Chuck Wendig said a bit later in the conversation, "Just be the best version of yourself. Let everyone else worry and talk about your brand."