Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

October 15, 2013

Sports lesson to never give up is key to strong brand awareness for nonprofits

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Special to Philanthropy Journal

Sarah Crawford

Since May 2011, I have had the pleasure of working at Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities. Tammy Lynn Center has benefitted from strong brand awareness and a robust fundraising program, with a rich history in the Triangle since 1969.  

In 2002, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. LeRoy T. Walker, the first black president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.  An amazing athlete and inspirational leader, Dr. Walker has shaped the thoughts of many people, including me.

Dr. Walker said, “In sports, one has to recognize that success is not final, and failure is not fatal.”

This quote applies to work across all industries and can be easily translated to the nonprofit sector.   Although Dr. Walker said it much more eloquently, when it comes to building and achieving strong brand awareness, I have generally two rules: 1) Your work is never done, and 2) It usually doesn’t hurt to try.

I’ll elaborate.
·         Your work is never done. Tammy Lynn Center has been around for more than 44 years. We have served thousands of Triangle families. Families move from out of state just to receive Center services. We have been visited by international constituencies asking us how to best serve their communities. This gives evidence of Tammy Lynn’s strong brand awareness, but that does not mean that we can become complacent.

In a world of so much noise, we must find a way to be heard and the way that we do that and promote our brand is this:
o   Take advantage of every opportunity to do what I call “Waving the Flag.”  Attend Chamber events, leadership conferences and say yes when asked to speak.
o   Start with the Why. Tell the story about why what you do matters first.
o   Be engaged in the conversation. Get in the conversation early with your city, county and state leaders. This creates relevancy for yourself and therefore relevancy for your agency.

·         It usually doesn’t hurt to try. Over the past 44 years, Tammy Lynn Center has had the opportunity to try many marketing and brand building approaches. We have invested in different media mediums, begged for news coverage and created opportunities for the press to come visit. Trying all of these ideas has given us a chance to evaluate success and retool our plan. Here are our general rules for marketing:
o   Smart Marketing
§  Don’t rely on every media outlet to give you free coverage.
§  Media agencies will respond to a list of what you want. Create a list that includes a combination of what you can pay for and what you would like donated.
§  Don’t invest in every form of advertising. Think about your targeted audience. What is your message to them? Then, target your marketing to appropriate advertising outlets that reach your audience.
o   Creating brand awareness is evolution, not revolution. Plant the seeds, water them, and then tend to the plants as they grow. Some crops that you plant might not grow the way you expect; some might not grow at all. Use that as a learning experience to refine your methods.

Tammy Lynn Center has had a robust fundraising program, and every year we are getting better. This does not mean that we do anything exactly creative. In fact, I would caution organizations about watching for gimmicks that promote having a magic fundraising bullet. The truth of the matter is that there is no magic bullet. It comes down to one thing:  Relationship building.

Donors give money for two reasons: 1) They feel passionate for, or connected, to the cause. 2) They cannot say no to the person asking.

Connecting to the Cause:
·         Some donors have a personal connection because they have used services. In this case, the passion is already there.
·         Individuals and corporations not already connected to your cause need a reason to become connected. To create a reason, your first step is to listen. Listen to what the individual or corporation cares about and then look for ways that your organization connects to them.

Not being able to say “No” to the person who asks:
·         This comes down to relationships. Build partnerships with corporations and foundations. Build relationships with individuals.  
·         Investments versus transactions.  Think about a transaction as being a date. Think about an investment as being marriage. You want a happy marriage for your donors and your organization.  It takes time to build a marriage.
·         Keep your donors saying yes!  Communicate how their support makes a difference, let them know what the organization is doing, and continue to invest in your relationship.

I’ll leave you with another Dr. Walker quote,  “We ought to keep them informed. We ought to let them know what the Olympic movement is all about and what’s happening to the dollars that they give.”

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  • At 8:01 AM, Blogger Holly Richard said…

    Sarah is right on target and her knowledge, ideas and inspiration is valuable to any organization on the vision trail to a better and stronger tomorrow!


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