I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several nonprofit organizations that weren’t part of a national charity, university system, or hospital, which have attracted multimillion dollar donations. These nonprofits didn’t have major gift officers or even planned giving staff. They were small shops staffed in most cases with a single development director. So, how did they raise multimillion dollar donations? They did it through strong branding, awareness campaigns, and outreach.
Here are five ways you can build a nonprofit brand, (regardless of the size of your organization) that will attract multimillion dollar gifts:
1. Use a distinctive look, logo, and tagline.
People, businesses, and nonprofits almost always benefit from a makeover. When was your logo last updated? Is it contemporary and does it convey what you do? If it doesn’t, change it up. There are many low-cost designers that can help you do that. As you go through this process, think about your colors and tagline. Although they say that color and logos are a small part of creating a brand impression, it is still important. What is more important is differentiation. If everyone in your sub-sector of work is using purple because it’s what is used on the ribbon or for the awareness month, your organization is going to look exactly like all the others. Think about how you can be distinct to grab the potential donor’s attention.
2. Polish up your website.
I’ll keep this simple for a reason. It sounds obvious but if your website looks like it was designed in 2010, it’s time for a new one. Recent studies show that more than 65% of donors will visit your website before donating. That includes high-net-worth individuals who often have their staff or gatekeepers check you out. The last thing you want is for them to perceive you as an outdated, worn-out looking nonprofit.
3. Communicate with more emotion and less data.
Branding is all about creating a feeling with a client, donor, or in the business world, a customer. You can’t build a brand by constantly sharing statistics. You must inject some emotion so that the person will feel a connection. High-net-worth individuals and people who run foundations are seeking reasons to select your organization for support. If you continually share stories about the animals, people, and communities that you’re serving, you’ll set your nonprofit apart from the rest. I know this because I recently did a review of four major gift proposals for clients, and of the four, only one (yes, only one) had any emotion in it. The rest were bogged down with stats that did little to show the outcomes. The continual feedback from major donors that were solicited was that there weren’t enough stories to illustrate the work or the impact. The one with just the right number of stories went on to get funded.
4. Utilize your connections to build your brand.
For decades, we’ve been saying that you must use your board to open up doors. While that’s still true, there are some other connections that can open doors that you would never have expected. Vendors, public partners, and local media are often overlooked as door openers. When in reality, they have connections that go miles deep. If you have a relationship with a person who falls into one of these categories, leverage it to get those doors open. Some of the more recent multimillion dollar donations that I have seen, came about because a potential donor was networking with someone who was an enthusiastic fan of a certain nonprofit. She had continually seen the nonprofit’s staff on the news and out there giving radio interviews. The nonprofit was highly visible in social media which kept her aware about what was going on with the nonprofit. Despite not being on the board or even volunteering with the nonprofit, this person was so in love with the nonprofit that she was willing to introduce the major donor to the nonprofit, which resulted in a big donation. This is what brand is all about. Creating an awareness of what you do and the value you bring so that everyone is willing to open doors for you.
5. Be honest about what you can accomplish.
Branding is about authenticity, integrity, and following through on promises. When a potential donor approaches you about making a multimillion dollar donation, don’t be afraid to be honest about what is and isn’t possible. Talk through any issues you might have. If the donation can’t be used as the donor might want it to be utilized, provide some additional options that won’t strain your organization.
I want to leave you with a bonus tip. You’ll attract larger gifts when you are also able to position your charity as a thought leader on a topic around your mission. If you are trying to get more young people into STEM careers, craft a few simple and short white papers around the topic. Put that information into talking points and get out there on social media and in person and talk it up. Show that you know this issue inside and out. Let everyone know that you are the go-to source to solve this program. Put it out there and be consistent. Then watch because it will garner attention and that translates into dollars.