personal nonprofit branding

Do enough people outside of your organization know what its main contribution is to this world? What your work is leading towards? Do they recognize your personal nonprofit branding and know what it is your organization stands to change?

Taking a leaf from the inventions of the superhero genres is a well tried and fun way to understand what works and which areas we could improve on in our communications with the public.

We take it for granted that what appears obvious to us is so clear from everyone else’s perspective. Despite our hard work the mission doesn’t always stand out nearly as much as we believe it does.

So why the superhero angle for personal nonprofit branding?

The great thing about the superhero world is that it’s super branding made super easy to get our heads around. Anyone can understand and learn from it. It’s a sort of point of entry for us to power up our nonprofit marketing through the conventions of a universally understood genre. 

Superheroes have no margin for error. The look is clearly defined from day one, and the abilities are set in stone. From shooting webs to flying at the speed of a bullet, everyone is clear on who can do what, how they look, and why they do it. Each has an origin myth and all have a well defined mission to accomplish – one Villain (or Villanova) at a time.

Start by identifying through an informal focus group our own nonprofit’s communication weak points.

To quantify what the world does or doesn’t see, it’s time to understand your nonprofit’s brand impact to-date through a small focus group. This is a great place to start when tackling the invisible status quo perception barrier which surrounds our organizations. We’re inside – it’s clear to us, but what does the world think? A cost efficient way to understand how we are seen from the outside, is to gather up a group of friends and acquaintances and ask them two questions.

  • What is the primary reason for our nonprofit?
  • Where does this nonprofit make a difference?

I guarantee that even if all your friends and acquaintances give fairly good answers, you will notice the places which need improvement. There will be areas of blurred perception. You will be surprised to learn how huge elements go unnoticed or were not even mentioned when you surely thought they would be.

Doing a focus group with these people will really highlight where your talents, message and mission are not connecting. 

I say use family and acquaintances because these people are the one most aware of what you do, so any blind spot in their perception is a gaping black hole in the public’s!

Then make super improvements!

So you’ve established where you can do better, now it’s time to super brand!

Super branding is taking a leaf from the superhero school of nonprofit marketing. Now unfortunately this doesn’t mean coming into work wearing a cape and spandex, but it does mean recognizing how all the superheroes of movie fame are masters of personal branding.

The distinctive look: Each superhero has a very particular look. You can identify one from another from a hundred yards. This is every nonprofit’s dream. To create a brand look which stands out from a distance. Superheroes teach us to keep it simple, they all have a very streamlined theme: red, white and blue for Superman and black for Batman. Each has a very particular way of presenting themselves, how they stand for example – the stance they take is consistent every time!

Here are 8 tips to improve personal nonprofit branding efforts: 

1. Individuality

Superheroes stick with their individuality and over time, they become instantly recognizable through it. 

2. Powerful mission statement

The average superhero is extremely clear what their purpose is. They have a mission and everyone knows it. Make the mission sing out through your personal nonprofit branding. It’s not what you need to do, it’s what you are driven to do. 

3. The strong tag line

From the caped crusader to the dark destroyer, superheroes nail down their mission to one or two lines and leave no one in doubt as to what their purpose is. This is the holy grail of personal nonprofit branding. Time spent perfecting the logo, tagline and the color scheme pays ten-fold long term.

4. Consistency

Consistency is the essence of what superhero branding 101 is all about. It’s their relentless consistency which makes the difference. Avoid constant changes with each new board meeting. Our favorite superheroes have had the same outfit for half a century or more!

5. Be consistent with work hours

Output and donor drives have to keep on schedule. Superman can’t turn up five minutes after the Eiffel Tower has fallen down!

6. Constantly improving

Unfortunately we can’t all be bitten by a radioactive spider to keep us at the top of our game, but like some other superheroes their abilities are about invention and constant improvement, the Bat Mobile is always in the garage getting upgraded!

7. Be on the ground regularly

Consistently create visibility. Make sure your organization is seen at the right places at the right times and in the right outlets to reach your supporters. Be consistently in the public eye as much as you can. This is about demonstrating what you can do publicly.

8. Be creative

Stand out from the crowd with unique ideas and selling points. Work hard on that well trodden but essential USP. Each superhero carved out their niche and reaped their fanbase for it!

Back from the world of comic books and comic-cons, personal nonprofit branding and marketing is a super helpful, super value-adding activity for any organization.

Give the world a better chance to understand your purpose and potential cause just like our superhero icons: It has to be crystal clear to us what we stand for and how we represent ourselves to this world before the world can understand it. And just like the superheroes, if you get it right, then there’s always space for one more to take flight and save the day! 

Nonprofit Sustainability

Nick Wood

Nick Wood

Freelance Journalist & Author
Nick Wood is a freelance journalist and author. Specializing in the nonprofit Industry, digital media, and the travel sector. With years of experience working within the industry on the ground in the UK and further afield. Founder of light-on-light, a project addressing the stories of individuals and organisations making a positive and intentional impact on society. For enquiries, nickjohnwood@mail.com.