So many fundraisers have had this terrible experience: a “new brand” was launched and fundraising results immediately tanked.
You might draw the conclusion that “branding” is an evil force, and you should have nothing to do with it.
Some brands are ill-conceived. Those ones are evil. Typically, they are designed by clueless “brand experts” who misapply commercial branding practices and create an abstract, self-focused brand that pretty much guarantees fundraising failure. You should have nothing to do with that type of brand.
But the problem isn’t branding itself.
If your brand is donor-centered, action-oriented, and captures the specific good donors can do by giving to you (rather than a trumpeting of your organizational superiority) it can boost your fundraising.
But you still have to use your brand right, and The Nth Factor blog has an interesting look at what you can do to make your brand help your fundraising: Branding + Direct Response Fundraising = Love, Actually.
Brand guidelines and brand cops often say (or imply) that the secret to success is to slavishly follow the brand and never vary on it in any way. The theory is that consistency is the active ingredient in branding.
It isn’t. Consistency is one of the lesser virtues of brand. Many other things matter much more. And too much consistency is bad for fundraising.
… if you want your direct response fundraising to thrive, begin with a well developed brand. Then break it, but not really.
(Remember, we’re assuming you have the good kind of brand, not the response-killing type!)
Clarity is better than consistency. And surprise does very well in all fundraising media. That’s why you should break your brand.
Yes, I know you’re educated and sophisticated. And so is your organization.
Just don’t let all that coolness show up in your fundraising.
The Marketsmart blog looks at the need for simple messaging at Why you should simply make your planned giving messages simple:
Supporters of your mission can get sophistication from a bottle of wine or a good book. But when it comes to your letters, they just want to know what the problem is and how they can help. You won’t impress anyone by complicating your appeal. And you won’t insult them if you make it simple.
It’s a lot harder to communicate simply. And a lot of fundraisers make it even harder for themselves because their pride in their own sophistication drives them to show off.
It’s rude. It’s boorish. And it’s not an effective way to raise funds.
Keep it simple!
Don’t you love those weird experiments social scientists do? And the often wacky conclusions they draw?
Here’s a study, reported at UK Fundraising, The power of freshly baked bread to stimulate altruism. A volunteer would drop a glove on the sidewalk outside a bakery or a clothing store. They then kept track how often strangers picked it up and returned it to them.
- 77% of the time by people outside the bakery returned it.
- 52% of the time those outside the clothes shop did.
Their conclusion: “spontaneous help is offered more in areas where pleasant ambient smells are spread. This experiment confirms the role of ambient food odours on altruism.”
Okay that’s a little bit silly. A few dozen, or even a few hundred, observed incidents cannot yield statistically significant results. Then there’s the almost incalculable number of potential variables: what else is happening nearby, what the “dropper” looks like, etc. Direct response professionals laugh at this kind of study.
But look for the Shine Object Brigade to spring into action. They’ll look for ways to make direct mail appeals smell good. (Doesn’t work; I’ve tested it.) Or perhaps somebody will invent something called “HTMsmell” so websites can smell good.
Truth is, being kind feels good. Some people know that and benefit from it all the time. Others haven’t yet figured it out. A pleasant smell might put some fence-sitters in an altruistic mood.
But be careful how seriously you take these oddball studies that claim to give us deep insight into human nature.
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