Nonprofit board members know they must oversee their organization’s finances, governance, and major initiatives. But an overlooked area of responsibility is maintaining the strength of their organization’s brand. Boards of organizations large and small must keep their organization’s brand healthy, vibrant, and free from liability. To do so, board members must:
1. Prioritize Their Brand
Successful organizations understand that having a strong brand is fundamental for long-term success. The brand must be easy to understand, appealing, and motivating. If people don’t know what you do and how well you do it, they are not going to support you. Boards make it possible for an organization to build and maintain a brand by allocating the resources needed. Whether marketing is done in-house or with the help of a consultant, the board must budget sufficient money to ensure success.
If the brand is important to the board, it will be important to staff, donors, and clients. By hiring leadership that prioritizes their brand and ensuring that systems and resources are in place to reinforce their brand, the board ensures their brand’s continuity and strength.
2. Build Their Brand
For organization just starting out or going through a rebranding process, boards will help define the organization’s brand—its mission, vision, values, and brand promise. The board may provide input to a marketing committee or branding agency or sit on the marketing committee as part of the branding process. Boards may approve key deliverables such as a new name, visual identity, or mission statement, and ensure that appropriate trademark protection is secured.
3. Protect Their Brand from Internal Threats
The board should protect their organization’s brand, intellectual property, and goodwill from internal and external threats. Internally, this means having brand standards and ensuring that all communications materials reflect these brand standards. By making consistency a priority, your team will not inadvertently erode your brand.
For organizations that have chapters or affiliates, or those are that are chapters or affiliates, careful attention needs to be paid to the relationship between the parent entity and others that use the brand. Parent organizations need to clearly articulate how their brand is to be used (and not used), provide guidelines and training to those using the brand, and monitor for misuse.
Affiliate organizations need to be mindful of using the national brand appropriately, and setting guidelines for adapting the brand locally within the national standards.
4. Protect Their Brand from External Threats
External threats come from people—including your supporters—who may use your logo or other brand identifiers in an inappropriate manner, or other organizations that usurp or infringe on your name or logo.
The board must examine any potential mergers, partnership arrangements, or cause marketing deals to ensure that the arrangements are mutually beneficial and that the organization’s brand won’t be misappropriated, or harmed in any way. Make sure that all partnership arrangements are with entities with similar values and interests. Don’t enter into agreements—no matter how financially tempting—that contradict the mission and values of your organization. Spell out all the details of how your name, logo, and other brand elements will be used.
5. Leverage Their Brand
Smart organizations know that their brand reflects their entire organization, and that branding, marketing, and fundraising support each other. Boards can ensure that all departments —particularly development and marketing—are on the same page, support each other, and reinforce the organization’s brand. Donors responding to a direct mail or email appeal need to easily find the offer they are looking for on the website. This means that internal teams must work together and communicate well. Boards need to understand the many skills, roles, and positions within the organization that affect and support their marketing efforts and put in place teams and systems to ensure brand cohesion.
6. Share Their Brand
Board members are brand ambassadors among their own contacts in business and in their communities. Their job is to enthusiastically spread the word, raise funds, and serve as the chief cheerleaders for the organization. To do so, they must be able to confidently and passionately talk about the value and impact of the organization. A strong brand makes it easier for them to do so by providing clear, concise language and a message that board members are proud to convey.
Howard Adam Levy is President of Red Rooster Group, a branding agency that specializes in nonprofit organizations. www.redroostergroup.com.