Take a Stand. Communicate your Brand….via Donor Recognition

June 4th, 2013


BreakthroughIf you know me, you know that I have always advocated for a more proactive attitude-and-action-plan toward the use of donor recognition as motivator, informer and energizer of viewers (all of whom are prospective donors). Donor recognition, whether a donor plaque, donor wall, interactive donor display, an online donor story, or even a billboard, communicates “something” to each viewer 24/7/365. It’s an opportune moment to use donor recognition as a strategy for improving donor acquisition and retention by planning its content within the context larger messaging goals.

So the natural extension of such thinking about thanking is that donor recognition is a philanthropy branding opportunity unlike any other. The keys to successful efforts at such branding/thanking communication may just lie in the understanding that the term branding has changed, evolved in recent years.

Logos and slogans by themselves are simply no longer enough to do in order to establish one’s brand in the hearts and minds of the public. Instead, today, we hear words like “authentic”, “meaningful”, “empowering” and “experiential” being tied to and expanding the meaning to encompass that of a “sustainable brand”. (For more on sustainable branding, visit BBMG and download their “Branding for Sustainability” white paper.) The chart here by BBMG presents a set of new translations for marketing terms many of us grew up with.

"Brand Shift" by BBMG

“Brand Shift” by BBMG

While the influences of these evolving terms can be seen all around us today, from architecture to interactive relationships on line, fundraising organizations have been particularly slow to apply these newer terms/truths to their stewardship and donor recognition policies. Yet, when you think about it, at the heart of every decision concerning a non-profit’s mission, from defining a need, to identifying solutions, to delivering services, must relate to the sustainability of the philanthropy brand. As the fundraising marketplace becomes evermore competitive for the donated dollar, the imperative to communicate philanthropy as a core value to an organization seems essential in order to stay in the hunt. Donor recognition, as I have experienced it with most organizations, simply lies dormant instead of being regarded as what it can be: a dynamic device in portraying mission, authenticity and relevance to society (prospective donors).

Donor recognition is a practical, palpable medium for communicating philanthropy brand.  Organizations must have an eye toward transforming their obligatory “thank you’s” into a thoughtful and consistent messaging, imaging, and story-telling juggernaut.

Donor Recognition in all its forms continues to exist as the most under-utilized communications tool a fundraiser has. Because it is, I urge fundraisers to embrace it as a natural expression of their organization’s compelling and sustainable brand. Think, before you thank®.

Philanthropy Center-Saint Joseph's Hospital, Atlanta

Philanthropy Center-Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Atlanta

Comments are closed.