Published: 30 November 2009

Communications vs fundraising: the battle of the brand

Dan Durfur, from the Good Agency, thinks fundraising should complement your brand

For many charities, the battle lines between communications and fundraising departments are fierce. They can be like two squabbling ugly sisters, with the true needs of supporters cast aside like Cinderella.

Internal structures are of little or no relevance to supporters, but the way in which the two disciplines work together is critical to a charity’s success. Fundraisers often see branding as a constraint, however, and communicators can view fundraising as a necessary evil.

Branding and fundraising should work in harmony. A strong, consistent brand can help to build awareness, recognition, understanding and loyalty, which can in turn be translated into donations. And without successful fundraising, there wouldn’t be a charity in the first place.

A fundraising perspective

There has never been a more competitive time for charities. Fundraising messages have to compete against every other form of communication vying for the attention of the reader, the surfer, the blogger, the viewer and the listener. Successful fundraising messages can cut through this clutter, demand attention and persuade people to part with their money.

How to do this? An essential part of fundraising is developing a compelling case for support. This is your promise to your audience – one that’s designed to stop people in their tracks and convince them to donate. This is what your brand should deliver, and any fundraising should enhance and complement the brand, not contradict it. It should run through every appeal, and every advert. It should immediately tell your audience who you are and why you need their support. Without this clarity and focus, fundraising is destined to fail.

Fundraising is also critical to success, because it can give charities the insight to create, develop and maintain a strong, engaging brand. For direct marketing particularly, it is vital to understand your audience, know how to reach them and what they want. People are bombarded with more than 2,500 marketing messages each day. An up-to-date database that tells you who your supporters are, their reading habits and interests can, therefore, be your secret weapon.

Without it you are working in the dark. Don’t relegate your database to the IT department in the basement – it is one of your most important tools, and can help you develop and maintain a clear, consistent message.

A communications perspective

There is growing recognition across the sector that a brand is much more than just a logo. Words, shapes, colours and images all play a role. Put together effectively, they can communicate a charity’s unique personality. And used consistently, a brand can deliver increased awareness and understanding of a charity’s purpose.

Image and reputation have become paramount to survive in our fast and furious consumer culture, which is why many charities, including Macmillan, Save the Children and Mencap, have invested in refreshing their brands.

We know the more we see or hear something, the more likely we are to remember it. Consistency is the cornerstone of any successful brand regardless of sector, whether it is 02, EasyJet or the NHS. The problem is effectively demonstrating the correlation between increased awareness and an upturn in donations. The evidence is thin, which fuels the brand sceptics. But the truth is that If people know who you are, what you do and trust in your ability to deliver, they are more likely to support you and put their hands in their pockets.


Dan Dufour, brand strategist, The Team

Dan is one of the sector’s leading brand strategists. He has worked on brand development across all sectors including Rightmove, London 2012 and Cancer Research UK. He's best known for his award-winning work across all corners of the charity sector, including Shelter (Design Week Award), Parkinson’s UK (Design Effectiveness Award), RSPB (Third Sector Excellence Award) and Scope. Dan established CharityComms Brand Breakfast, proudly supported by The Teamand is an author of our best practice guides to branding and integrated communications.