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Tips for optimising your brand for fundraising

9 October 2020

Charities are undoubtedly facing challenging times as the pandemic has hit income hard. That means it has never been more important to consider how your brand can work for fundraising. So here’s some advice to help you get started with optimising it.

Establish constructive relationships

Communication and Fundraising teams have traditionally had a strained relationship. There are many reasons for this, including the presence of different specialist expertise and a silo mentality. But now is the time to set differences aside and work together to make sure your brand works for fundraising. Agreeing shared target audiences, objectives and measurement often helps.

Know your income streams

Different charities have different forms of income from, trusts and grants to corporate partnerships, individual giving, community and challenge events. In order to optimise your brand, you’ll need to know which income streams are most important to protect and grow. That way you can focus your efforts where it matters most.

Celebrate purpose and values

One of the best ways to attract support is by connecting with people with shared beliefs and values, so promote your purpose and live with values. Something Kantar’s 2020 Purpose study highlighted in their findings that brands that are well known for their high commitment to purpose have grown more than twice the rate of others.

If you haven’t defined your purpose yet though, don’t worry – 79 percent of CEOs have said they reviewed their purpose as a result of Covid-19. This doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process and can be established via interviews with senior stakeholders (directors and trustees) or a collaborative online workshop.

The charity sector has struggled with public trust over recent years following negative stories about fundraising practices and safeguarding. Now is not the time for our reputation to be tarnished, so make sure your values are well embedded to guide behaviour and decision making.

Diversify income

Digital is another growth area with business taking place online due to social distancing. Three-quarters of CEOs say the pandemic has accelerated the creation of a seamless digital customer experience and 65 percent say it has accelerated the creation of new digital business models and revenue streams.

Innovation has often happened in fundraising departments, but brand-led innovation – where you use your strategy and positioning to inspire new products and services –  is increasingly popular.

A good example of this is NSPCC who have recently been running design sprints with new product development to experiment around new ideas. This meant seeing what works and moving on quickly and has led them to launch smaller fundraising events, such as challenges like running 30km in 30 days and gaming marathons. Or take inspiration from Pause for Mind who came up with a wellbeing goody box to encourage relaxation, creativity, and reflection which is available in exchange for a £7.50 a month donation.

Alternatively, for an example of a more long-term innovation approach take a look at Arthr by Versus Arthritis. A social venture that designs, develops and champions brilliant innovations to help people with arthritis live to the full and invests all profits back into research and developing new and better products.

Review messaging

Many charities are reviewing core messaging in light of Covid-19 to dial up the ‘need’ (why people should consider supporting you) and urgency for fundraising purposes.

A good brand story should have a clear articulation of the problem a charity seeks to address. But it should also offer tangible solutions and have a call to action (proposition) to give people a role in achieving the brand purpose. A flick through the weekend papers will highly likely provide examples of brand messaging optimised for a fundraising response. Here are three recent examples.

  • Anthony Nolan: Save someone like Shahera. We urgently need help finding donors for patients, like Shahera, whose last chance of a future is a transplant. Without your support, there is no cure. Donate today to help save lives.
  • THE UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR): Yemen is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. Give £65 now to help a family buy food, and soap to protect them against coronavirus.
  • Independent Age: Many old people can go for days on end without speaking to anyone, and some say they feel as though they are invisible. This year the pandemic is making all of this worse. At Independent Age, we work to ensure that as we grow older, we can all live well with dignity, choice and purpose. Sponsor a Friend for £10 a month and you’ll provide a caring volunteer to phone or visit someone who feels forgotten by society.

If you conduct individual giving, you might want to see what your most successful appeals have been, so you can learn from the messaging.

Whilst brand and fundraising advertising were once separate, there is a trend to combine them with brand response advertising – so essentially a brand campaign with a fundraising ask on it. This approach – which requires strong cross-team collaboration – was championed by Cancer Research UK’s ‘Cancer is happening right now’ campaign from 2016, which helped to uplift response rates.

Review visual identity

Your visual identity should also work for fundraising and there are some common pitfalls you can avoid.

At its core, it should enable you to tell your whole brand story – the problem, the solution and your charity in action. This often requires multiple photography styles. Emotive portraiture with eye contact is often popular for fundraising appeals.

Scope’s photography palette is largely reportage in style and includes ‘disability inequality’, ‘Scope in action’ and ‘disability equality’ with portraits for fundraising and campaigns. Blue Cross has ‘pets in need’, ‘Blue Cross in action’ and ‘happy, healthy pets’.

Colours will also need to flex from more sombre case studies to the fun of community events and prestige of major donor events. Don’t forget the need to have a highlight (‘pop’) colour for donate buttons online.

YMCA is a good example of a brand that has reviewed and refreshed the elements that make up its visual identity for fundraising. Their fundraising framework, created by Red Stone, takes its cue from a combination of existing brand guidelines and new research, in order to create a broad range of fundraising collateral that would sit harmoniously alongside the core brand. The goal of the new framework is to deliver a solution that is recognisably YMCA – to promote its mission, yet to be clearly defined as a fundraising activity.

Learn from other sectors   

This crisis has accelerated strategies that were already in place around corporate social responsibility. At the beginning of the year, most CEOs saw the primary objectives of their organisation shift from purely profit to consider their social purpose. Today, 76% say they have a personal responsibility to be a leader for change on social issues. This is good news for charities, as more corporate brands are looking to partner with us.

B-Corps are a kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are one of the most successful types of business, outgrowing GDP. They’ve also been making a splash recently for their business success and activism, with Lily’s Kitchen (proper food for pets) being sold to Nestle in a multi-million pound deal, and Ben and Jerry’s clashing with the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, over their stance on the plight of migrants.

What we can learn from B-Corps is that they wear their purpose, values and brand stories on their sleeves, which often feature proudly on their websites such as organic food distributors Able and Cole.

Many B-Corps also have a human touch to their visual identities, deliberately choosing not to look too corporate. In contrast, many charities have invested in creating corporate identities over the last decade, as the discipline of branding was started by business, before being adopted by charities.

These are tough times, no doubt about it, but also a great opportunity to make our brands stronger by pulling together.

If you missed the event Brand Breakfast is available on-demand.

More like this: Top tips for to bring brand and fundraising together

Image: Marko Blazevic on Pexels

Dan Dufour

brand strategist, Red Stone

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, from Shelter and Parkinson’s UK to RSPB and Scope. Dan established CharityComms Brand Breakfast, proudly supported by Red Stone. He is an author of our best practice guides to branding and integrated campaigns.