Skip to main content

Lessons from Nonprofits on Purpose-Driven Branding

We discussed this earlier in the month but brands are becoming increasingly purpose-driven. And marketers can learn a lot from nonprofit organizations when it comes to crafting a purpose-driven brand. Whether you’re actively looking for marketing inspiration or just need a quick break from your daily activities, keep reading to gain insights gleaned from successful nonprofit marketing.

Put frankly, expectations for brands are changing. Now more than ever before people want companies to address present social and political issues. Issues such as reducing plastics in our oceans, ending gun violence, or advocating for safe work conditions once belonged in the NGO or 501(c)3 world but corporations are now entering that realm and becoming more purpose-driven. This means brands need new ways to engage with customers and employees. It might be new territory for a lot of marketers, who can draw inspiration from nonprofits.

Define a clear purpose

The best way to make money? To not prioritize money. Your brand needs a purpose and core values that don’t change when consumer behaviors change. Brand purpose is the unifying piece of your marketing strategy that will energize and spur campaigns.

What does your brand stand for? Nonprofits never lose sight of their mission, and you should work to always keep your purpose at the forefront too.

Change how you measure success

91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit

Source: Cone Communications

As mission-driven organizations, nonprofits have different definitions for success. Not-for-profit groups measure value – with social impact metrics key to proving the value of their work.

Click here to download the complete guide to timing your holiday campaigns.

Metrics are key, no matter what industry you’re in, for indicating if you’re on the right track. Metrics vary, depending on an organization’s purpose and current priorities. Nonprofits know that donors and grant givers need to be shown how far along an organization is in fulfilling its purpose and so they develop SMART metrics connecting core programs to value disciplines.

Private sector, take note! Set goals and measure progress in new ways.

Get more done with less

Nonprofit organizations famously have small budgets. And they’re crafty and creative in the ways they optimize what money they do have.

Well, marketers in other industries are also facing budget cuts! If you find yourself with less money to spend on promoting your brand and growing engagement, look to nonprofits. Strong marketing does not have to be expensive. Team members need to be clear on the mission. Decide what parts need prioritizing and focus on those. Don’t focus on perfection.

Plan ahead! A great way to save time – and money – is to repurpose all content your creatives create. Use things in multiple ways, in presentations, across social, on your website, etc.

Be inspirational!

Forget about marketing. Successful nonprofits know that people who decide to donate or volunteer aren’t always deciding in a pragmatic, rational way; it’s all about that emotional connection, right? Nonprofits deliver messages of hope and inspiration backed with statistics to empower people to take action.

Brands can take a page from that rulebook – don’t tell people what you offer, but rather make your audience feel something. Leading with data and facts and figures won’t always get the response you want. Instead, focus on building connections. It’s easy for for-profit brands to expound on pricing and service/product features but think about your larger mission. How are you improving people’s lives? Try leading with emotion!

How? Leverage storytelling to engage your audience to take action.

More on storytelling techniques.

Better yet, focus on visual storytelling. Content marketing is gaining traction across the nonprofit sector, as well as the for-profit world. All marketers need to harness the power of visual storytelling. Nonprofits often use photos and videos of those impacted by their mission. They use infographics with cause-related stats. Video testimonials from staff, volunteers, donors, and fundraisers explaining why they give or support are particularly powerful to spark someone else to get involved. And guess, what? These types of visuals are equally powerful in the for-profit world, helping others identify with your brand.

Nonprofit Digital Marketing Guide

Examples of brands leading with purpose

Here are a few purpose-driven innovative brands in the B2B or B2C worlds, to inspire and motivate you.

Warby Parker: With a ‘buy one, give one’ model, this company is paying it forward one pair of glasses at a time.

The Body Shop: The company is built around an “Enrich Not Exploit™ Commitment” which translates into ethically-sourced ingredients, no animal testing, and more.

Everlane: As a clothing company who believes in transparency and ethical factories, Everlane is honest about the true cost of the products they make.

Patagonia: Environmentalism is at the core of everything this company does. As they put it, “we’re in business to save our home planet.”

~ ~ ~

Purpose-driven branding might seem a little bit of a trend, but it’s one that is here to stay. The lines between corporations and nonprofits are blurring. Soon, every company will have a socially responsible or impact message tying their brand together. The new normal is marketing that connects with audiences based on a shared value.

I’ll leave you with one more nonprofit resource from the blog archive:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *