Published on March 5, 2020, at 8:58 p.m.
By Allie Rose.
Public relations is important no matter the industry you are in — for-profit or nonprofit — and businesses need to maintain their brands’ images and maintain favorable relationships within their industries and with their publics. While for-profits are focused mainly on sales, nonprofit organizations seek to educate and spread awareness about their causes. Branding for a nonprofit, however, may take more finesse.
It can seem odd for a nonprofit to focus on branding due to the connotation that branding emphasizes image, which pulls away from the cause. Ultimately for nonprofits, seeking to stay “on brand” means to point everything back to the cause.
Different nonprofit organizations are often categorized by points of connection made by their target audiences. A NonprofitPR.org article on the importance of nonprofit branding said, “They make a connection to the organization’s cause which becomes the main identifier.” Part of the struggle within nonprofit PR can be communicating the necessary information and managing the spread of information.
“We need our messages to get out to doctors, families and those affected that there is something out there for their struggle,” Sara Franklin, executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation Alabama, explained. “Past the initial point of communication is strategically pinpointing who needs the message and what particular channels the information needs to go through.” Franklin said there is a constant challenge to deliver messages with a limited budget, so shared and earned media play a huge role in the dissemination of messages.
Many local nonprofits belong to a national chapter that offers resources such as a style guide or branding standards. A style guide provides direction for the creation of all written and visual external communications, including standards for colors, fonts and logos. Some nonprofits have chapters that operate in locations outside of their headquarters. Thus, it is vital to keep messages consistent and mission-minded.
“Education is really key in our world,” Jennifer Bentley, market director for the Gulf States chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, said. “The key messages should always point back to the mission, with as many people as possible.”
A common pitfall for a nonprofit is differentiating its brand from other similar philanthropic causes. Many organizations seek to serve the same purpose of bringing aid to a shared social cause but accomplish this goal under different names. The power behind a brand is only as strong as its visibility and influence. Recognizing a brand creates mutual trust between its key publics and achieving a goal. In order for nonprofits to pursue their missions, they must constantly share a united message in every facet of communication.
Wearing many hats
Working for a nonprofit may seem easy from the outside, but oftentimes employees are required to have versatile skillsets, or “wear many hats,” to accomplish a multitude of jobs. Due to the nature of these jobs, teamwork is essential within organizations because many roles can be shared or passed off between co-workers.
With limited funding, Bentley noted, “it is so much more than just a Facebook or Instagram post. My job means more than just a title. We are constantly on our toes, adapting to the needs that arise.”
The bigger picture
Frequently questions like “Do you really think we could cure cancer? Or diabetes? Or end epilepsy?” can be asked. It can be really easy to get discouraged while waiting to find a cure. Nonprofits live in the tension of meeting current needs and finding long-term solutions.
Franklin said, when she gets asked these questions, she points them back to the bigger picture. The mission behind what she does is to “end epilepsy.” Every day at her job, Franklin said, “Yes, we are seeking to end epilepsy. While in the meantime we may not have a cure, we are educating, serving and fundraising the
research to one day stop seizures. That is what gives people hope, and we are in the business of giving people hope.”
Each member of a nonprofit organization is working toward a mission.
“I hope that one day I can say I am out of a job because a cure was found. Working for a goal like that makes every day worth it,” Bentley said.