Redefining A Non-Profit Brand: Are We That Different from Our For-Profit Brethren?

In my first post on Money Inc., I highlighted the importance of honing on the components of a mission that is in the midst of a tune-up.  After all, when you start inviting a demographic of patients to your center, it opens the door for a lot of discussion, provided you do the right homework. So now that we are moving forward with this new vision of conducting our daily business, we need to address the “visual” side of our business—our brand.

When most of us think of brands, we think of the pictures, the visuals and all the touchy-feely things that make us connect to a company.  But the methodology in which non-profits build a brand has evolved over time.

“It’s the same, but it’s different…”

Certainly, there are some common threads for how non-profits are evolving the way they show their brand story—and in turn, evolving the way they tell it.

One of the goals we have is accentuating the use of technology at all levels.  By and large, technology—and social media in particular—will be a tool we use to not just tell our brand story and highlight the wonderful things taking place here, but we want to be able to use technology to reach a more diverse donor base.

We have been active on Facebook, and we expect to use it more—particularly posting more content in Spanish to reach Chicago’s Latino community.  I am sure we can—and perhaps should—use other platforms to broaden our reach, but we also don’t want to be in a position of starting a new platform and not be able to stay connected with followers.  After all, as a non-profit we are limited on resources—particularly here in Illinois where our State government has been operating without a budget for quite some time now—and we need to make sure we maximize the relationships we have—and want to have.

Social media is good for telling and sharing stories, but a brand in today’s day and age gets built by choosing the right and best stories that tug and heartstrings and purse strings.  Ultimately, though, we also need to maximize the measurement of our efforts.

We talk about measurement in everything we do, and a brand’s measurement is no different.  We can measure the stories we tell by measuring the impact of the story touching someone else.   A great lesson for measuring the impact of a brand has always been The Partnership for A Drug-Free America.  “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.  Any questions?”  These 12 words tell a story that hits home.  It is as strategic as it is impactful.

Where I see a lot of opportunity is having our brand carry some degree of influence now and into the future.  I was reading a study from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication that agreed with my sentiment.  They view influence as social currency that can be accentuated beyond monetary donations.  In our roles as healthcare providers and philanthropists, we want to look for ways to embrace a donor so that s/he becomes more than a name on a registry list.  In fact, s/he can be a storyteller and change agent within their social circles.  They can become our advocate and be a voice for our mission.

Our brand is an extension of our mission.  We know what we must do to serve the people who need us.  Now, it’s our turn to do what is necessary to have other people join us, follow us and speak on behalf of us.

For more information about the Angel Harvey Family Health Center/Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, log on to

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