Developing a Nonprofit Brand: Lessons from the Business Leadership Program
Marketing strategy, once considered the exclusive domain of business, has now become an essential tool for successful nonprofit campaigns. To effectively engage a new generation of supporters, nonprofits must develop unique brands, compelling messages, and results-driven social media strategies. The good news is that most nonprofit organizations already have a great story to tell; they only need to know the best way to share it.
Impact Entrepreneurs provides leadership training to the staff of corporate clients through our Business Leadership Program (BLP). Each year, a group of employees from The Standard complete the program by performing a service leadership project for a local nonprofit organization. One team worked with Portland Habilitation Center Northwest (PHCNW), which provides education, training and job opportunities for thousands of people with developmental, physical and mental disabilities.
PHCNW was in the midst of developing a proposed new charter school, but needed comprehensive branding and marketing support. Like any marketing strategy, there was a clear customer adoption goal—in this case, to encourage completion of a student interest form among potential applicants. The Standard team worked with PHCNW staff to fill out a brand identity map, helping them understand the unique value proposition the school would offer to local students and their families. They then used this brand identity to drive development of a marketing plan and the final logo and name: READY Public Charter School.
The same marketing concepts that The Standard staff had learned in the BLP, and applied in their regular jobs, helped PHCNW build a more compelling brand. Brian McCarthy, a PSU MBA marketing professor who teaches in the BLP, says
The core concepts of marketing apply equally well to for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises. Great marketing starts with asking the questions, “Who is our customer, and what problem are we solving?” From there, marketing is all about execution: Developing a compelling value proposition, wrapping a brand identity around it, and getting everyone in the organization involved in delivering consistent value to those we serve.
Through their service leadership project, this BLP team was able to deploy marketing tools originally developed for business in service of a nonprofit cause. Other teams helped local nonprofits improve their accounting practices or redesign donation campaigns. In return, they learned that their business skills can be used to create value not just for customers, but for their broader community as well. It all comes back to our mission in creating the Business Leadership Project: unleashing the power of business for social impact.