It is a question worth answering. In the overcrowded world of marketers and advertisers where hundreds and thousands of brands vie for our attention on the daily, will it help a nonprofit to add to this noise with another brand?
It becomes even more important to explore the answer to this question when we look back and see that nonprofits have always thrived and enjoyed a position of trustworthiness from the audience without having any personal brands whatsoever. Amnesty International, World Wildlife Fund, and Habitat for Humanity are some of the most well-known examples. So does personal branding have any place in the nonprofits’ world?
To be frank, yes. Things have been changing for some time now. The shifting economy and the evolving consumer demographics have meant that the existing donor bases for many charities have slowly been eroding. Millennials and Generation Z have replaced Baby Boomers as the fastest-growing consumer base (read: donor base), and what funding strategies worked for the Boomers have not been working for these younger, more digitally active, and socially involved potential donors.
This young consumer demographic is more interested in people than businesses/organizations. A list of the most followed Twitter accounts reveals that the following for people was far higher than the following for businesses or organizations. Therefore, as charities learn new ways to appeal to this new market, the need to establish a personal brand emerges as vital.
When done effectively, personal branding becomes an extension of your passion to your nonprofit mission. Through your personal brand, everything that you do, say, or share can strengthen the message of your nonprofit organization. But if not handled well, your actions gain the potential to mar your NGO’s reputation.
In this article, we will share in detail why personal branding is the most effective engagement and marketing tool for your nonprofit and an essential to thrive in the current market.
It gives a personal voice to your nonprofit which in turn makes people connect emotionally to the story you’re telling.
For example, if before your NGO worked for underprivileged kids, with a personal brand, it will be identified as a charity run by a well-loved, kind, and enthusiastic teacher who is passionate about providing necessary stationery to students to aid in their studies. And with a bit of help, can even provide them with new laptops, better learning materials, and perhaps even college education opportunities.
When people become aware of the passion and the story behind a venture, they become emotionally invested in it and more likely to contribute to its cause. While a nonprofit’s core mission is the key to engaging supporters, the digital age demands alignment of your own core passions with that of your nonprofit’s to drive home a more effective and long-lasting message.
Whether you want it or not, the age of Internet connectivity means that what you do or don’t, in one way or another, will impact the organizations that you are associated with. This influence becomes even bigger when it’s your own nonprofit in the equation.
So use these strategies to take control of your narrative and build your brand that will be a strength to your nonprofit and not a liability.
It’s what connects people. The reason people want to know about the faces behind organizations is to find out how they got there; how many times they had to fall and how they got back up again. These inspiring stories of overcoming the challenges is a common human experience and a recurring thread in all the success story plots, real or fictionalized.
Therefore, don’t shy away from telling the story of your struggle. Much more than for-profits, a personal story of struggle is more influential for a nonprofit. So be authentic in your telling and genuine in your vulnerability.
In sharing your story, beliefs, and ideas, you’ll not only cultivate your role as an authority figure and a leader but will add credibility to your advice, too.
While it’s important to be open and more approachable as you start developing your personal brand, avoid sharing information that is irrelevant to your nonprofit. In best cases, it won’t add anything to your nonprofit’s success or your own brand impact, in worst cases, it can backfire spectacularly.
Remain relevant in what you share with your audience, whether on social media or your website. For example, if you are running 3he marathon that your charity is organizing, sharing a picture of your new running shoes or a couple of gym shots may be acceptable but don’t litter your feed with that.
Remember, you don’t want to ‘promote’ your brand; you want to ‘build’ it. Digital consumers are experts at detecting self-promotional agendas. You need to be very careful when your personal brand is tied so closely to your nonprofit brand.
Teaming up with like-minded people and organizations can add strength and visibility to your nonprofit organization. Since the most special aspect of nonprofits is the emotional connections they forge among people, communities, supporters, and partners, coming together with nonprofits that share a common goal or where different goals align to create better opportunities for those in need, just simply makes sense.
In addition to teaming up with nonprofits, an NGO can also partner with for-profit organizations in a win-win situation. Partnering with a well-known for-profit brand provides nonprofits access to a larger audience and a percentage of profits whereas for-profits enjoy public approval and better brand perception for being socially responsible.
A successful example of one such partnership between for-profit and nonprofit has been Lush Charity Pots where proceeds from the purchase of each pod go to one of the 1800 different charities that the large makeup brand has partnered with. Whether you decide to collaborate with a for-profit or nonprofit, who you are as a personal brand will matter as much as your nonprofit brand for potential partners to come on board.
A big part of creating your personal brand that adds power to your nonprofit brand is how passionate and committed you are to its mission. So be enthusiastic and active in your sharing of what your nonprofit is doing and accomplishing.
Supporters engage more with an organization that seems active and enthusiastic about its projects. So, share as much as you can and of substance.
The following video is a great example of sharing updates about your work that is impacting lives. Since videos are a hugely effective digital media tool to create engagement and start conversations, consider incorporating them into your social media strategy.
Here is an example to learn from. As you can see, through this emotional as anything video, Heifer International is making you cheer for this family and perhaps has driven you to donate to its cause just by telling an impactful story. Sharing such stories through your personal social media handle can add a wealth of advocacy for your nonprofit brand.
According to him, being truly ‘him’ all the time on his blog and social media opened doors that he had never imagined.
“It’s allowed me to resonate with my followers so much more and has opened the doors to more opportunities than I can shake a stick at!”
Being authentic in your conversations and expressions brings so many more people closer to you. If we think about people who are truly inspiring, the common thread we’ll find in their stories is how they have done things differently.
When you carve your own path, you leave a trail for others to follow. And while it’s important to have mentors who can add wisdom to your passion, it’s also necessary to think for yourself and seek better answers.
To be recognized from afar, it’s important to stand apart from the crowd. There should be something different in your brand which is true, unique and original about your personality. That way, you won’t have to ‘work’ on a persona or learn your narrative.
Everything will come from a place of raw truth and make people more invested in your work.
We hope this discussion has helped you gain a better understanding of what a personal brand is, and what it can do for a nonprofit organization.
As you start to cultivate your digital presence and build your brand, remember to strategize, prioritize, and take breaks when it becomes overwhelming. Following a more organic approach to how you want to connect to your audience and what captivating stories you want to tell will help you work more cohesively in line with your larger organization mission and what you can regularly and constantly do.
Hopefully, our tips on how best to nurture your personal brand will help you play and more significant and helpful role in the visibility and strength of your nonprofit. Check out Donorbox Nonprofit Blog for more free resources.
Janil Jean is a Director of Overseas Operations at LogoDesign.net, who loves to write about graphic design, digital marketing, branding, storytelling, startups, and small business management. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.