Shellie Speer-Burnett, BDI

3 Ways to Win Your Donors’ Trust

How to strengthen your nonprofit brand

Is your nonprofit “on brand”? 

I hope you would immediately say, “Yes!” But if not, let’s change that. Because as a nonprofit, your brand IS your mission statement. 

That mission statement is your promise about the work you do. Serving the poor. Saving animals. Sending aid after a natural disaster. Instead of selling a product, you’re meeting a need. And to not fulfill that promise can damage your credibility.
Diane Fusilli, a brand consultant formerly with the Rockefeller Foundation, says, “Brand becomes critical when you’re seeking to create partnerships, when you’re seeking other funders and when you’re looking to associate yourself with people in the field. A strong brand helps bring greater credibility and trust to a project quicker, and acts as a catalyst for people to want to come to the table.”

Here’s one thing that I always tell BDI’s client partners: Consistency lends credibility. 

Memorize that phrase – it’s easy, and it’s so vitally important to remember. Nonprofits have to be consistent in everything they do, say and share. Their story should build on itself over time. People need to be able to trust what they hear without questioning its validity. That trust allows a nonprofit the authority to do their work with greater support than those with weaker brands.

If your brand isn’t as strong as you think it could be, consider these 3 ways that you can strengthen it:

  1. Talk to your audience consistently, but engage them in a variety of ways. Make sure your brand is consistent on all your platforms. But then tailor your message to reach the diversity within your audience. For example, not everyone will be moved by a story of triumph… some may be moved by a story without a resolution. Or maybe the statistics on an issue will resonate best with others. A consistent brand sets a foundation for your audience to engage with you in a variety of ways.
  2. Share the stories and needs of the people you serve. As fundraising expert Kay Sprinkel Grace says, “People give because you meet needs, not because you have needs.” Focus on sharing about those you serve, not on what your organization is doing. A brand is a promise that you are meeting a need – so show how you are meeting the need on a regular basis.
  3. Make sure your supporters understand your brand. Keep your mission statement simple, short and memorable. For example, the Humane Society’s is just 4 words: “Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty.” You want your supporters to understand the “why” of your work – and easily remember it!

Donors and others in your community should know exactly what you stand for. They should feel confident that you keep your promises. They should never feel like you waver on your mission statement or core beliefs. 

Spend time educating your staff, board of directors and volunteers about your mission statement – and other key messages – and teach them ways to quickly share it with others. It might seem like a lot of extra effort on your part, but remember: Consistency lends credibility! 

Marketing consultant Bernadette Jiwa, on her blog The Story of Telling, puts it this way: “You can buy attention, but you can’t buy trust. Trust is earned. Trust takes time. Trust is the enabler of connection and persuasion. The time between attention and action is what I call the Change Gap. To close this gap, we must first build trust and then reinforce the opinions and beliefs of the audience we’re trying to reach.” 

The more people that know and trust your organization, the more willing and excited they’ll be to support your brand. It’s going beyond “raising funds” – it’s tapping into your supporters’ hearts to release their generosity. But releasing generosity can only happen when the foundation of credibility and consistency is already established.

Effective branding sets your organization apart from other ones in your community. With a consistent, credible brand in place, your organization will reap huge benefits – not only a lift in your fundraising results, but new connections, greater trust and more impact in your community.

  • Shellie Speer

    Shellie Speer-Burnett, Senior Vice President, BDI Academy

    With over 30 years of partnership in Rescue Missions and nonprofit organizations, Shellie Speer-Burnett brings her expertise, counsel and philanthropic-centered passion to assist in furthering the work of BDI’s Rescue Mission clients. For 22 years of her career, she served as the Founder and President/CEO of her own agency, ENEX Group, which helped her clients capture hearts and donor loyalty in their communities.

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