Creating Your Philanthropic Brand Identity

Brand identity, or how you would like others to view your brand, is a key component of creating a successful enterprise.  For those of us in the educational, healthcare, and non-profit sectors, we should regularly be asking ourselves, “How do we want constituents to describe our organization?”

However, when we ask such a broad question, we typically focus the answers on the organization as a whole.  And this organization-wide focus typically means that we aim to strengthening the brand identity of the organization vis-a-vis the core component of the enterprise.   Building brand identity based on the student experience (in education), the patient experience (in healthcare), or the value of the service provided (in other non-profits) is usually the focus.

I suggest, though, that the development office needs to establish a brand identity with donors as well.  And this identity will be built a bit differently than the organization’s brand because it will focus on other experiences.  To build a strong brand identity with donors – a philanthropic brand identity – I suggest answering questions such as:

  • Can your donors expect a thank you note prior to their check clearing their bank?
  • Do you report back to endowment donors regarding not only the performance of their funds but of the organization’s endowment overall?
  • Are your events – regardless of type – regularly described as “meaningful” or “emotional” or “exceptional” by donors and prospects?
  • Do you provide specific and regular feedback to donors which shows how their giving made a difference?
  • Do you ask volunteers for your organization to recruit other volunteers?

There is little question that prospects are attracted to your organization based on its mission of service and based on the organization’s brand identity.  But once prospects become donors, the development office should establish and strengthen its own brand identity – its philanthropic brand identity.  If trust is to be created between donors and your organization, this component of brand identity is key.


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