The brand can play a key role in driving fundraising, but increasing brand expenditure alone has minimal effect, according to a study commissioned by ACA Philanthropy & Fundraising, and carried out by The Philanthropy Centre.
Authored by Professor Adrian Sargeant and Harriet Day, the Great Fundraising & Brands report looks at the relationship between branding and fundraising success, examining whether branding helps or hinders, and how to leverage the brand to grow fundraising income.
The study found that increasing brand expenditure has a relatively modest impact on fundraising success, while increasing expenditure on fundraising is much more impactful. However, the report also found that while increasing brand expenditure for its own sake appears unhelpful, the nature of the brand and the brand strategy adopted can be much more important.
In the successful organisations studied for the report, brand was frequently positioned as ‘the servant of fundraising’ and clarity over the nature of the relationship between branding and fundraising seemed to play a significant role with the brand driving fundraising growth.
Brands can also play a powerful role in making an organisation “fundraisable”, the study found, with the processes and procedures necessary to create and manage a brand also helpful in building whole organisation buy in to key messages.
This was particularly powerful where the messaging focused on why the organisation exists. The successful fundraising organisations studied had been able to use the branding process to harness the passion the whole organisation had for the “why” to lay the groundwork for everyone to understand why fundraising was so important and to get fully behind it.
In terms of how to better leverage the brand to grow fundraising, the study identified that strong fundraising brands were more likely to focus on purpose, proposition, personality, and passion.
Many of these dimensions, it notes, are consistent with the stimulation of brand love, suggesting that learning how to develop brand love from the commercial sector could be significant.
Alan Clayton of ACA Philanthropy & Fundraising said:
“In our own consulting work we have found that organisations frequently don’t think enough about the role of their brand. Some appear to build it for its own sake and when you ask them to articulate what their brand is for, they really can’t give you a coherent answer. While fundraised income may not be the only reason the organisation needs to build a brand, it is frequently given as the sole justification for brand investment.
“This report focuses on how non-profit brands can achieve one common purpose – it shows how brands can be leveraged to massively grow fundraising income.”
The Philanthropy Centre‘s Professor Sargeant added:
“In too many non-profits the brand is an object of vanity. It attracts hugely more attention from a Board because it’s perceived to be strategic and consequential for the organisation’s reputation. Fundraising by contrast lacks the glamour afforded the brand and can be perceived by a board as a purely tactical pursuit; a necessary evil that can be conducted by others. Our work shows the folly of this approach. Or at least the folly if the goal is to raise massively more income to make an organisation’s vision a reality.”
The study included an initial literature review, followed by a detailed qualitative study to identify how brands are managed in organisations that have achieved outstanding levels of fundraising growth. This also included looking at how and under what circumstances branding could be leveraged to boost fundraising performance.
The work was then concluded with a quantitative analysis based on the financial data supplied over a period of ten years by 30 UK charities with the goal of looking at the impact of branding and other expenditures on fundraising performance.
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