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Branding is a challenge – nonprofit branding even more so. That’s why we dedicated this previous post to professional development ideas for nonprofit marketers. But with no tangible good or service to provide donors, nonprofit brands have to build relationships in ways for-profit organizations can often ignore. Despite the challenges, nonprofit brands begin in a more meaningful and emotional space than their commercial counterparts sometimes ever reach. Today’s post is for you, nonprofit marketer. Here are nine quick tips to elevate nonprofit brands.

1. Create an engaging story about your organization and its mission

A mission statement isn’t enough. What you need is a mission story. Build a story about your organization identifying the need or issue your organization is addressing, describing how your organization approaches it, and what the world could be like in the future if your organization succeeds. These three elements are the core elements of an engaging narrative: Tension, Transformational Catalyst, and a Glorious Future.

2. Don’t expect stakeholders to know how to help. Show them how.

Once you’ve set up a story, it may feel obvious what your stakeholders should do: Donors should give, volunteers should register, and clients should sign up for services. But your perspective and their perspective are miles away. Make sure you are clear and specific about your ask. Don’t just ask them to give. Ask them to give $20 today for your most important program. If they’ve gotten this far, they may be pretty motivated. Don’t waste their motivational energy on having them figure out how to make an impact.

3. Show stakeholders the macro challenge and the micro problem.

Your organization addresses significant challenges. And they should know that. Tell them about it. But don’t expect them to help you solve the big challenge, too. Macro challenges can inspire motivation, but they don’t give it focus. After you show them the macro challenge, bring it down to the micro problem. Micro problems focus on the local community, the individual family, and the single thing your stakeholder can do to help solve it. Challenges need addressing. Problems need solving.

4. Give stakeholders stories to borrow.

New stakeholders are not yet fully engaged. That’s natural. However, they still want to share stories about your organizations with their peers and network. Lend out your stories – and those of other stakeholders – for them to borrow. These might be testimonials, essential facts, or case studies about what you do. These stories allow them to try on your organization and see how it fits in their own.

5. Give stakeholders stories to own.

Once they feel like it fits, it’s also critical they have stories of their own. These come through volunteering, events, and helping them take ownership of the impact they had. Frame the impact your organization is having against what they’ve done. Make their experiences with your organization emotional and memorable. Rather than borrowing stories from you, they’ll start to create and own them. The result will be a feeling of closeness to your organization.

6. Ask stakeholders to tell their stories.

People love stories. Especially their own. Allow them to tell their story to you. Invite them through email, a phone call, or podcast if you have one. It could be as simple as a photo or social media post. Asking people to tell their stories forces them to identify the organization’s role in their life and vice versa.

7. Center the stakeholder as a hero

This one can be polarizing because most organizations see the communities they serve as their heroes. And those communities should always be the hero of your mission. But people give because it makes them feel like a hero in their own story. In your relationship with the donor, avoid diminishing their contribution out of fear of overshadowing your mission. It’s OK to celebrate donors without turning them into saviors. They are helping your organization thrive and improving your ability to change the world.

8. Make your relationship with stakeholders about more than charity

No one wants to be a number – or an entry in a donor database. They are people with families, values, and hobbies. Just as you wouldn’t limit your friendships to one area, don’t restrict your relationships with stakeholders to one either. Talk with them about what else is going on in the organization. Ask them about what’s going on in their lives. Every communication doesn’t have to include an ask. The more you know about them, and they know about you, the more invested each of you will be in maintaining and growing that relationship.

9. Genuinely thank your stakeholders.

Thanking stakeholders is the easiest tip of the batch, but where most organizations fail. Imagine a donor passes through your website’s hoops to donate, and all they get in return is an automated thank you email. It’s like handing someone a gift, and they whip out a pre-written thank you card. It doesn’t feel great. While the automated email serves the functional purpose of capturing the transaction, either customize it or immediately follow up with a more genuine one (even if it is also pre-written). Be sincere. Customize it to their gift as much as you can. The gold standard: make it more personal by taking turns in the organization writing the thank you script from different perspectives.

Managing a nonprofit brand isn’t easy. It’s a delicate balance between honoring the mission and serving the stakeholders. But done well, it can lead to the most rewarding relationships in business. These tips will help you get there. And if you want to more, sign up for our newsletter or reach out to let us know what challenges you’re facing. We’re here to help you and your brand shine.