In July the ‘Great Fundraising and Brands’ report, conducted by Harriet Day and Adrian Sargeant, was released through ACA Philanthropy & Fundraising. In it, they say that there is ‘surprisingly little evidence of the impact of branding on fundraising success.’ The brand refresh possibly a strategic decision made by a board that believes the attention and clarity that a new logo creates will be enough to boost fundraising and save the world.
The truth is there has to be a lot of graft from the teams within the charity itself to actually use a brand refresh (if you insist on having one) to raise more money. But hey, that’s fundraising. There is no quick fix.
If managed right a brand refresh can present more engagement opportunities, chances to refresh fundraising relationships or discover new ones, and raise you more money. Macmillan increased their fundraising income from £97m to £141m within five years, Blind Veterans saw a 700% increase in subscribers to their mailing list from the refresh launch alone, and Teach First saw a 12% increase in brand awareness in under one year of their refresh (source: Narrative).
Yet many, often smaller, charities adopt a new palette, spruce up the logo, and update their supporters in a newsletter or worse – don’t update them at all (two Pizza for Losers stories were from fundraisers who did just this and ended up with complaints that took a year to fix…)
A brand refresh is more than just how it looks, it’s about you as an organisation – who you are, your identity, and who is alongside you in your mission to save the world. That way you’ll attract supporters because they’ll identify with you. You can’t expect do that from just a font change.
During my time at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) I was seconded to a role to roll-out the 2018 brand refresh to the entire fundraising team and use it as a fundraising opportunity; not just for the long-term, but in the immediate moment to reinvigorate the team and make the most out of the refresh launch itself.
I’m a community fundraiser at heart so for me the key to getting this right was through prioritising; using our existing networks and relationships to the most of their potential, and connecting with actual people. Essentially taking it off the paper and into the hearts and minds of the people we were talking to.
So what did I learn from my time as ‘Fundraising Brand Campaign Project Manager’ to help fundraising teams get the most out of their brand refresh launch*?
- Choose Your Priorities
Don’t just go with what’s ‘cost-effective’, I’m talking about what can actually help you reach more people and be able to connect with them.
At the BHF a major part of the refresh was communicating more about our other areas of research; stroke, vascular dementia, and diabetes. This meant we had more ‘hooks’ to connect with people, and this meant more opportunities on the doorstep for face-to-face fundraisers, for corporate fundraisers in pitches, and for any fundraiser out in the community meeting people with their own story.
Priorities could also include events or activity where a lot of supporters and potential supporters could engage with your new brand; mass participation events, direct mail, or social media.
2. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Yes, it’s exciting to come up with something new and flashy for launch-day to grab people’s attention, but…isn’t that what the brand refresh was supposed to do?
Instead of spending time and resource creating something new, think about what you’ve got happening already that you could utilise as an awareness and fundraising opportunity.
Here are some suggestions for you:
- Meet with key supporters and let them know of the upcoming changes, ideally take something rebranded with you so they can ‘get it’. Let them know why you’re doing this and what you aim to achieve. Make them feel part of this new journey and get them excited – then ask if they could arrange their own local celebrations to mark the launch
- Engage with old, existing, and potential corporates; could they be your refresh partner? Can the refresh revive any existing partnership that’s gone a bit flat, essentially starting again? Do they want to extend the partnership to stay with you on this new part of your journey? Does your new brand open up a new audience that aligns with your values? Revisit your pipeline and get inspired.
- Commandeer upcoming events and activities that give you an audience; face-to-face fundraisers speak to hundreds of people a week, social media can reach millions of people a day, that dinner for your major donors gives you a chance to make key people feel privy to exclusive informationl making them feel special AND giving more reasons to ask for a donation
- Anything that’s cheap/free to update or was due a new order anyway – refresh it!
Basically, think of the refresh as an excuse to pick up the phone, talk to people, and meet supporters.
Other ways you can connect with people are:
- Digital: get your CEO to host a private live-stream with supporters to learn more about the motives behind the refresh and be able to answer questions directly
- Existing communications: use your next planned newsletter to update on the refresh through supporter’s own stories
- Pick a key event close to the brand refresh launch and make sure that not only is the brand visible, but all of your charity’s teams are there (not just fundraising) to have conversations with the public. This not only gets supporters inspired but does wonders for your own team too
- Use your local presence: if you’re fortunate enough to have a location in the local community like a building, office, or landmark – use it! Invite people along for a talk and the special unveiling moment of your new brand.
As soon as I began my secondment I knew the quickest route to getting this job done properly was through working with others. I’m confident in most fundraising methods but no one knows these campaigns better than the folk who do it day in, day out.
So the first step was pulling together a working group with a rep from each of the teams to gain insight, campaign data, and news from (and be able to feed back updates and progress efficiently).
Not only did it mean the campaigns chosen to be refreshed for launch day were updated on time, but by regularly getting these people together or communicating updates to them, it meant other opportunities were spotted to work together across the whole fundraising team (the holy grail!).
We had in-house and third-party events teams agreeing on one t-shirt design, community and retail teams sharing designs for public collateral, and corporate and major donor teams aligning their messaging for upcoming pitches.
This meant we saved time and money on ordering marketing materials (not to mention the time of the creative team who were working flat out), increased our awareness with the public with a united approach of one message, and utilised upcoming opportunities by using networks and insight across multiple teams; instead of just using what we already know doing what we’ve always done.
Not only that but by communicating and collaborating the teams got a better understanding and appreciation for what each other were doing, and by the end of my secondment were off making plans and talking to each other without my involvement – and hopefully are still doing so to this day!
4. It’s More Than a Logo
That was a big part of it at the BHF, and I absolutely LOVED the font, but the big thing behind the refresh was the stories.
Being able to have more ways to connect with a potential supporter was liberating, and being able to share something with them that they didn’t already know about the BHF did wonders for keeping a conversation going. And having a renewed, refreshed vibe about the charity got teams out there, seeking the people who were connected with us in this new way; potential partnerships, heart story contributors, members of the community we could bring together to create a group, major donors who had been devastated by stroke but didn’t know a ‘heart charity’ were the largest funders of stroke research.
The change from ‘Fight For Every Heartbeat’ to ‘Beat Heartbreak Forever’, changed something for me too. Feeling the welcoming, empowering messaging flow through our campaigns created a shift where people understood more about our charity and the difference that we wanted to see happen in the world – the tagline became a fundraising message.
But make sure your team are trained in the new messaging and understand this feeling before being expected to roll it out in their own campaigns – how can you expect supporters to understand it if your own team don’t?
It certainly wasn’t smooth sailing all of the time but that’s OK, because that’s where the learnings come from and I hope these have been useful for you as you consider, or begin, a brand refresh of your own.
I’ve created a FREE handy infographic to help you with the logistics of project managing a brand refresh and as ever I’m happy to support with you with your fundraising to help you change the world.
*This article looks at the refresh once the branding decisions have been made. If you’d like more information from day one, request the ‘Great Fundraising and Brands’ report for insight from charities who have recently undertaken their own refresh.
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