AFP 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report
From the Foundation Center, this series is interesting and provides insight into the next generation of philanthropists: young people from families of wealth. Despite my misgivings listed below, it is well worth the time invested in listening to the series.
It misses the mark in my opinion on two fronts- it focuses too narrowly on the next generation of philanthropists from a very small slice: those families already heavily invested in philanthropy. I would argue that many leaders of the next generation will find their own path in philanthropy and I would want to know their thoughts as well.
Secondly, it is disappointing in who they interview….. many of these individuals are not necessarily the key age demographic I would position as the next gen of philanthropy. I had hoped for a younger crowd, but many leaned more toward 40 years old.
However, its a start! I suggest listen to this one and then migrate out to the website at Grantcraft.org to hear the remainder of the podcasts.
In this interview with WomensRadio, David J. Neff , co-author of The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age, makes some interesting points. However, his argument does fall short of an explanation. Here is my response to ‘Gen Y Driving Nonprofits to Innovate and Thrive’.
A study by CompassPoint and the Meyers Foundation in 2011 called Daring to Lead 2011 , found that two-thirds of executive directors surveyed indicated that they intend to retire by 2016. This will create a large gap, which Gen Y will be filling. We need to pay attention to this the incoming executive director generation and think about how we should be forming and evolving our nonprofits to be ready for their leadership.
The big national nonprofits like American Cancer Society, are not necessarily innovative, their behavior is pretty traditional. However, they do have the resources needed to strive for innovation. Resources are critical. Grantors and other funders need to design funding programs aimed at growing innovation in nonprofits.
Nonprofit organizations should definitely remember they are a business. Being tax exempt is just their tax status. They need to behave more like a corporation, strategically designing revenue, resourcing revenue development, creating marketing plans, and conducting research and strategic approaches, not just on programs, but on all four areas of operations – human resources, marketing, and finances as well. To do this, the general public needs to abandon their determination to judge a nonprofit by “how much money goes to program and not administration”. Some of the most successful nonprofits spend more on administration, but still achieve amazing results in mission delivery.
Nonprofit employees are actually compensated well, considering their limited sector specific education. Most nonprofit employees do not have a degree in nonprofit management. Many don’t have finance or business backgrounds either. So the $55k salary for a director at a nonprofit organization, with no educational background specific to the nonprofit sector, is pretty decent. More colleges need to offer nonprofit management degrees, and more nonprofit organizations need to hire specifically for the job. This means not promoting a Program Manager to Executive Director or Fundraising Director for their dedication or their longevity to the organization, as that rarely if ever works out well. Nonprofit organizations should hire professionals with the education and experience background suitable for the specific job role.
Teamwork is important. It always has been. I wrote a white paper on retaining talent, innovative talent. Gen Y works differently. Nonprofit organizations need to change the silo mindset that each person is responsible for their individual tasks and performance measures, and move toward group managed, dynamically measured projects.
Where nonprofits find their supporters is also changing. SXSW is one great idea. The old stodgy nonprofit organizations don’t think of being there. Bad for them, that’s where the new future donors are. And what Gen Y wants to support is unique; they want ownership and specific outcomes. They want to see a start, finish and most importantly an end. We need to change the way we prospect for donors, cultivate, and solicit donors.
Many of the start-up nonprofits we are working with have been started by executives who have aged out of the corporate sector or young Gen Y/X entrepreneurs. They are excited and passionate about starting their nonprofit and need the business guidance to start up well. They bring high risk tolerance, drive for outcomes, aren’t afraid to fund-raise and understand the need for marketing and publicity. It’s the new nonprofit.
LinkedIn has brought forth another way to use their social media tool. This one is targeted specifically at nonprofit leaders seeking to strengthen and grow their board leadership.
LinkedIn’s new Board Connect, is a suite of tools, including talent finder and a LinkedIn group, that allows nonprofits to ‘advertise’ their organization, mission, vision and goals and to review prospective board members resumes. The hope is that, progressive, caring, thoughtful business leaders will be revealed through this process.
Now for the reality.
Despite many other innovative technological and social media partners considering and launching the same concept – a pool for nonprofits to jump into and peddle their wares- the ability to attract and retain high level leadership is no further advanced.
I commend LinkedIn for their effort. It does no harm, and that is the most that can be said about this endeavor. It feels good for LinkedIn and their leadership team to be doing something – anything – to help the NPO sector. It gives yet another venue for NPO’s to congregate to, in the hopes of landing those really incredible volunteers.
But like the other efforts, it offers only passive development, not active, and creates yet another large room, devoid of substance, but filled with clutter and noise, that can be overwhelming and uninviting to the audience: the prospective business leaders.
A better approach is to create a source for those business leaders interested in seeking a more vested role in the nonprofit sector, to post their interest, areas of interest(types of NPO’s, causes, role seeking) and to have that be presented in LinkedIn as a searchable database. NPO’s have clear guidelines and matrices they use in seeking out and vetting specific people to be on their board. Contrary to common belief (and the way this new LinkedIn resource is designed) it’s not a matter of any captain in the storm or any suitor interested . Board selection is a scientific, strategic process that is lead by a core objective- to secure the right person for the right need in the boards governance goals for the organization.
My hope -and I truly believe LinkedIn is intent on making this a more sophisticated, valuable tool – is that the next iteration leans more toward what the NPO needs in this manner.
“We have moved from an economy of hands to an economy of heads.”
How are you managing the ‘heads’ of your organization?
The growing power of ideas – as manifested in innovative programs, policies and processes – is the key differentiator for a successful nonprofit organization.
This means that the most important resource in your nonprofit is not your donor database, or your special event… it’s the heads that walk through your door every day. These heads make up the differentiator known as Intellectual Capital.
Building your organization’s Intellectual Capital has become a science that has been shown to propel programs, services and fundraising, to higher standards of success.
To raise Intellectual Capital in your nonprofit in today’s competitive environment, create a culture that encourages creativity, innovation – get that good stuff out of those heads- and one that keeps your best heads around.
What are some signs that you are not leveraging the Intellectual Capital of your organization? Thomas Stewart, early proponent of the concept of Intellectual Capital through knowledge management states “like Lyme disease, knowledge management problems have symptoms that sometimes mimic other problems.” Each of these symptoms indicate that people in the organization are not finding knowledge, moving it around, keeping it refreshed and up to date, sharing it, or using it. (Zurbuchen, 1998)
Here is what to look for to determine where your organization stands in nurturing Intellectual Capital:
- Same Mistake – seventh time.
- Duplicated effort
- Someone is out, and work comes to a halt
- Consistent loss of materials and information for routine projects and processes
- Goals and Objectives consistently not met
- Poor customer feedback on performance
- High turnover of excellent performing staff
- Declining values: Financial, Performance, Membership
- Poor Employee Morale
This list is not exhaustive but you get the picture, it’s a great illustration of the environment experienced by nonprofits who have not yet placed knowledge management of Intellectual Capital as a core business function.
Growing and retaining Intellectual Capital requires strategy, plan and measurement.
Growing Intellectual Capital
Some steps to take in growing Intellectual Capital:
- Make sharing knowledge easy: Create an organizational Wiki, a place for staff to enter learned concepts and share information or ideas.
- Encourage online communication: Organizational bulletin boards where your brightest can test theories through communication
- Reward innovative thinking: Most organizations are risk averse. This translates into new processes and programs meeting significant pushback. Flip your model of operating around to encourage, embrace and reward new processes and programs.
Retaining Intellectual Capital
Findings from the 2012 national Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey conducted by Nonprofit HR Solutions indicate that three-quarters of nonprofits do not have any formal strategy for retaining staff. That’s money out the door.
What are the key factors in retaining your Intellectual Capital investment? Surprisingly, in repeated studies of the nonprofit sector, rate of pay is not as important to retention as you may think. Here is what is important:
- An environment that encourages and rewards autonomy. That means self-direction, flexible work hours and environment (work from home, café, beach) and a results only measurement model. Innovative people like innovative work styles.
- Frequent, positive and meaningful feedback on work results. Especially with our newer generation of rising stars, Millennials thrive on feedback. This is a generation that, for good or bad, had helicopter parents, teachers and coaches, giving direction, encouragement and correction at every step.
- A role that requires diversity of talents, skills and functions. Many of the most successful people I know, have an entrepreneurial attitude about their work, even if they don’t own the company. Unlike multi-tasking (doing many things at once), multi-talenting is using a variety of talents, learned experiences and ideas in the execution of your work.
- Collaborative work. As a society, we have gained an addiction to tribal-ness: the desire to be affiliated and interrelated in our communication, experiences and work efforts. Collaboration also has the benefit of growing your Intellectual Capital through knowledge management. It needs to be encouraged.
- Work that is meaningful. Your creatives, innovators and those who are bringing the most Intellectual Capital to your organization, want to know that the results they are accomplishing actually are feeding into higher levels of success. Show them the corollary in an authentic and factual way.
Intellectual Capital is a key driver for competitive advantage in today’s environment for the nonprofit sector. He who grows the brightest and holds them, wins. Therefore, Intellectual Capital is an important, if not THE important, resource that nonprofits need to develop in order to gain sustained strategic advantage increasing their effectiveness in serving their constituency and funding their mission.
I love what she does.
However with this post, I have a problem.
Not with the post itself, per se, but the idea that iPhone Apps for nonprofits are a valuable use of resources.
I own an iPod, and an iPad. I can tell you, desktop is prime territory and my GB’s like gold. I only download apps that I know I will use frequently and will rely on for regular (read daily) access. And yes, maybe a few fun ones too, that I go to in my downtime periodically.
I don’t think I am that much different from other iTech users.
And so, the thought of downloading an app from a nonprofit doesn’t fit with how I dole out my space and memory. I just wouldn’t find the function of clicking the app for updates that appealing. Even the ones listed in Heather’s blog above, while they have the sex appeal, are not pragmatically useful- how many times will I need to know what the bird in front of me sounds like? Or have an overwhelming urge to find out where in this very moment are animals being abused? Cool to access once, twice, maybe three times, but not GB worthy. I could simply bookmark these sites in Safari and get the same result, maybe more, since apps tend to have a more limited function than a full site.
I guess I could see if I were a board member or staff member of a not for profit organization, I might consider an app a cool tool and something desirable in a way. But really, for the NPO, why spend thousands on developing an app for a handful to access. Even a couple hundred, if you are a national or international NPO, doesn’t seem like a good use of resources.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. My recommendation: Spend your money making your website mobile optimized.
I’ve been following the nonprofit sector and their discovery of technology for quite a while. I’ve also lived the experience for over 20 years, from networked databases, to a ‘flashy’ (no pun intended) new website, to internet access for staff- all the various areas of fumbling, bumbling and discovery along the way. In full disclosure, I am also a partner in a tech start up – Donorfull– for the nonprofit sector. I believe Nonprofit Apps are one of those “sounded.like.a.good.idea,.cause.everyone.is.doing.it,aren’t.we.hip,but.it.really.is.limited” kind of moments. Unless someone can come up with an exciting and convincing argument for me as to what possible benefit, goal or stimulating outcome could come of it, I’ll continue to direct and discourage my clients from wandering into this forest.
We’ll all be less ‘appy’ but ‘appy-er’ for it.
I was lacking motivation for this weeks blog post, as I tapped away on my keyboard under the weight of research reports, feasibility interviews, resume reviews, re-branding our website, launching the tech start up Donorfull….. I needed something to fire me up.
And then it hit me.
I’m reading idealist.org’s latest report on jobs. According to their recent Job Seeker Report for 2012 , 68% percent of nonprofits are seeking Program staff while only 36% of nonprofits are seeking Fundraising staff.
And there it was. Really? Program staff gain twice as much height on the needs scale for nonprofits filling positions as fundraisers? So explains the current financial state of the nonprofit sector.
When fundraising is relegated to the ‘nice to have, but first focus is that we help people‘ position within the organization and not the ‘essential revenue stream for our ongoing survival and growth, show me the MONEY!‘ position it should be, then the whistle you hear is not the finish line of success, but the train of demolition.
Now, possibly, it could be that the nonprofits who were interviewed as part of this study, are fully booked and have the BEST fundraising teams imaginable. Maybe their philanthropic coffers are over-flowing and they have to turn donors away to sister organizations down the road, just because they don’t want to eat all the cookies.
Possible, but unlikely.
In our experience, the number one issue we hear from our clients is “we need good fundraising staff and we need more of them”!
And I have to imagine that our clients are not the only ones. I always respond the same. Fire More, Hire More.
It’s a simple equation, that moves you beyond the agony of wrestling with under-performing, poorly experienced or overworked development people.
So my question is, how long do you suffer, doing the same thing, operating the same way, before you see the light? What has to happen to bring the solution to focus- that better and more fundraisers equals more money equals more programs and clients served?
Innovate your organization by flipping your staffing on its head. Hire more fundraisers than program staff and email me the results. I want to know.
That led to a thought: Filling those positions are Gen X and Y, who work so very differently and embrace a culture of Innovation
That led to a fear: Is our industry prepared?
That lead to a revelation: We need to focus hard on developing Innovative Cultures now, in order to weather the shift.
Innovate: Verb1: to introduce as, or as if, new2: to effect a change in
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2012
Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation builds on existing ideas. It is not to be confused with Invention. The Printing Press was Invented, the Kindle was Innovative.
If our Grandparents were Inventors, then Gen X/Y are Innovators. They may not own the market on Innovation, but lead the charge and drive the process. Their Innovative spirit causes them to see work differently, and for those working in the Nonprofit Sector, and stepping into the vacuum of leadership soon to be created, that could be a challenge.
The exiting generation of Boomers tend to believe work was for life and WAS life. After all, they created the ‘workaholic’ and ‘superwoman’ concepts. The Gen X/Y to come, view work and their work life much differently. They are traditionally seen as individualistic, self-reliant and skeptical of authority. They expect great workplace flexibility. They are tech savvy and seek diverse groups. The speed and ease of the Internet and its subsequent vast knowledge base, has led the ‘Net Generation’ of Y and Xer’s to be flexible and changing in its consciousness and with how it is communicated. We can see how this is in great contrast to the current environment of the risk averse, staid and steady world of the nonprofit.
However, we have seen some break-outs in the industry, nonprofits that have jumped the fence to do things differently, and with great results. For these nonprofits, we see that Innovation provides bold, new approaches to the way they work; they have decidedly replicated and integrated what can be learned from other disciplines; and they have provided ideas and strategies to our industry on how organizations can better foster new ideas and solutions to challenges and mission need.
Which is just the type of culture required to manage through such a massive shift in leadership, that is pending in our industry in the coming years.
What is needed for your organization to jump the fence into a culture of Innovation and to stand apart and excel in the approaching change?
Here are some simple and manageable ideas to get started.
1) Create and/or Embrace Your Constraints:
An excellent line from Marnie Webb, CEO of TechSoup Global, reflects “Innovation happens when people work within constraints — in an environment of not enough — and they figure out how to do it anyway.” (Webb, 2011). Well, doesn’t that just describe the EVER PRESENT environment of most, if not all, nonprofit organizations? So lack of resources, lack of time, lack of experience is a benefit and not a detriment to your Innovation.
Inspire a spirit of can do in your team: Teach them to routinely say to the world, “I know you said we can’t do this, but we are going to figure a way that we can.” A fun way to do this is to challenge your staff each month with one new problem to solve. It can be simple or complex, but make sure there are no single ‘right’ answers expected, and that all respondents get an encouraging word about their creativity in designing a solution. Take a look at the monthly responses and find one or two things that can be implemented from each, to make this activity actionable and inspiring.
2) Data is fuel for Innovation:
Research has had its day recently in the public square of discussion among the nonprofit set. It wasn’t until this recent decade though, that many nonprofits began to wake up to the fact that data drives exceptional performance. Metrics on outcomes of service and mission performance, as required now by grantors; benchmarks on philanthropy, collected and aggregated to drive decisions on fundraising expenditures; demographics on constituency that support political advocacy and marketing investments – all data driven for enhanced results.
Data drives Innovation as well. How many experiments do you have currently going in your organization? What are you currently testing? If the answer is nothing, the future may look bleak for you. Testing gives you all the raw data you need to begin to get creative and innovate existing projects and services. Without it, you’re shooting in the dark.
It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start. Test something every week, every month and have a few tests going at the same time. Overall, testing does not significantly impact resources devoted to your project: You’re already completing the project with all the resources you have and need. Testing requires a simple tracking methodology.
A simple trial test, to get yourself and your staff acquainted with a culture of testing, is to develop a survey used with every donor/donation received. The survey can ask some common demographic questions, but also some quirky ones: What color would you paint your car if you could paint it any color? What did you want to be when you grew up? What’s your favorite treat food?
The resulting data can be a rich playground for your team to get creative. What if more than 75% of your donors said Popcorn was their favorite treat food? How could you use this information to better your appeals, raise more money, sign up more volunteers, get more people to your programs? You could also take that quirky data, create an info-graphic and share with your constituency, giving them all an intimate look at the tribe they are part of in supporting your mission!
3) Free Access, Embrace Risk:
Let your staff play. Open up their access to the internet, create an environment of walking around to work, withhold judgement, encourage impossible dreams, create shared spaces for interaction. Let go of your organizational fear, and strict fence posts, and let your staff bloom! Additionally, inspire and ask you constituents and donor base to get involved. Create spaces for shared ideas, allow your donors to see their own giving histories, to watch projects unfold and to openly track progress of service delivery and program development. Yes, even the warts and the odd parts.
Try this for one month: Using a cloud based program, like Dropbox or Google+, create a shared folder or a group for idea generation. Invite staff, board, donors, clients, to get involved. Post a problem or question of the month. Then encourage everyone to drop a comment. People love to give their feedback, so encourage that sharing on your real issues. Why not start with this question: What one thing would you change about us? Interact with the group, asking further questions, exploring responses, challenging perceptions.
4) Allow process, iteration, pivoting. Don’t kill the messenger or the message – massage it.
If you don’t give Innovation the time and attention it deserves, it will not produce and it will not gel as a culture. There are no bad ideas, only ideas which have not matured yet. Like a fine wine, an idea becomes innovative after taking some time to develop. Too often we rush to judgement on a solution, concept or strategy. Keep all ideas generative and don’t lose any along the way. Pop them open every so often, encourage follow through and push back on development on those that look promising or have some immediate potential application. Use data to tweak them along the way and send them out for more testing. Turn them over, look at them differently. One of my favorite examples of this is asking the question: How is your_____________ like a ________? For instance, “How is your Nonprofit, like a Toaster?”.
5) Be sincere
Finally, don’t offer lip service on Innovation. It knows when you are lying and it knows when you are passionate about serving it well. Innovation is not a tactic, or a business management style. It is truly a culture, one which can only come from authentic, inspired and patient nurturing. Making it part of the spirit of your organization will yield powerful results.
Recently, I had the unfortunate opportunity to sit in the presence of a supervisor from my past, for an extended period, and listen to him speak. I was struck once again, even after so many years, of what an awful leader he was and obviously still is.
Then, this post this morning on twitter got me thinking about leadership in the nonprofit sector.
I’d give attribute for the picture, but there was none provided.
I was originally going to post today about innovation, and still will this week, but I think going back to basics about leadership is critical for any innovative approach to work.
So here is the translation of the above list for the nonprofit sector:
If you are leading your fundraising staff or a nonprofit team, then by definition you are-
- Coaching employees: Providing them with opportunities to fail, to learn, to gain insight and to achieve.What I mean is: To fail is to learn. To learn is to gain insight. And by gaining insight your staff ultimately achieves. What not to do? If you want to be a BOSS and not a LEADER, then say “no” often, chastise and punish for failures, limit projects, micromanage, get in the way, direct often, maintain an air of criticism when things don’t go well and show distrust in their efforts.
- Building goodwill among your team: You are authorized to lead. You are not authorized to dictate. A good LEADER will build authentic camaraderie based on respect, admiration of skills and honesty. From this will flow goodwill. Building goodwill, while for those not comfortable with leadership may sound superfluous, is at the core of every well run and successful nonprofit organization. Goodwill is contagious, it inspires others to do well for others and to help each other in a supportive environment. You can always tell an organization that depends on authority and has bankrupted goodwill – no one is safe from backstabbing.
- Generating enthusiasm: Fear. ::shudder:: Fear shuts people down. It causes people not to think, to become myopic and to distrust everyone and everything. It places stress on the nervous system and creates negative filters. Fear kills. And most certainly it brings fundraising to a screeching halt. Building fear in your staff may bring you the perception of respect, but it will not help you reach your goals. Alternatively, being a cheerleader, generating enthusiasm for the work you do, for the mission of your organization and for the opportunity to serve the community, elevates peoples spirits, spreads joy. Think about those who speak highly of a LEADER (not a BOSS) and you will hear words such as: spirited, supportive, honest, good-natured, humble, encouraging and fun!
- Saying “We” and not “I”: In an industry driven by data – number of donors, number of gifts, cost ratios, number of prospects, number of visits… saying “we” can feel risky. How will I be judged for my performance if I cannot ‘count’ my numbers? Your staff will only conspire to share the wealth of achievement if you model such behavior. Authentically identifying when a group effort has achieved a goal or supported progress is the most important way to break down silo’s. BOSS-men take credit for everything good and demand accountability from others for everything bad. Horrible Bosses do so with impunity.To address the personal performance issue for your management of staff, I always suggest to my clients they follow this rule: Praise all publicly, assess privately.
- Focus on solutions not blame: Throwing around blame reminds me of monkeys in a cage, flinging……..well you get the picture. See number one in this list and realize that blame inhibits good coaching interactions, which instills rigidity and fear and will eventually break down any fundraising effort. Innovation cannot exist in a blame filled environment. Skip the poo flinging and get your team focused quickly on the resolution.
- Lead by example: Sometimes, just sometimes, I question whether leaders in the NPO sector actually ever did any fundraising at all? Too many times, I find that leaders are really, really good at A) stating what they read about fundraising or B) demanding some crazy concept they derived as effective -most often based in myth and not reality or research. Good LEADERS learn the craft and then teach the craft through interaction, experience and modeling behavior.
- Develop people, don’t ‘use’ them: We all met this person in junior high school. Eddie Haskell, looking for favor to gain his own ends. That guy (or gal) who is transparently disingenuous and only calls upon you when they need something. Or worse, the BOSS who places you between himself and a bad outcome. Invest your time in developing relationships with your staff, learn about their personal lives, their likes, their dreams, their fears. Don’t be afraid if they don’t match yours. And don’t be judgmental. CARE about people (Create an Authentic and Respectful Environment).
- Gives Credit: I have been on the receiving end of a BOSS who speaks at a podium, taking credit for all the hard work I and my team have accomplished in reaching a lauded outcome. I have also watched as a BOSS does the same to others. The funny thing is, the BOSS looks like an ass each time. Because the dirty little secret is- everyone knows who did the work. Everyone already knows who gets the credit. Don’t be that BOSS, unless looking like an ass is a personal goal. Giving credit is easy, and contrary to how BOSS-men think, giving credit takes nothing away from you. In fact giving credit gives credit to your leadership. Because, as we see in the previous seven points in this list, your leadership inspires great things from your team.
- Asks: I am going to unapologetic here when I say “Ask your staff if they can perform a duty, do not tell them to.” The measure of your success as a LEADER will be in their answer. Good leadership inspires people to say some form of yes 99% of the time – “Yes, right now” or “Yes, shortly” or “Yes” with adjustments. But they will want to say yes, because, they want to be a part of this team, they want to lead, they want to perform, they want to please others, they want to excel, they want to work. If you still are hesitant about asking, then you probably have guilt about your leadership style. Change your dance steps and the people you lead will change theirs.
- Saying “Let’s Go!”: I think playing on a team sport during your formative years should be mandatory. Nothing inspires and teaches good leadership like a good sports coach. Or the military. Team is unified, it is collective, it is cellular in nature. It is not independent entities working as one. It is one entity working independently. The core of the team is we. The battle cry is “Let US go”! For your fundraising team, how often do you expect the directors to go around the board table and report on “their” area? Try this instead: before every staff meeting, have each director interview one other to determine how that area’s projects are doing? Ask them to focus their questions on primary data capture: how many mailings, what was the return, etc. Then request they ask followup questions such as “How could I help you in this project?”, “How can we as a team support the effort?” and “What did we do that lent to the outcomes?”. Then at your staff meeting, the interviewer gives the report on the project. Watch the dynamic change.
I am a firm believer that everything which happens in our lives has purpose. For me it was at one time being supervised by this BOSS, and then getting to see him in action again. It helped me realize that LEADERSHIP is more than being a big person at the top. It’s about being that BIG person that brings others to the top. Thanks for that.
I once used a series of peace signs as my profile picture on Facebook, for a full year. One new sign a month. The design came from the talented artist Patricia Saxton
After a full year of doing so, I had someone comment to me “Every time I see a peace sign now, I think of you! That’s some powerful branding you have going on, mame!”
Indeed it is.
We are visual creatures. Our memories are stuffed with snapshots and movie trailers of experiences, products and more. So translating that to your brand logo should be justification enough to ensure you spend the time and resources on developing a brand image that makes people remember and think about you often.
What was it about the peace sign that branded it to me – and me to it- in my friend’s minds?
- It was a consistent element. While the texture and colors might have changed in the months that progressed, the image of the peace sign was consistent.
- I lived the brand. While mostly a pacifist, I didn’t project an image or act in a way that was inconsistent with my profile picture. I was mostly peaceful 🙂
- It appeared whenever I was present. Every time I posted to a page or sent an email message through Facebook, my profile picture was there. I even went so far as to wear peace sign branded clothing and jewelry (not with intention, but because I liked them!).
- It was relate-able. A peace sign is universal. It comes pre-loaded with perception and expectation. It represents something to everyone.
- It provided food for thought. With each new posting of another months peace sign, I would link back to Patrica Saxton’s blog, and also provided some article, quote or personal insight into the concept of peace.
Given these five areas, what can you develop to represent your organization and bring people to remember you through strong brand image?