Living the brand means rethinking the business model
3/4/13 / Karla Raines
Co-creation of brand
A brand is much more than a logo, tagline or key message. It is an authentic expression of a nonprofit’s promise to the world. Branding experts agree our organizations alone don’t control our brands. Brands are co-created with our stakeholders–-our audiences, volunteers, board members, funders, partners and service recipients. One’s perception of the American Red Cross, for example, is informed by what it communicates directly, but also what our friends, family and social network say, as well as our own experiences. Those impressions ultimately create a collective consciousness of the brand itself. Our impressions of a brand and the authentic manifestation of that brand promise in the world influence how we engage with that nonprofit as donors and ambassadors.
Brand + business model
How can we more effectively engage stakeholders in the mission of a nonprofit? While brand engagement is critical to consider, we must think beyond the marketing function alone. It is time to fully imbed our brand promise in the way we do business day in and day out, which necessitates new thinking about business model design. At the core, we are talking about operating in new and different ways.
Value creation in your business model
A well-designed business model creates and captures value. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Fueled by the interests of our stakeholders, we can leverage organization-driven and user-driven experiences to inform, engage and influence opinions and actions. Data-driven strategies and tools can improve marketing, fundraising and volunteer engagement. The trick is not solely beginning and ending there. It is time to intentionally design your nonprofit’s business model to add value to your key stakeholders on a regular basis, recognizing the unique and overlapping needs of each group. By keeping an eye on value creation–-from the point of view of your stakeholders–you will capture more value within your nonprofit in the form of financial support and active ambassadorship for your cause.
So, where to start?
1. Begin with clarity of brand promise.
2. Design your business model to activate the brand promise.
3. Use data to refine and reevaluate along the way.
4. Keep an eye on creating and capturing value via a scorecard that tracks key metrics.
Three-component business model
The case studies profiled in Rippling by Beverly Schwartz and Forces for Good by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant evoke a three-component business model, one that is designed to maximize 1) programs and services, 2) financial resources and 3) community engagement. It’s no longer sufficient to merely consider what you offer and how you fund operations. As the growing recognition of the importance of nonprofit brand suggests, a well-designed business model creates and captures value through embedded approaches aligned with brand.
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