Book Review: An Introduction to Brandraising

“Brandraising” blends fundraising with marketing to outline a new way of thinking about a nonprofit’s communications with the public. Brandraising (a new book by Sarah Durham) is an easy to read, easy to use guide to bringing this new way of thinking to bear on the work of all types of public benefit organizations.

Brandraising (the concept) is building “a strong framework for communication” that rests securely on vision, mission and values — “the core elements that direct all aspects of the organization’s work.” The difference between brandraising and other guides to nonprofit communications is apparent from the start when Durham adds to the list of core elements four more concepts: objectives, audiences, positioning and personality.

Most planning sessions for nonprofits likely get as far as objectives, though considering that sort of detail when thinking about organizational communications may be rare. Rarer still, Durham thinks, is attention to the audiences to be reached, the position to be achieved, and the personality that best suits the organization’s goals. What adjectives describe the way the organization wants to be perceived? What is the big idea the organization wants to be known for? Who, exactly, needs to hear and understand the organization’s messages?

The book offers straightforward and practical exercises for working out the answers to questions like these. My personal favorite: Make a list on a whiteboard of all the other organizations that might be seen by the public as working with more or less the same goals as those that guide your work. Write your tagline or identity statement at the top just to the right of the list. And then make a check mark next to the name of any other organization that could comfortably use those same words to describe itself. Too many check marks? Your message is going to come across as blurred; key members of the public may all too easily confuse your work with that of other organizations that approach the goals differently.

Clarifying the key components of identity so they can be communicated accurately is half of the brandraising project. The other half—and maybe the harder half—is aligning communications efforts in every part of the work across all “the channels and tools through which audiences connect with the organization.” Too often, Durham suggests, organizations invest too little in developing a framework for communication that can be, and is, used by everyone consistently and comfortably.

Many people who work in nonprofits, Durham observes, are not engaged with the idea of marketing as an important contributor to organizational success. Brandraising serves well as an introduction, building on nonprofit examples and respecting the distinctiveness of nonprofits’ work.

You can order Brandraising from with this link; a small royalty will be paid that helps support this site.

For an advanced exploration of the idea, look at the 7th edition of Phillip Kotler’s classic (and expensive) Strategic Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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