Connect Quickly & Strongly on a Budget (Nonprofit Branding Case Study: Part Two)

Read Part One First

iowa_staceykissQ: What was the process of decision making on how the new name would be developed?

A: We researched communications firms, digested two strong proposals and selected a firm.

The firm conducted a competitive analysis and research to determine our current brand attributes (interviewed donors, etc.) and presented possible new name and brand options. We had two names we liked—we came up ourselves with one that felt “safer,” and the firm recommended another option.

We put together a focus group to help us understand the kinds of response that each name would generate, and ultimately decided to go with the name that would really make us stand out, as opposed to the “safer” name.

Q: What was the budget and amount of time you allocated to the project?

A: The CEO, Director of Communications and other program staff and board directors worked as a team to complete the project. At times, this project required more than half of our time.

As for budget, we spent $12,000 for the research and $32,000 for the branding and marketing. The consultants we hired helped us through the selection of a new name and the launch of the new name. We also paid for additional legal support to register the RedRover trademark, and other costs associated with the design of our final logo.

Q: What else was revised on the org and program levels— talking points, graphic identity, etc? Note from Nancy: I’ve seen the extension of Red Rover’s organizational branding to its programs, which is brilliant.

A: Once we had the final name and final program names: RedRover Responders, RedRover Readers, RedRover Relief and RedRover Reporters, we finalized our brand platform as follows:

Brand Attributes

  • Caring
  • Respected—national, professional
  • Unwavering—hands-on
  • Inspirational—causing people to be alert, to care
  • Vigilant—always on the lookout

Brand Positioning

As a pivotal animal organization on the national stage, RedRover strengthens the emotional bond between people and pets through generous donors and active volunteers who protect, shelter and reunite suffering animals with the loving embrace of people who care.

Through our national programs, we battle indifference and take the lead in humane education resulting in greater empathy for animals. Our approach is straightforward and pragmatic, and we document our success through research and analysis.

Brand Promise

 When you support and volunteer with RedRover, you are strengthening the bond between people and animals with a commitment to help, shelter and connect suffering animals with people who care.

Once the brand platform was final, we had our graphic design company develop our logo and our graphic style guide. Then everything had to be redesigned—website, printed material, etc.

Q: Who was involved in each step and how?

A: We put together a Marketing Committee—comprised of board directors and staff members—who recommended marketing firms and reviewed initial concepts.

The Director of Communications at the time, Alexis Raymond, and RedRover CEO Nicole Forsyth were most heavily involved in the project. The entire staff of 14 was involved in brainstorming name concepts and providing feedback on concepts. The full board was responsible for approving the final decision to change our name.

Q: What was the re-naming process?

A: Even before the final name was approved, the Committee began work on the Brand Launch Strategic Plan. Additional staff time, particularly that of our Director of Programs, Karen Brown, was needed to complete a lot of the plan.

We organized House Parties across the country and communicated heavily to our constituents that a big change was coming, that UAN (our previous name) was evolving, but we didn’t say what the evolution was. Victoria Stilwel—star of Animal Planet’s hit show, “It’s Me or the Dog”—helped us with the promotion and she was featured in our brand launch video which was shown at the house parties.

Q: What else was changed—talking points, graphic identity, etc? And did you make any branding or message changes on the programmatic level?

A: EVERYTHING was changed to reflect the new brand.

Our mission and programs remained the same, although we restructured our cruelty rewards and My Dog Is Cool campaign within the general RedRover Reporters program name. Note: The Reporters program has been discontinued.

Q: What was most challenging about the process? Most satisfying? Most surprising?

A: The greatest challenge was getting everyone on board with the new name, particularly our nearly 3,000 dedicated volunteers. Some of them, whom we value dearly, thought we wouldn’t be taken seriously or that the name sounded too much like a kid’s game or a dog-only organization.

We were persistent, staying consistent in our talking points around the name change. And, in a short time, most of our volunteers, donors and other constituents (even those who originally didn’t like the name) understood the reasoning behind the change and came to like the new name. We wanted a name that was:

  • memorable
  • conversational
  • easy to say and remember
  • warm, friendly and personal
  • linked to our varied programs
  • able to stand out amid other nonprofits
  • built on the powerful “red shirt” identity derived from the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) emergency response program.

Most importantly, we want to make our organization a household name, and RedRover will move us in that direction:

  • Red represents strength, determination, passion, urgency, emergency
  • Rover represents on the move, on the lookout, ready to respond

Here’s how it’s working: Post-name change, we’ve found it incredibly satisfying to have conversations with businesses who were initially attracted to our name and then wanted to work with us. One prospective sponsor told us they wouldn’t even be having a conversation with us if we were still United Animal Nations. Overall, we’ve developed new supporters and partnerships that would never have come to us before.

Q: How, if at all, are you asking, training and supporting your staff and leadership as effective messengers?

A: We asked staff and board members to help us deliver the message, and trained them to do so with skill and ease. At this point, we make the brand platform part of all new staff and board training. In fact, this year we’re centering our organizational culture and professional development upon our brand attributes so that RedRover truly becomes part of who we are.

Q: What was the roll out approach?

A: We celebrated with a local event, plus house parties across the country featuring a video announcement of the new name.

Then, we called every single major donor we could get a hold of. We featured the change in our website, email and print content; and we talked about the change on social media sites, responding with excitement and eagerness to all questions and concerns.

Finally, we used language like “formerly United Animal Nations” for a long time until we felt people were ready to let our former name go.

Q: How did your network respond, if at all?

A: There was a lot of confusion at first. And frankly, many people didn’t like the name.

We stuck with our talking points on the rebranding, focusing on why we loved the name, and our CEO, Nicole, maintained (and conveyed) a high level of confidence in the name being the right decision.

We also held three conference calls to discuss the change with our volunteers. After these calls, we heard very few complaints about the change. People just want to be included in the process!

Q: At this point, what are the results of the name change?

A: We never hear anyone talking about how they don’t like it, and it is helping our organization think about new and innovative ways to generate revenue and expand our programs so we can help more animals and the people who love them. The name helped us head in exactly the direction we hoped it would.

Now, with consistent naming across all of our programs (RedRover Responders, RedRover Readers and RedRover Relief), we are able to generate greater name recognition for the organization. We can also better articulate our focus and what separates us from other similar or overlapping nonprofit organizations. We believe both of these will help us generate the donations we need to fund our work for the animals and grow our organization.

Q: Did the change generate any other unexpected wins?

A: We’re continually pleased to see the effect of the re-brand. Now, we’re better able to engage the right communities of people around our mission. Individuals and potential partners get it more quickly, so are more apt to connect with us.

In addition, our internal focus on our brand has helped us to make better decisions around programs and marketing. Our hiring decisions and training programs now integrate our brand attributes.

Q: Is there anything else we should know?

A: People can connect with us by signing up for email updates at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

What worked – and what didn’t – last time you branded your nonprofit? Or what are your questions if you’re considering it?  Please share your experiences and/or questions here.

Read Part One

Connect Quickly & Strongly on a Budget (Nonprofit Branding Case Study: Part One)

Read Part Two

Within the first five minutes of meeting Leili Khalessi last year, I learned that she and her colleagues were in the process of renaming/re-branding their organization. As Marketing and Communications Manager with (what is now) Red Rover, Leili was right in the middle of that challenging project. So I jumped on the opportunity to ask if she’d share the organization’s experience in this marketing adventure.

Now, a year later, I’m pleased to share with you the story of how Red Rover developed, launched and implemented its new name and brand. You’ll find specific tips relevant for your organization—whether you’re considering a first-time formal branding project or naming a new program—as well as insights on effective engagement of non-marketing colleagues and choosing the right consultant or firm to help. Read on!


Q: Tell me about Red Rover. What’s your focus and how do you carry it out?

A: RedRover’s mission is to bring animals out of crisis and strengthen the bond between people and animals through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education.

We use three main strategies to get there—engaging volunteers and supporters, collaborating with others and maximizing the use of online technology.

Q: What are your roles and responsibilities at Red Rover, and how long has each of you been on staff?

A: We’re:

  • Nicole Forsyth, President and CEO for eight years
  • Leili Khalessi, Marketing and Communications Manager for two years

Q: When did you change the organization’s name, and what was its original name?

A: We changed our name from United Animal Nations (UAN) to RedRover in June 2011.

Q: What was the problem you were trying to solve, and how did you come to rebranding/naming as the solution?

A: Well, our previous name was a real barrier to making and sustaining supporter and partnership relationships on many fronts. So rebranding/renaming was the clear solution

We have evolved a great deal since our founding in 1987, having narrowed our focus over the years to focus in on a few key issues affecting companion animals in the United States and Canada, rather than addressing a wide range of animal issues internationally.

But our initial name (United Animal Nations) and globe-like logo conveyed that we were international in focus (which we weren’t). In addition, the name sounded politically charged although, legislative and policy work have never been a priority for us.

Additionally, we heard consistent feedback that the name United Animal Nations sounded militant, extremist and activist. That’s a huge deterrent to building relationships with supporters of all kinds.

Staff and volunteers were asked, “Are you like PETA?” After hearing descriptions of our programs, an emergency management official who visited our office a couple of years ago sighed with relief and said, “I thought you were a terrorist organization!”

Finally, since we work so closely with government agencies and schools, it’s particularly important that we remain (and are perceived as) politically neutral. United Animal Nations failed on this front.

As a result of these multiple problems, our name (United Animal Nations) continually bubbled up as a real problem (and weakness) during our annual strategic planning. It was constantly getting in our way, and just didn’t represent the kind of organization we were.

Q: It’s crystal-clear that your previous name and brand was a deterrent to engaging supporters and partners (one of the worst marketing problems an organization can have).

Were there any other factors that pushed the name change? I ask because renaming and branding are steps most nonprofit folks (esp. leadership) are deathly afraid of!

A: That’s a long story!

We knew that although the name United Animal Nations was familiar and comfortable to many people, it caused the problems we already mentioned. But there was even more:

As United Animal Nations, our splintered program brands created a confusing environment that got in the way of reaching our communications, outreach and fundraising.

Over the years some of our programs—Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS), the Humane Education Ambassador Readers (HEAR) and LifeLine—had developed identities of their own that were absolutely disconnected from each other and from the parent organization itself.

For example, some people didn’t realize that the Emergency Animal Rescue Service was a program of UAN—including some of our volunteers. You can see what a huge problem that was.

Q: So you went right to renaming?

A: Nope. We tried something much easier first (and we’re glad we did).

We began using UAN as an acronym to attempt to correct our brand misperceptions, but being a small group without a lot of name recognition using an acronym like UAN didn’t help us develop a stronger brand (despite the fact that most of the nonprofits that we work closely with and who would be considered “competitors” for donors attention and money use acronyms as well).

Note from Nancy: Acronyms are so popularly used by organizations that have moved away from the implications of their initial name. In my experience, in the majority of these cases, using an acronym as your organization name fails to deliver an engaging, memorable and easily repeatable brand.

Q: What were your initial hopes in implementing the change?

A: Clarifying who we were as an organization, developing a compelling, distinctive and memorable brand and, ultimately, attracting new donors and partners were our initial aims.

Q: Did you do the renaming work all in-house, or did you hire outside experts?

A: We knew we didn’t have the time and expertise to do this in-house. And, perhaps most importantly, that we were too close to the organization to lead this project.

So we began by researching communications firms, solicited proposals and then selected a couple to present their proposals to us face-to-face. That process enabled us to the select the firm we felt most suited to do the research and creative work in terms of working style and relevant expertise.

What worked – and what didn’t – last time you branded your nonprofit? Or what are your questions if you’re considering it?  Please share your experiences and/or questions here.

What worked – and what didn’t – last time you branded your nonprofit? Or what are your questions if you’re considering it?  Please share your experiences and/or questions here. – See more at: /articles/4283/branding/nonprofit-branding-case-study-2.html#comments
What worked – and what didn’t – last time you branded your nonprofit? Or what are your questions if you’re considering it?  Please share your experiences and/or questions here. – See more at: /articles/4283/branding/nonprofit-branding-case-study-2.html#comments

More Case Studies & Guidance: Nonprofit Branding and Renaming

 4 Steps to Creating a Strong Nonprofit Brand (Case Study)

Build Your Brand Without Breaking the Bank

Four Tips for Nonprofit Name Change Success

How a Museum Re-Branded Itself to Boost Visitors by 600% (Case Study)

How a Nonprofit Name Change Generated Attention and Momentum (Case Study)

How a Small Nonprofit Shaped a Clear, Memorable Brand – Five Steps to Low-Budget Branding for Big Results (Case Study)

How The United Negro College Fund Is Revitalizing Its Brand (Case Study)

Six Proven Ways to Strengthen Your Organization through Building Your Brand

Read Part Two

This ONE Thing Will Transform Your Marketing & Fundraising

The opportunity you have right now is SO big, that it’s a bit overwhelming. …
You have a blank canvas of a year in front of you, and the marketing and fundraising actions you take right now will have a huge impact on your results.

So, what are you going to change? And what should stay the same? How will you create a masterpiece with this year of time and opportunity?

You know that marketing and fundraising have to be more on target than ever, with messages based on right-now data and stories from across your channels, campaigns, and programs. That’s the path to Priority 2014—the relevant, memorable and unified supporter or participant experience you must provide, an experience that builds on each supporter’s or participant’s till-now engagement with your organization and is most likely to motivate her next action.

Practically speaking, there’s just ONE path to that kind of unified experience: Right-Things, Right-Now Marketing.  Get there with this Right-Things, Right-Now Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template

Here’s how to produce a relevant, memorable and unified supporter experience:

1) Center supporters and participants at the heart of your organization, now and forever.

This isn’t bright-and-shiny new, but it’s more important than ever. Let me put it this way: If you don’t shape program and services, marketing and fundraising around your supporters’ and participants’ actions, wants, habits, and values, you’ll alienate folks who are close now and fail miserably in making new friends.

Volunteers, donors, activists, program participants, and other supporters are vital to achieving your mission. You can’t do it without them, so keep your eye on the prize.

To Do

  • Focus on no more than three groups of individuals—those most likely to take the actions you need or who represent the greatest risk to achieving your mission if not engaged this year.
  • Break these groups into segments by special interest, wants, previous actions, location, or any other combination of selections
  • Get to know them (see #3 below).

2) Listen to and learn from your people in a way that’s radically different from what you’re doing right now.

To Do

  • Set your end goal as treating (and communicating with) your supporters and participants as individuals, rather than one-size-fits-all, as much as possible. That means, each person’s experience (or segment of folks with like experiences) defines your marketing and fundraising approaches.
  • To get there, learn everything you can about your people every way you can, on an ongoing basis:
    • Develop personas or profiles that typify a member of each audience or segment and surround yourself and your colleagues with persona head shots—it’s hokey, but it keeps the people who count at the top of everyone’s mind
    • Create an ad hoc marketing advisory group to call on for super-short input when you are uncertain about a certain message, channel, or approach. What you think counts far less!
    • Listen to what’s being said about your organization and team online, and engage with the speakers human-to-human
    • Survey via brief online questionnaires, motivating participation via e-mail and social media channels, and concrete incentives
    • Collect information on interests and more via every single active transaction (giving, volunteer sign up, event registration) pages, e-mail, social and, conversations.

3) Set up systems, roles, and responsibilities to harvest, share, and analyze data, feedback, anecdotes plus  other insights

To Do

  • Assess where supporter information to date—preferences, habits, relationships and interactions— lives across all departments and databases in your organization
  • Implement a robust database tool that enables you to connect all data on a single supporter or participant (now fragmented in multiple departments and records) in a single, in-depth profile. That the key to the rich insights (a true 360-degree perspective) necessary for truly integrated marketing that reflects your supporters’ interactions with your organization over time, and is delivered consistently—across marketing channels and strategies—for a more relevant, resonant experience.
  • Log, share, and analyze what you learn about your people across your organization—instead of limiting analysis to actions within a single program, campaign or channel—in a way that’s easy to access for all.

The more coordinated and robust your insight is into each person you’re hoping to engage, the greater the probability you’ll motivate him or her to take the next action (or realize that he/she’s not a likely prospect).

4) Shape rewarding and connected relationships with your people OVER TIME—a cumulative supporter or participant experience.

Your prospects and supporters are just like you—Individuals want, and in many cases, expect, content and programs to be customized to their preferences, habits, and history of action.

The Altimeter Research Group has deemed this the “me-cosystem: The ecosystem that revolves around “me,” an organization’s data and technologies to deliver more relevant, useful, and engaging experiences. Supporters will benefit from contextualized experiences (digitally and otherwise), in exchange for giving up personal data.”

To Do

  • Apply your learnings and analysis, and those of your colleagues, to shape marketing and fundraising outreach, and hone programs and services on the fly; and
  • Ensure that one experience links to the next for each one of them (within reason, of course).

The “days of the one-off marketing project or fundraising campaign are over. Now it’s about data and profiles and [a series] of connected experiences,” says Dianne Wilkins, CEO, Critical Mass.

5) Get agile to satisfy supporter expectations that your nonprofit is constantly adapting to fit their schedules and lives

And that has to include how they interact (or not) with your marketing and fundraising outreach, and your programs and services.

Beware! There’s still way too much talking about data and stories among nonprofits, and way too little acting on these insights. Priority 2014 means changing that. In fact, “[supporters and participants] are insisting that [nonprofits] sew together all of the micro-interactions (between organizations and individuals) in an intelligent way. And when [organizations] disappoint, their people often let them have it, and very publicly,” says Wilkins.

To Do

  • Replace traditional campaigns—based on pre-determined start and stop dates and series of messages—with real-time marketing, based on supporters and participants’ actions and schedules
  • Kill the e-mail blasts—sending the same e-mail to everyone at the same time—(they’re the loudest “who cares” I know; who wants to be blasted?)
  • Segment your lists as precisely as time, expertise and tools allow, grouping prospects by shared wants, values, or engagement history to produce more relevant content
  • Start to tear down the age-old barrier between program and marketing/fundraising efforts (and views of your participants and supporters).

6) Shift toward “all for one and one for all” teamwork

Priority? Throw down the gauntlet and tear down your marketing and fundraising ivory tower to excite and empower your colleagues!

In fact, that’s the only way you’ll build the all-organization relationships, sense of adventure, and satisfaction necessary to drive a speeded-up marketing, delivery, and revision cycle on both program/service and marketing/fundraising fronts.

To Do

  • Join your colleagues across your organization in shaping ambitious but realistic roles and responsibilities for data and story gathering, sharing, analysis, and action.
  • Dedicate yourself, no matter your role, to making your donor experience as relevant and resonant as possible.

I urge you to forget whether you staff a program, run the teen volunteer program, do back-end accounting, or have the word “marketing” in your title. Instead, focus on joining forces to produce a satisfying, memorable, and unified supporter experience. It’s the ONE thing that will move your mission forward.

Bonus: Reduces your workload, increases your confidence that you’re doing the right thing, and sends your professional happiness sky high.

Kick start your ONE thing now, with the Right-Things, Right-Now Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template

Toward a Relevant, Unified Supporter Experience–What are You Doing Now?
What are you doing to deliver right-things, right-now marketing? What’s working, and what’s getting in your way? Please share your experience here.

P.S. Thanks to Gary Keller for inspiring me to focus on the ONE thing, as “Success demands singleness of purpose.”  I strongly recommend you read Keller’s The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Ask Yourself 4 Questions for Effective Nonprofit Taglines

Welcome to guest blogger Allison Van Diest. Allison, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Blackbaud, prides herself on being not only a marketing “artist” but a marketing “scientist”  able to measure the marketing impact. She has some terrific guidance to share with you on shaping a tagline that works…

What has less than 140 characters and tells the world what you’re up to?

Yes, Twitter does.  But how do you think the Twitter folks got the idea that a short, punchy phrase or two can be among the best ways to communicate?  Decades ago, taglines showed the world that a few well-chosen words can mean more to a reader than pages of advertising copy.

The purpose of a tagline is to create an impression that is meaningful and moving, as succinctly as possible.  And in today’s landscape of light speed communication, with constraints on readers’ time and attention, a well-written tagline is critical.

It is your best tool in capturing the imagination of a prospective supporter and also arms them with the perfect message to send to their network (through Twitter, perhaps!).

Sold on the idea of taglines, but not sure yours is prize-worthy? Enter the Nonprofit Tagline Awards program anyway, there’s nothing to lose. And every entrant will be invited to join me in a special free webinar on building leadership support for critical marketing projects. But back to taglines…

If you’re not satisfied with your tagline, consider sending it through a quick positioning refresh to make sure it truly captures your spirit.  As a reminder, a strong positioning statement answers these questions:

  1. Who (what group) does your organization serve?
  2. What does the group you serve hope to accomplish?
  3. What does your organization provide to the group you serve?
  4. What is the outcome if the group you serve accomplishes its goal?

Consider how how this information is conveyed by TexasNonprofits, a 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Award winner:  “Building community deep in the hearts of Texans”

  1. Who (what group) does your organization serve?  Texas nonprofits
  2. What does the group you serve hope to accomplish? To encourage higher levels of giving so they can do more good in Texas
  3. What does your organization provide to the group you serve?  Resources and support to aid the nonprofit community
  4. What is the end state if the group you serve accomplishes its goal?  Texans are even more philanthropic and nonprofit impact goes even further

With its tagline, TexasNonprofits conveys mission and impact in a clever and memorable way.   This year’s Taggies will once again celebrate well-crafted taglines and – hopefully – inspire other nonprofits to follow suit, so please enter yours today (deadline is July 28).

 We can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to!

The 2010 Nonprofit Tagline Awards program is made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of Blackbaud, Event360, Eventbrite and See3 Communications.

P. P. S. Follow the tagline award news on Twitter via the hashtag #taggies


How to Earn Income (and Autonomy) for Your Nonprofit

“What?,” you may be saying? Our job isn’t to generate revenue. We use the generous gifts and grants we receive to deliver programs, services and products to our community.

That’s what I hear from most nonprofit organizations intent on doing things the way they’ve always done them — relying on money from funders (private and government) and individual donors to sustain them.

Unfortunately, that model isn’t sustainable. And counting on a weak funding model leaves your organization vulnerable to everything from the volatile economy to the retirement of the program officer who had funded your organization for so long.

Nothing is more critical to your organization’s health than your budget. And a very effective way to stabilize your income is to earn some of it.

Here’s an example of how that can work for your organization:

  • Public Health Solutions sought to supplement grants and gifts with a more stable income source, and asked me to help develop an earned income stream for them.
  • They asked me to focus on developing a product or service within PHS’ fiscal management program, which focused on helping HIV- and AIDS-related organizations build skills in financial management.
  • I began by inventorying current programs and services, and looked for the gaps when comparing findings with our audit of  programs and services available from other sources to serve other types of organizations. What was PHS’ fiscal management program providing well to its core constituency that could fill a gap in services currently available to other types of nonprofit organizations?
  • The result: Common Cents Training — The Fastest Path to Financial Accountability for Your Organization. Since the department already provided the core of this program to its constituencies, the basic curriculum, materials and expertise was already in place. What was new was packaging it, marketing it and providing it (as a fee) to organizations outside of PHS’ traditional network.

Keep posted–I’ll be featuring earned income case studies and guidance in the months to come.

Please tell me: 1) What programs, services and/or products is your organization already providing to your core community, that you could repackage and sell to other sectors, and 2) What do you need to know about earning some income?

BTW, Public Health Services has changed its fiscal management program’s name to Nonprofit Consulting Services which leads me to believe that more earned income streams are in the works!

Stand Up and Speak Out – Nonprofits Are Getting Dissed

I want to welcome guest blogger Susie Bowie.  As communications manager at the Community Foundation of Sarasota, she is a passionate and talented  force helping organizations in the region develop their nonprofit marketing finesse. Today, Susie heralds her call to action to us nonprofit marketers…

Recently, I’ve heard a couple of remarks about nonprofits and nonprofit staff that just kill me…

First a local business person shared his view that “most of us drawn to nonprofit leadership roles care about charitable work but generally lack the skills to be leaders in the for-profit world.

Then Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, bluntly stated (his modus operandi) that nonprofits don’t have the power to change the world because they “have no resources” and are “constantly out trying to raise money instead of generating it and being self-sufficient.”

My guess is that if I’ve heard such patronizing criticism from these vocal folks in just the past couple of weeks, that this perspective is fairly widespread.

Why should nonprofit marketers care about such silly comments?

Each time word goes out, in a comment, article or broadcast – about how ineffective or unprofessional our sector is – it costs us financial support. Those messages generate doubts among our supporters, much less those who are still prospects. A heavy onus lies with nonprofit communicators to set it straight, but we can’t do it alone.

So what can and should nonprofit communicators professionals do about it within our sector? Here are three ways we can advocate for the truth:

1) Nurture the business people who do understand the power of nonprofits, support us with sponsorship dollars and provide us with outstanding board leaders.

In Sarasota, FL, local companies like Cavanaugh & Co, Kerkering Barberio, SunTrust and Northern Trust are just a few of the successful for-profits doing their part. As nonprofit communicators, we must thank such boosters profusely and set the stage for keeping the relationships going, highlighting their good work in our nonprofit’s outreach and encouraging our leadership to spread the praise.

It’s simply good public relations. Your personal and business pages on Facebook provide a great forum for shout-outs. Don’t let them slide once a sponsored event or program is over. And let your business partners know what you’re doing—just because you see a good news announcement in your local paper doesn’t mean they’ve seen it.

2) Remember that it’s a constant education process to help those who live outside our sector recognize what important and vital work we do.

We can’t fault the business world for a lack of understanding about charitable work anymore than you can fault yourself for not understanding how to fix the oil spill. Consider yourself not only a marketing ambassador for your organization but one for the sector.

Get wise about the economic impact facts in our charitable sector. Sarasota County nonprofits, for instance, reported over $2.8 billion in assets and over $1.2 billion in revenue in 2008 alone. (Source: National Center for Charitable Statistics, January 2010) That’s a result of caring but inept people begging for money. Who’s the one to shed light on this? You. That’s right, it’s your job too.

3) If we’re going to be seen as professional, we have to stay ahead of the curve in professionalism and in our knowledge base.

All staff members, but particularly nonprofit leadership and communicators, represent the sector wherever they go – whether on the job or not. As the marketing ambassador for your organization, remind your staff of their personal brand (how they carry themselves, what they say about their work and your organization) and how it influences your nonprofit brand—and vice versa.

It’s not about “casual” versus “formal” in your virtual and geographic communities. It’s about aligning your actions and comments with respect and intelligence.

I think most of us do a great job of this. Our ongoing education can’t stop with awareness of the issues we care about most. Having one leg in that business world—with constant monitoring of the corporate news and trends—is critical. Communicating the intersections between the nonprofit and for-profit worlds is partly our responsibility. We have the skills to actively convey these connections to essential internal and external audiences. Leadership can determine where we go with them.

Nonprofits are taking (and historically have taken) a leading role in relationship building, the hallmark of success for any venture, public or private.  But it’s up to us to communicate our successes and strengths in a clear, consistent way, through all the grains of staff, board and program running through our organizations.

Powerful food for thought. Thank you, Susie.

What are your thoughts on how (and if) nonprofit marketers can best promote an accurate understanding of the strengths and power of the nonprofit sector and its people? Should we respond directly to slams such as Zuckerberg’s or take the high road  -showing rather than saying – our expertise and professionalism.

Please comment here. Thanks.

Nonprofit Branding News – Why the YMCA Is Now the Y

Addendum, 7/22/10: Here’s the YWCA’s response to the Y’s name change.

In case you haven’t heard, the YMCA is now the Y.  And believe it or not, the story is covered in the first section of today’s New York Times. Nonprofit marketing news doesn’t usually make the grade!

According to Kate Coleman, the Y’s chief marketing officer, this name change is motivated by the Y’s desire to use a name more closely matched with its mission and emphasizes the impact its programs have on youth, healthy living and communities.  This is definitely a critical focus to reflect in the Y’s branding but I’m not convinced that a single letter can do all that!

“It’s a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming, when you call yourself what everyone else calls you,”  is the second reason for the change  Coleman cites. I don’t agree with that one either.

It is indeed important to know what your organization’s base thinks and what’s important to them. That’s the only way to identify the intersection of your organization’s needs and those of your base – the nexus of your brand. But that doesn’t mean your brand should be what your base is using as your name.

Already, the Y is set up to confuse audiences by asking that while affiliates should be referred to overall by the new name, a specific branch should be referred to the “South Mountain YMCA.” That’s a mess in the making.

I certainly understand the Y’s motivation to have its name more clearly reflect its current mission. That’s good marketing. And the same valid reasoning that moved the United Negro College Fund to change its name to UNCF – because it was serving more than students of a single race.

And the Y does a fantastic job of using the new brand to highlight what’s really important – its current programmatic focus.  No one cares that your branding is different but announcing your new focus is a great way to (implicitly) introduce your new brand. Take a look at this webcast of the Y’s press conference on the change.

But I envision the Y will face some real challenges with this name change, including:

  • What about the YWCA?
  • And the YMHA/YWHA (the Jewish Y)? New York City’s affiliate is already known as the 92nd Street Y.
  • The name “Y” makes me ask “why not?”

What are your thoughts on this name change? Does it work? Should  a nonprofit’s name be whatever it’s called by its base? Please share your comments below. Thanks!

The Power of Special Event Taglines – Enter Yours Today

Welcome back to guest blogger Tamara Mendelsohn, Director of Marketing for Eventbrite for Causes, a sponsor of the Nonprofit Tagline Awards (a.k.a., The Taggies). Tamara focuses day in and day out on making events more productive for nonprofits and has a valuable recommendation to share…

This year, the Taggies have added a category for special event taglines. If you’re reading this, you already know that a live event represents a unique fundraising and awareness opportunity. But you may not be aware of what event taglines can do for your cause.

Here are 5 reasons special event taglines are so helpful:

  • They set your event apart from similar events – Attendees have a limited amount of time and resources for events. Imagine they’re picking between two great benefit concerts, one clearly branded with a tagline and one without. Which one do you think they’re more likely to remember, spread the word on and more likely to attend?
  • They make it easy for attendees to become your best marketers – For attendees to convince their social networks to join them at an event, they need to be able to explain why it will be great. By creating a potent tagline, you’re doing much of that work for them.
  • They’re built for social media – A great special event tagline is a snap for attendees to drop into the small text spaces of Twitter and Facebook. And drop again. And again.
  • They promote repeat attendance – Even a great event can fade from attendees’ memories if it lacks a distinctive identity. A strong tagline makes your event unforgettable, and can give it a permanent place on attendees’ monthly or yearly calendars.
  • They’re fun – A little humor, even a well-placed pun, communicates to attendees that you know how to show them a great time. And—especially since many organizations are raising money for quite serious causes—it’s key to remind them that your event is a gathering they’ll enjoy and feel good about.

2012 Tagline Award Judges

2012 Nonprofit Tagline Awards Judges Panel

Great Words Promoting Good Causes

The 2012 Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards judges represent a full breadth of relevant disciplines and are distinguished experts in their fields.

A huge thanks to this panel of experts, who evaluated semi-finalist taglines to determine the top taglines in each sector within the organizational taglines and the top taglines of each type (program, advocacy campaign, fundraising and special event).

2012 Nonprofit Tagline Awards Judges Panel

      • Tom Ahern, President, Ahern Communications, Ink
        Photo of Tom AhernTom is recognized internationally as a leading expert in the science and art of successful donor communications. He is the author of four books on the topic and consults with nonprofits across North America.
      • Susie Bowie, Communications Manager,
        Community Foundation of Sarasota County

        Photo of Susie BowieSusie has served on the board of directors of the Florida Public Relations Association’s Central West Coast chapter and the Sarasota Audubon Society in public relations roles for four years. She received the Rising Star Award in 2006 and the Promoting the Profession Award in 2008 from FPRA’s Central West Coast chapter, and she was one of Gulf Coast Business Review’s 40 Under 40 winners in 2009.
      • Kathy Dempsey, President, Libraries Are Essential
        Photo of Kathy Dempsey Kathy runs a consultancy called Libraries Are Essential to help librarians promote their value. She has published a book called The Accidental Library Marketer, she blogs at “The M Word,” and speaks and publishes around the world. Dempsey has been the editor of the Marketing Library Services newsletter since 1994.
      • Nancy Dowd, Director of Marketing, New Jersey State Library
        Photo of Nancy Dowd Nancy is a popular speaker and co-author of ALA’s best selling book, Bite-Sized Marketing, Realistic solutions for Overworked Librarians. As Director of Marketing for the NJ State Library her work earned top marketing awards from NJLA, ALA and PRSA NJ. She has won the John Cotton Dana Award. She is presently Product Lead for NoveList’s newest product, LibraryAware, a new online resource that will revolutionize the way libraries create, deliver and measure their promotional campaigns.
      • Joanne Fritz Ph.D, Guide to Nonprofit Organizations,
        Photo of Joanne Fritz Ph.DJoanne has worked in the nonprofit world for most of her 30-year career beginning with teaching at the secondary, college, and university levels. She has held senior management positions at two national nonprofits and two universities and, for the past six years, has written about the nonprofit world at
      • Lawrence Grodeska, Nonprofit Community Manager,
        Photo of Lawrence Grodeska Lawrence is a web marketing expert with more than 12 years experience leveraging technology and new media to promote programs and campaigns for public education, cause marketing and advocacy. Lawrence serves as the Nonprofit Community Manager at, where he teaches organizations how to best leverage the world’s fastest-growing social action platform to achieve real change.
      • Bob Johnson, President, Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
        Photo of Bob Johnson Bob Johnson is president of Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC where he has worked with 56 colleges, universities, and professional associations since 2006 to develop strong online marketing communication programs. Specialties include Customer Carewords research to better engage website visitors, marketing communication reviews of college and university websites, and “Writing Right for the Web” workshops.
      • Lisa Junker, Director of Communications, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
        Photo of Lisa Junker Lisa Junker, CAE, IOM, is director of communications for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). Previously, Lisa served as editor-in-chief of Associations Now, the award-winning monthly magazine of ASAE, and senior manager of communications at the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).
      • Carie Lewis, Director of Emerging Media, The Humane Society of the United States
        Photo of Carie LewisCarie is the lead social media strategist for the nation’s largest and most effective animal welfare organization. As media is constantly changing, a large part of her responsibilities include evaluating new technologies and trends in the nonprofit technology sector, and preparing the organization to adapt to those changes. Carie is an active member of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), and has been interviewed for articles on The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fundraising Success Magazine, and The Nonprofit Times.
      • Alison McQuade, New Media Manager, EMILY’s List
        Photo of Alison McQuadeAlison is the New Media Manager at EMILY’s List, helping to elect Democratic women by creating memes out of people who get her fired up – among other things. Prior to this, she spent three years doing communications and new media for GlobalGiving, a microfinance platform servicing thousands of nonprofit projects worldwide. Despite years of doing Good there, she might be best known for her successful marketing campaign involving the iPad and a tampon. True story. This was followed by a year at the League of Women Voters.
      • Kivi Leroux Miller, President, Nonprofit Marketing
        Photo of Kivi Leroux MillerKivi is the founder of Nonprofit Marketing and author of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause. She teaches a weekly webinar series and writes a leading blog on nonprofit communications.
      • Mark Miller, AVP, Philanthropic Marketing & Communication, Children’s National Medical Center
        Photo of Mark MillerMark Miller specializes in strategic communications for nonprofits and political organizations. He currently is associate vice president for fundraising and communications at Children’s National Medical Center, where he oversees online fundraising, social media, and donor communications. His previous experience includes The White House, the Case Foundation, Weber Shandwick, the Corporation for National Service, and the National Governors Association. He is also the volunteer communications director for the American Special Hockey Association.
      • Bob Ottendorff, President and CEO, Center for Disaster Philanthropy
        Photo of Bob OttendorffBob recently started this new venture after leaving his role as CEO at GuideStar. Bob has 25 years of management experience in public broadcasting and high-tech companies, including 9 years as CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). He currently serves on the board of Inspirit Foundation (formerly Vision TV), Grameen Foundation USA, Link TV, and Write on Sports, and on the advisory committee of the Netherlands-America Foundation. He writes and speaks on nonprofit and philanthropic issues, and he has been frequently quoted in publications such as the New York Times, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Wall Street Journal and Forbes.
      • Holly Ross, Executive Director, NTEN
        Photo of Holly RossHolly has been at NTEN since 2003, working with community members to identify the technology trends that will reshape the nonprofit sector. From ubiquitous access to technology leadership to social media, Holly brings the wisdom of the NTEN crowd to the nonprofit sector. Holly has been recognized as one of the Nonprofit Times Power and Influence Top 50 three times, in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
      • Linda Mason Ross, Director of Marketing, Lincoln Center Theater
        Photo of Linda Mason RossLinda’s career in not-for-profit arts marketing spans more than 20 years. Before joining Lincoln Center Theater 7 years ago as Director of Marketing, she led the marketing and advertising teams at Carnegie Hall and at New York’s 92nd Street Y. In her current position, she has managed campaigns for Broadway and off-Broadway productions including War Horse, Other Desert Cities, The Coast of Utopia, South Pacific, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Awake and Sing!, 4000 Miles, The Clean House, and The Light in the Piazza among many others.
      • Marc Sirkin, VP Social Marketing & Online Fundraising, Autism Speaks
        Photo of Marc SirkinMarc is focused on helping the organization create “conversations” using the Internet and the Social Web. He oversees the organization’s digital strategy and is focused on creating new community and fundraising opportunities for all those affected by autism. Marc’s unique ability to develop high-level social marketing strategies that connect directly to measurable business results has helped him launch and refine online communities, as well as web-based community applications, which have resulted in millions of dollars in donations and lifelong customer relationships in the non-profit sector.
      • Kim St. John-Stevenson, Communications Officer,
        Saint Luke’s Foundation

        Photo of Kim St. John-StevensonKimberly St. John-Stevenson joined the Saint Luke’s Foundation of Cleveland, Ohio in April 2007. A native of Connecticut, Kim is a creative, strategic thinker with more than 20 years experience in developing and implementing effective community engagement and marketing communications solutions in the profit and non-profit sectors. Highly regarded in her field, Kim was recently named “2010 Communicator of the Year” by the International Association of Business Communicators Cleveland Chapter.

Tagline Award FAQs

Nonprofit Tagline Award FAQs

Great Words Promoting Good Causes

How are award winners selected?
The criteria for winning taglines include clarity, brevity, relevance, authenticity, specificity and comprehensiveness of use, as well as creating a connection between the reader and the organization. The complete criteria for winning taglines are outlined here.

Each submitted tagline is reviewed in comparison to others in its category by the Getting Attention team. Up to 40 semi-finalist taglines are selected via this process and forwarded to the judge handling that category.

Meet our wonderfully diverse panel of expert judges for the 2012 awards.

Each judge selected to three taglines as finalists in her category. At that point, all members of the nonprofit community—from staff and volunteers to service providers, board members and donors—were invited to vote on the best tagline within each category.

What are the prizes for award winners?
Winners get significant recognition via publicity in print and online. But, the value of entering the awards program is best said by two past winners:

“We were very pleased to have our tagline recognized by our colleagues in the industry.  Our award has given the U.S. Fund extra visibility for its marketing and brand work!”
—Kim Pucci, Former Marketing Director, U.S. Fund for UNICEF

“We were thrilled to be selected as the tagline award winner in the Human Services category. We leveraged the award as we rolled out our new brand and kicked off the public phase of our $5M capital campaign.  It was highlighted as an achievement in all of our capital campaign foundation grant requests and spotlighted in our agency newsletter and in the local media.  And, the media buzz that this award created helped JFCS maximize its marketing efforts without the need for allocating additional dollars in this difficult economy.”
—Rose Chapman, LCSW, President/CEO of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Sarasota-Manatee, Inc.

What are the tagline award categories?

  • Organization tagline (by issue focus)
  • Program tagline
  • Advocacy campaign tagline
  • Fundraising campaign tagline
  • Special event tagline