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How to Craft a Strong Organizational Brand, According to You: Insights from ComNet17

Historically, foundations and nonprofit organizations have not prioritized developing their brands, especially compared to corporations.  However, a strong brand is integral to organizational success and there are risks associated with neglecting your organization’s brand. Atlantic Media Strategies and The Communications Network invited select attendees of ComNet17 to participate in a discussion about the importance of brand and how organizations can develop a brand that guides organizational success.

Communicators are encouraged to use the summary and discussion questions below to guide internal conversations around building an organizational brand. Or join us in further discussion of these issues in the Members Community.

Here are three key takeaways from our ComNet17 discussion.

Organizational Brand vs. Individual Personalities

Foundations, in particular, report that tensions can arise between their brand and the brand of the family or families represented in their organizations. Similarly, some participants discuss how an organization’s brand needs to be independent of a single leader. The participants identified significant rewards and risks associated with this close association with strong personalities. To that end, the brand should be able to stand alone beyond a single individual that leads the organization for a finite period of time. One way to do this is through diversifying spokespersons and ambassadors who speak to the organization’s mission and work.

Loyalists vs. New Audiences

More established organizations benefit from having developed a base of loyal supporters. However, they need to balance adapting their brand to appeal to new audiences with maintaining support among loyalists. Brand research is a key tool that organizations can apply to determine how they evolve without alienating longstanding audiences.

Brand Understanding among Donors

Financial support for an organization is not synonymous with brand understanding. Rather, participants believe it is important to communicate what the brand stands for to donors.

Outstanding Questions

Participants agreed about the need to be attentive to their brand, which raises new questions, including:

  • Given increased emphasis on transparency and how donors’ dollars are spent, how do organizations make the case for investing in brand and marketing efforts?
  • How do you control brand messaging when you are working with multiple stakeholders, grantees, and partners who often speak for you?
  • How do you create a robust brand framework that connects with loyalists and reaches new audiences?
  • How do the brands of foundations compare to those of the nonprofits that receive grants from them? Is it easier for their grantees to develop a stronger brand identity?
  • What corporate practices can help guide branding among nonprofits and foundations? What lessons can be learned about what not to do?

For questions, feedback, or to request a full copy of the report, contact Jason Tomassini at


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