Smiling Donors Talking about their favorite nonprofit

This is the fifth in our series using our workbook Developing Your Nonprofit Brand. We’ll be posting a new blog every 2 weeks. Download it and follow along with the exercises. By early 2020, you’ll be on your way to having more impact in the new year.

Missed a post? Start here.


Review: What is a Brand Audit?

It’s simply an assessment of where you are now. The audit uncovers your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The audit is critical to determine your differentiation and positioning, which is the essence of branding. Your discoveries will help you plan corrective actions and strategies.

There are 4 parts to a brand audit:

  1. communications,
  2. activities,
  3. competitors and
  4. stakeholder interviews.

Important reminder: Keep an open mind during the discovery process, as you may come across findings that are completely different than what you expect.  

Last But Not Least: Brand Interviews!

In the workbook, turn to page 11: “Audit Your Brand, Part 4: Brand Interviews.”

Interviewing your stakeholders is the last step in your brand audit. But it is a vital one. Most organizations have lots of different stakeholders who influence their brand in specific ways. The purpose of the interviews is to gain an assessment that will help you stay on track.

Timing is Important Too

Holding the interviews after your communications, activities and competitor audits is key because it’s likely those audits brought up new ideas or insights. So you’ll want to chat with your interviewees about what you learned.

Our exercise isn’t a quantitative survey; rather it’s an in-depth report of impressions from a handful of carefully chosen stakeholders.

The results from the interviews will also be very useful and will add value to your overall communications strategy. For example, when you’re developing donor messaging, or thinking about refreshing your brand or simply gathering insights to ensure you’re communicating effectively; you’ll have the research to inform your decisions. However, sometimes the results can highlight more significant issues that need to be addressed, like a lack of name recognition or confusion about your mission. 

Keep it Simple

This part of the audit could be a major undertaking if you decide to conduct focus groups or interview more than 15 people. My advice is to keep it simple by doing one-on-one phone or in-person interviews. You’ll avoid  “group think” and the expense of a focus group facilitator. Finally, you’ll have the chance to make a deeper connection with your supporters.

To begin, make a list of objectives and a list of specific things that you want to find out. Craft your questions so they are specific for each group. Talk to 2–3 people from each of your stakeholder groups including: donors, volunteers, staff, board members and clients. Your goal is to find out what people think and feel about you. Conduct the interviews, record them and have them transcribed. There are lots of inexpensive apps that can help with notekeeping.

Lastly, document answers on a spreadsheet with the questions along the vertical column with the name of stakeholders across the top. Then you can easily compare the answers and find trends easily.

Conduct the interviews once a year as a way to gauge the effectiveness of your mission, your programs and your goals.

Questions to Ask

We have some starter questions listed in our workbook on page 11, but here are a few more:

  • What is your role in our organization?
  • How did you become interested in our organization?
  • How long have you been involved?
  • Using only adjectives describe our organization.
  • What is unique about our organization? 
  • As a donor, volunteer, client, etc, what do you care about most?
  • Who is our primary audience? Why?
  • What do you call our organization?
  • What is your impression of our brand? Is it memorable?
  • Who are our competitors? What do they do well?
  • Who are our collaborators and partners? How can we better leverage this relationship?
  • How can we meet your needs as a donor, volunteer, client, etc?

After you conduct the interviews and document them, it’ll be time to put all of your audit discoveries together into one simple document. Next up in our series “Outcomes from the Brand Audit.”