This is the third 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.  

Let’s Get to Work

In the workbook, turn to page 8: “Audit Your Brand, Part 2: Brand Activities.”

The next step is to audit your brand activities: Are your programs, fundraising events, partnerships, and sponsorships “on brand”? Activities are “on brand” when they inspire people to say the right things about your organization. Their impressions then reinforce the purpose of your organization. An activity or partnership is “off brand” when it doesn’t match how people feel about your organization or is outside the scope of your mission.

First, let’s look at some examples of branding activities:

Mini Case Study: YMCA of SF & Marin

This is the “programs” web page of the YWCA of SF & Marin. Their mission is to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. The programs on this page clearly support that mission. They would be considered “on brand.”

Mini Case Study: Child Advocates of Silicon Valley

Below is the homepage for the Child Advocates of Silicon Valley. They are a regional group that is part of a national child advocates network. They pair children in the foster care system with court appointed volunteers. A quick review of this page shows they actively recruit both English and Spanish speakers which suggests they support inclusion. 

Next is an invitation to their gala fundraiser called “Wine, Women and Shoes.” What do you think about the theme of this event? Does it support or detract from the Child Advocates’ mission to provide mentors to foster kids?

If you look at this event from a branding perspective and not a fundraising one, it’s hard to see how this party theme aligns with their mission. However, we know you have to appeal to both donors and clients so there’s a delicate balance to uphold. This event may be “on brand” if their donors feel that it is. 

You Be the Judge: Scoring Your Activities

In the workbook, use the table on page 8 to list all of your events, activities, programs, partnerships and sponsorships. Score them 1–10 (with 1 being the weakest and 10 being the strongest reinforcer of brand). Do your best to put on your brand manager hat and take off your program manager or fundraiser hat. Rate these activities and partnerships according to how they reinforce the perception of your brand. 

    When an Activity is Off Brand

    Mini Case Study: Susan G. Komen for the Cure and KFC

    Here is an example of a partnership from 2010. Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Kentucky Fried Chicken partnered in this campaign that netted the organization a $4.2 million donation. Although the sponsorship raised a lot of money—does high-calorie, fried chicken align with their mission to end breast cancer forever? Their critics said no, so this activity might be rated a zero or a one. However, some said it’s not that simple.

    To better understand the Komen/KFC campaign and get a history lesson in “pinkwashing” read this article by Amy Westerfelt, “The Pinkwashing Debate: Empty Criticism or Serious Liability?

     You Don’t Have to Walk Away

     The whole point of this scoring exercise is to ask hard questions about what you’re doing so you can improve your brand over time. It doesn’t mean that you have to immediately walk away from events and activities that are mostly working for your donors and clients. It does mean that when planning future activities you’ll be aware of how they should align with your brand.

     Stay tuned for the next post on Auditing Your Competitors.