Why Nonprofits Are Gaining Ground as Brands of the Future
We live in a world saturated with tweets, bots, flashing banner ads and social media notifications. Businesses are challenged on a daily basis to be more responsive, visible and tech savvy. Big brands often rise above the noise with hefty budgets and clever campaigns. Others have adopted the new standard of track, follow and push notifications, and more nimble ones cut through the digital clutter by creating content that’s engaging, inspiring and honest.
Chief Strategy Officer at Intersection, Dave Etherington, recently mentioned at a Fast Company Innovation Festival that, “consumers have lost trust in advertisers after the fake news debacle, revelations that as much as half of ad engagement comes from bots, and the growth in popularity of ad blockers.”
As brands strive to establish deeper connections with their audiences and struggle to maintain authenticity, one unexpected player is gaining ground with an inspiring mission, relevant content and brand resiliency, the not for profit entity of cause-driven organizations.
Nonprofits always have to work extra hard to attract and increase supporters, while trying to promote change and raise awareness about challenging issues, all with nearly nonexistent resources and barely visible marketing budgets. Often dependent on pro-bono creative services and lacking access to savvy brand managers and strategists, these humble brands have learned how to persevere, thrive and grow without the benefits of advertising.
We have entered an interesting time for brands – while many companies are trying to find the right balance between outdated corporate structures and equity, nonprofits are evolving as the brands who are addressing some of the most challenging questions our communities face today. Positioned to lead with authenticity, knowledge and empathy, these passionate organizations are finding their place and voice in the digital era by developing robust blogs, smart social media strategies and transforming their websites into interactive hubs for dialog and information as their main tools for marketing. As the advertising industry is trying to humanize for profit brands, many nonprofits are shifting perceptions and creating mutual benefit in the format of cross-sector initiatives and influential coalitions which have shaped their unique brand narratives, allowing them to innovate, leverage marketing spend and engage directly with their diverse audiences.
Some of the emerging trends led by the nonprofit world are a perfect example of the demand to humanize marketing: “With all the online opportunities we have available to us, it’s easy to think that technology is the only way, but the need for authenticity in 2017 also means a return to the basics and a focus on the humanistic aspect of being and running a nonprofit. For my organization, this back-to-basics approach is focused on creating a culture that is in touch with human emotions and is run by a skilled staff that is enthusiastic about what we are trying to do. Our focus will also involve personal contact with our donors, including in person and by phone, to make that human connection even stronger and more authentic.” – Dr. Gloria Horsley, Founder of Open to Hope Foundation.
Over the last century, the nonprofit industry has established itself not only as a model for change but also as an example for self-reliance. Their ability to grow and succeed with small media budgets and limited access to advertising can be used as a new standard for brand authenticity. The ability to drive progress, activate people who are ready to challenge the status quo, disrupt and unite disparate interests into communities who care about important issues like clean energy, transportation, education, race and gender equity, gives nonprofit brands an advantage as the next generation of consumers seek deeper connections and more meaningful experiences.
As our world becomes more technology dependent and affected by disparities, politics and market shifts, the nonprofit industry is innovating and gaining prominence as a key business partner by staying community focused, bringing people together to solve complex issues. By embracing the power of storytelling, creating valuable content and mobilizing their efforts behind social media, small and big nonprofits are transforming their business status from traditional charities into successful modern brands whose long-term ROI can not only be measured by KPIs but also by real human and community impact. Diversifying their resources, enhancing their websites’ capabilities, optimizing their digital presence and focusing on creating rich, engaging content, positions these pioneering brands as the marketing leaders of tomorrow.
In a world where louder is no longer more relevant and bigger is nearly never more authentic, nonprofit brands are becoming more attractive to those who are looking for impact investments and long-term, sustainable relationships. By thriving in an almost ad-free environment away from CPC’s and banner ads, nonprofits have quietly endured the limited access to the digital media boom and taken front row in the content marketing revolution. Connecting directly to the right audience at the right time with the right message, proves that having the most creative campaign or biggest media budget no longer defines a path to success in the eyes and hearts of its customers.
As people demand more transparency from the brands they interact with, nonprofits can finally embrace the modesty of their character, leverage the innovation behind their collaborative models and promote the power of equitable communities – all done by relying on marketing strategies that are rooted in “we” rather than “me”. The resiliency of their models combined with the power of their messages, positions nonprofits as some of the most authentic brands who know how to increase value, manage relevancy and grow outreach untouched by bots, clicks and media manipulation.