Authenticity and Nonprofits | 5IVE | Minneapolis, MN

Why Nonprofits Are Gaining Ground as Brands of the Future

Written by Boriana Strzok

We live in a world saturated with tweets, bots, banner ads and social media notifications. Businesses are challenged to be responsive, more visible and tech savvy. Big brands often rise above the noise with hefty budgets. Others have adopted the new standard of track, follow and push notifications, and more strategic brands have learned how to cut through the sea of digital clutter by creating content that is engaging, inspiring and honest. As brands strive to establish deeper connections with their audiences and maintain authenticity, one unexpected player is gaining ground – the not for profit entity of cause-driven organizations.

Everybody in the nonprofit industry knows how hard it is to attract and increase supporters, while trying to raise awareness about challenging issues 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, nonprofit brands have learned how to persevere, thrive and grow without the benefits of advertising.

While some companies are trying to find the right balance between outdated corporate structures and social responsibility, nonprofits are taking the lead as equitable brands who are addressing the most challenging questions our communities face today. Authentic, knowledgeable and full of empathy, these passionate organizations are securing their place 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 commercial brands, many nonprofits are already shifting perceptions by collaborating in cross-sector initiatives and influential coalitions which shape their unique brand narratives, allowing them to innovate, leverage marketing spend and engage directly with their diverse audiences without the need to constantly advertise.

5IVE | Embracing the Interactive Nature of Philanthropy | OneMpls

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.” – Dr. Gloria Horsley, Founder of Open to Hope Foundation.

Over the last century, the nonprofit industry has established itself not only as an agent 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 assigned to their uncompromised standard for brand authenticity. Their 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, 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 gaining prominence as a key business partner and real game changer. By embracing the power of online storytelling, creating relevant content, optimizing their social media platforms and engagement strategies, nonprofits are transforming their status from modest charities into successful modern brands whose long-term ROI can not only be measured by KPIs but also by real human and community impact. By enhancing their websites’ capabilities, optimizing their digital presence and focusing on developing engaging content that resonates with their audiences, positions nonprofit brands as the marketing leaders of tomorrow.

Top Lead Generation Strategies Graph

Image credit: Top Digital Marketing Trends for Nonprofits: Based on Industry Reports

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 with 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 the path to success in the eyes and hearts of consumers.

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 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 continue to examine and define the path to more 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, brands who are fully capable of increasing value, managing relevancy and growing outreach untouched by bots, clicks or media manipulation.