Drive More Donations—5 Tips for Foundation Branding

Ron Zywicki, DJG’s managing director, recently spoke to attendees of AFG’s 2020 EDGE Virtual Conference on foundation branding and how foundations and/or funds can leverage their parent’s association brand, yet maintain their brand independence—here is what attendees learned …
Posted: 3 years ago

More likely than not, associations have a foundation or funds to which members and other donors can give in order to support that association’s mission. Members of the Association Foundation Group (AFG) are the fundraising experts responsible for running association foundations or funds and driving giving. Ron Zywicki, DJG‘s managing director, recently spoke to attendees of AFG’s EDGE Virtual Conference about foundation branding and how foundations and/or funds can leverage their parent’s association brand, yet maintain their brand independence.

Ron delivered the following five key takeaways as well as presented research DJG conducted among DJG client members regarding foundation/fund awareness and the impact on giving.

Foundation Branding Key Takeaways

  1. Brand influences giving
  2. Communicate how you put donations to work
  3. Take advantage of your association’s brand … but don’t be overshadowed
  4. Evaluate your name, look and message
  5. Market yourself

Recorded Presentation

Presentation Slides

Presentation Transcript

Natalie Zundel:
My name is Natalie Zundel, I’m a past president and past board member for AFG and I’m delighted to be moderating today’s session, Maintaining Your Brand Independence, presented by Ron Zywicki, managing director and partner at the David James Group. If you are an AFG member, probably very familiar with Ron and the David James Group, as they are AFG’s monthly continuing education, our dialed in series webinar sponsor and they are frequent presenters.

Additionally, they’ve been very generous and signed on as a silver sponsor of the AFG Edge Conference. I also want to call your attention to our sponsors and supporters who make the conference possible. Please visit our sponsor websites to learn more about their products and services. These include CCS Fundraising, David James Group, The Sheridan Group, Consultants in Association Philanthropy, RBW Strategy, DonorSearch, Aspen Leadership Group, AFG Board of Directors, Planlt World Consulting, Raise Well Consulting and Windmill Hill Consulting. These generous sponsors have made the conference possible today with their partnership. During today’s session, please put your questions into the chatbox, I will be collecting all the questions and posing them to our speaker during the Q&A at the close of the session. It’s my privilege to tell you a little bit more about our presenter today, Ron. He is a former copywriter and creative director. Ron has spent his career helping for-profit and nonprofit organizations build their brands. He has led numerous brand messaging and projects and written a myriad of taglines and product service event names and worked with talented teams of designers and account pros on dozens of strategic branding and rebranding programs.

In his current role as managing director of the David James Group, he’s leading a strategic initiative to expand their ability to serve associations and other nonprofits. He is a graduate of Michigan State University, we won’t hold that against him since I graduated from the University of Michigan, College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Ron began his career at Leo Burnett in Chicago. And I will turn it over to you now, Ron and helm the chatbox.

Ron Zywicki:
Thank you Natalie, and go green. Just got to say that. Thank you to AFG for this opportunity and to all of you for joining today. I’m excited to present this topic, it’s one we’re passionate about, the David James Group and I think our goal is to provide some information and some good tips and tricks for you guys to take away and be able to apply to your own unique foundation branding needs. The goal of today’s presentation is really to discuss how you can establish a distinct but related brand to your parent association. And we’re going to talk about why it’s important that there is a relationship. So, what we’re going to cover today, we’re going to start with a quick poll in just a minute, then we’re going to discuss what a brand is, at least from our point of view what we consider brand. It’s just a few slides to give a foundation to this presentation. Then we’re going to talk about brand image and charitable giving. We’ve done a bunch of research on the relationship between brand and giving and we’re going to present that information today.

Next, we’ll talk about how to employ your brand umbrella and the types of things you can do and some great examples, we’ll end with quick poll results and of course open up for questions. So let’s start with our quick poll Jackie, I’m going to go ahead and put this up. So, if you could go ahead and… Thank you. Submit your answers to that throughout this presentation and at the end, we will come back and come back to that. Okay. So, as you’re wrapping up your quick poll submissions, let’s go ahead and get going. So, let’s talk about what a brand is. And let’s just say right off the bat, a brand is more than just a logo. A brand is… It’s a promise, it’s the promise that your brand makes to your audience, to your donors. It is your identity, it’s the look and feel of who you are. And that’s not just your logo, but it’s all the physical attributes that your prospective donors and members interact with. And last, it’s a set of attributes or characteristics. Things such as dynamic, your brand is trustworthy, it’s steady, it’s exciting. Those are different attributes.

So we’re going to talk a little bit more about that. When people interact with brands that reflect their own person, oftentimes selecting a brand at least from a consumer standpoint is something that… It says something about who that person is and you can see in this example, people choose an iPhone maybe not because it’s technically better than a Samsung, but because they like what that phone says about who they are. So, think about that too from your brand perspective. What does your foundation say about those to whom you serve and those who donate to you and into your larger association? There is definitely a relationship there between your donors, your brand and the sector in which you operate. So, that’s just a little bit about brand. Let’s get into branding and nonprofits and explore specifically how brands affect nonprofits. And here we’re saying nonprofit of course, we’re primarily focused on foundations and also funds that are set up by an association for charitable giving. We’re considering that all as a nonprofit in this case.

SlideWe’re going to start with a research article that appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. This was about eight years ago. And prior to this research that was done by the authors, for decades, nonprofit executives believed that increased visibility, favorable position in relation to competitors… And yes, you do have competitors as a foundation brand. And recognition among target audiences would translate into funding success. So there was a thought that a brand is tied financially or tied to your financial success. And that was the end of the discussion. “We got a good brand, that will help us raise money.” And that is true, but it’s become more as the research showed. What they found is a new paradigm that suggests that at every step in an organization strategy, a strong brand is increasingly seen as critical and helping to build operational capacity, galvanize support and maintain focus of the social mission. A brand is more than just that logo. Again, it’s it becomes core to the being of your nonprofit.

“The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector”, Nathalie Kylander & Christopher Stone, “Stanford Social Innovation Review”, Spring 2012

The researchers then went on to explore the concept of a brand cycle, this model that they put forth and you can see in this graphic what it is, is that brand is nested within the organizational strategy of your organization, which then is in turn nested within the mission and values of your organization. This can pertain to your foundation, but it also relates to your parent association. So, literally at the center of your mission values, your strategy for your organization is the role of your brand. And when it’s performed well when your brand is clicking, it’s linked together in a virtual cycle, it continues to feed the success of your organization. And furthermore, they show that a well-aligned identity and image of your brand positions the organization for internal cohesion as well as strength with external constituents. So, it really impacts your ability to perform within the four walls of your organization. Well, these days four walls are gone. Right? Or to your external audience. Brand is that link between you, your stakeholders, your employees, your members, your donors, and anyone else that is involved with your brand.

A quote in the article by Diane Fusilli, the former communications director of the Rockefeller Foundation, I think really sums up nicely what this article suggests. And that is, “A strong brand helps bring greater credibility and trust to a project quicker and acts as a catalyst for people to want to come to the table.” It seems obvious, but a good strong brand is that magnet that brings your donors to the table and makes them want to interact with you. Now, let’s move into a couple of research articles that look at the relationship between brand and brand image and that decision to donate because at the end of the day, what we really want to drive is donation primarily in this case of monetary gifts, but it can also impact the decision to volunteer and donate time. In this first article that appeared in the Journal of Business Research, the research has examined the influence of nonprofit brand image and typicality, which I’ll explain in a moment, on giving behavior. So, they were looking at how does brand image and typicality influence the decision to donate? And let’s start with brand image in this equation.

The researchers identified 37 different concepts that they tied to brand image for a nonprofit specifically. Concepts such as dynamic or that a brand’s engaging or efficient, it communicates well, it defends a worthy cause. These different attributes. There were 37 of them that they assigned to the overall nonprofit brand… That a nonprofit brand could exhibit I should say. So they looked at brand image. They also looked at typicality, which is an indicator of the degree to which a brand is associated within its market category. It really comes down to the concept of what I see fits my perception of what should be in this sector, in this category. High typicality for nonprofits means that individuals perceive the nonprofit organization as representative of the sector. So, they build that relationship. And the more typical the organization is in its mission category, the higher the giving intentions for that organization will be. So again, they looked at brand image and typicality. And what that led to, was a creation of a scale to measure the impact of brand image and typicality on charitable giving, particularly donor intentions. I mentioned the 37 different attributes earlier.

What the researchers did, they re-categorized that down to four dimensions of nonprofit brand image. And in this new scale, what they came up with was the concept of usefulness which means how useful, how indispensable, how civic-minded is that nonprofit organization? Efficiency. How efficient is the organization? Is it serious? Is it well run? Effect. What does the effect of the nonprofit have on its donors? Is it generous, is it warm, friendly, engaging? And lastly, dynamism. How modern, how innovative is the brand image perceived to be of that organization? So they looked at these four dimensions of nonprofit brand image and they measured these. And then they also measured the concept and the impact of typicality. And this is all again driven to decide how it impacts the decision to donate. What their research showed, is that when it comes to the decision to donate money in general, the perception of the efficiency of that organization is the leading driver in the decision to donate. In fact, it’s twice as important as a perceived brand effect, how does it make me feel? Or even three times important is how modern or innovative a nonprofit is perceived.

“Nonprofit brand image and typicality influences on charitable giving”, Géraldine Michel & Sophie Rieunier, “Journal of Business Research”, May 2012

So, efficiency is the leading driver in terms of brand image on the decision to donate according to the research done by these authors. And of course, they also looked at the typicality of that brand in its space. How well does it fit the mind of the perceived donor? Ultimately, what the study discovered is that when it comes to brand image and its impact on the decision to donate, it can influence up to 31% of the intention to give money. And then the concept of typicality or fit in the sector influences the decision by up to 29%. So in both cases, up to a third of the decision that’s made on behalf of the donor to give money is affected by brand image and its fit in the sector in which it operates. So, you can see a clear relationship between brand image and the decision to donate. It’s not the only decision, but it’s a leading decision. So, what does this mean to you? A takeaway from this particular research is, the more efficient your brand is perceived as being, the more donations you can drive.

What this means is when you’re communicating about your brand or about your foundation, share how you use its resources. How many research projects does your foundation fund? How many scholarships does it award? Whatever it is that you’re using your funds for and however you’re using them, share the information on how they are being used. Show how well run it is, show what percentage of funds go to donations versus operations. And that’s really important in the mind of the donor when it comes to giving their hard-earned resources. They want to make sure that they’re putting their money in a good place. The other thing they looked at and we talked about was the typicality concept. The higher your donors associate your foundation with the sector in which you operate, the better. Now, this is great news for association foundations because you guys have a built-in typicality benefit, because your cause, the ask that you’re making is already tied to the sector in which your donors operate and see the relationship and the benefit there. So that’s great news, you already have an advantage from a donation standpoint.

Finally, we looked at one other piece of information, a 2019 research article that again appeared in the Journal of Business Research and that was exploring the concept of donation to a nonprofit organization and value congruence. Simply put, what it showed is that a specific nonprofit or organization is more likely to receive a donation from a donor if the values profile of that nonprofit organization is congruent with the value profile of the donor. Your values equal my values, I’m going to give you money. Again, it seems obvious, but that research showed that there indeed is a relationship. And again, association foundations you have the benefit here because there is already a strong relationship between the donor because they’re likely a member of your association in your organization and the value profile that they hold dear at least from a professional standpoint in general and that of your foundation. So the congruence there is strong. So, that again helps you from a foundation branding standpoint. After we were invited to speak today, we decided to conduct research among the members of two clients of ours regarding their foundation and their fund awareness.

We went out to them and said, “Hey, do you mind if we survey your members?” And they graciously agreed and we ended up with a survey with input from 113 individuals from… One was a diversity society that’s focused on women in engineering and the other is a medical society that’s in the cancer surgery space. So, between the two organizations, we received 113 responses. That’s not a huge amount, it’s not necessarily scientifically accurate here, but we think the information we’re about to share with you is definitely relevant to you and is applicable to your audience. In fact, if you’re interested, we’d be happy to share the survey with you on an individual basis and sharing it with your members if you’d like to learn more. It was definitely eye-opening, so let’s take a look at those results. So the first question we asked is, are you aware that your association has a foundation or funds to which you can donate that are designed to fund activities important to the overall mission of your organization? So we just asked that right off the bat.

And what we found among these two organizations is that about two-thirds of those surveyed weren’t even aware that the foundation or the funds exist. I gather that may not be a surprise to you, it’s a bummer but it’s also an opportunity because it shows us a great opportunity to build awareness of your brand and fund. And that leads to further donations as I’m about to explain. So, of those that were aware of the foundation or funds, we then asked if they donated to the foundation or the funds. And about 54% indeed did donate. So, about 50% or so gave money to the foundations or to the funds that are associated with their association. We then asked those people that donated money, “How important to you was understanding the foundation or funds purpose in your decision to donate? What was the relationship between the purpose of your fund and your decision to donate?” And this is pretty cool, what we found is that about 90% indicated that their understanding of the purpose of the foundation funds was very important in their decision to donate. Later, we’re going to talk about messaging and how to evaluate that.

But you can see here, telling that story is critical in the decision to donate among the minds of your potential donors. We asked those who were aware of the funds but did not donate, if they felt a more compelling story would positively impact their decision to donate and about 78% surveyed did say that, “Yes, a more compelling story would positively impact my decision to donate. You can see about 52% said maybe, so it’s not guaranteed. But still, it’s better than not saying anything. So people are hungry to learn more about your funds and your foundation. So, let’s talk about those who were not aware of the fund. The first question we asked is, “How before we sent the survey you were not aware of this? How important is it to you to learn more about your association’s fund?” And what we’ve found is that, again, nearly 90% said it was very important to them to learn more about their funds and their giving opportunities with their association or their foundation. And 76% said it was important to them that they understand the purpose of those funds and how they impact the overall mission.

DJG Client Foundation/Fund Awareness Survey

So again, people are having hungry to know more about your fund and your foundation. Great news for you as the operators have your foundations. And then the last question that we asked to those who were not aware of the fund, we said, “Now that you’re aware and assuming you learn more about the foundation of the fund, how important or how likely would you be to donate?” And the answer here is that approximately 80% of those who said they were not aware of the fund would be somewhat to very likely to donate if they learned more about your fun and its purpose as it relates to their overall mission. So, increased awareness equals increased donation. Great news for our foundation prospects and members. Okay. Now, what do we say how brand image… We went to the research. Definitely in packs the decision to give. Brand matters. So, I think we’ve laid out an argument for why it’s important to do branding from a financial and data-driven standpoint.

So, now let’s talk about your brand. So when it comes to your foundation brand as it fits into your parent association, you do need to make the brand about you. But because your donators and supporters support the sector in which your parent association operates, that typicality concept we’ve talked about earlier, you still want to be associated with the overall association brand. We looked at it as like, think of it as fraternal twins. There’s an obvious similarity between your parent and your foundation, but there’s enough difference to tell you apart. So, due to the concept of typicality and the research that we went through earlier, we do encourage you to leverage and embrace the halo effect of your parent association. Think of it as a brand umbrella strategy where your associations brand enhances the marketability of your foundation. It creates a brand shorthand. A good example of brand umbrella, the brand umbrella strategy is Google.

Google is the main brand we all know, but its umbrella. Its brand umbrella also covers its sub-products such as Google Drive, Gmail, Google Sheets, et cetera. As you look at those different products, you see the relationship in the brand umbrella strategy. We encourage the same approach. That doesn’t mean you can’t be independent, but you can benefit from the perception of your parent’s association and the relationship your donors have to it. So, you don’t want to be overshadowed by your brand but you do want to take advantage of that brand umbrella. So, how do we do that? Well, today we’re going to explore three key components of your brand. That’s your name, your look, and your message. First, we’re going to look at a couple of examples in each category of what we think is effective and then we’re going to talk to you about the approach you can take to evaluate and potentially change components of your brand. Okay. Start with the name. A good foundation name communicates your foundation’s value proposition. It tells the reader right away why it exists.

SlideIn this first example, we’re featuring the Obesity Treatment Foundation, which is the foundation tied to the Obesity Medicine Association. They didn’t go with the LMA Foundation, they went with the Obesity Treatment Foundation. And right away you know without a doubt why this foundation exists to treat obesity. Another example We’ve discovered of a strong brand name or a strong foundation name is the Water Quality Research Association, which is the foundation for the Water Quality Association or the WQA. Again, right in their name, Water Quality Research Foundation. So, without any need to explain further, you know immediately that the funds and the monies to which you give to this foundation are going to be used in some way to impact water quality research. So those are a couple of great examples of some strong foundation names from a brand perspective. And again, we’re going to talk more about how to address that in a moment here. So let’s look at look. In terms of an example of a foundation look, there’s always a visual connection between the foundation and its parent, but there’s still a bit of a difference.

Let’s revisit the Obesity Treatment Foundation we just discussed momentarily ago. In this case, you can see that the OTF Foundation has a clear relationship to its parent organization, OMA, through the use of color, the use of typography, and even through the use of the logo mark. There’s elements that were borrowed from the OMA’s overall brand look and adapted to the OTF. So, there’s a relationship, but the Obesity Treatment Foundation still has his own look and feel. So, that’s one example of a strong look. In this next example, it’s from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry or the AAPD. And in the case of the AAPD Foundation, the look is different. However, you can still see that they leverage color to build a relationship between the foundation and its parent organization. But they also use typography. When you look at the foundation’s typography compared to AAPD, there’s still a relationship, they’re both sans-serif. And what these guys do that’s even more interesting is they actually build a relationship between their approach in the tagline.

For the overall parent, the tagline is the big authority on little teeth, for the foundation, their tagline is “big love for little teeth.” So, I think that’s a really clever use of tagline to build a relationship between a foundation but yet have a unique look. And the last example is in the area of messaging. Effective messaging for a foundation, it tells your story but it relates your story to the larger mission of your parent organization. In this case for the IPC Education Foundation, which is the foundation of IPC, the leading electronics manufacturing trade association. We work with IPC to lay out their brand messaging, which includes their brand attributes, the key messaging of the brand or brand position statement. It’s all laid out in an effective, cohesive, and concise document that is shared within the foundation and within other stakeholders to literally put everybody on the same page.

SlideAnd when you look at the message and if you compare it to the overall mission of IPC, you can see that the IPC Education Foundation has done an effective job of communicating what their foundation does and how it serves the overall mission of IPC. So, that’s one example of effective foundation branding. This final example is from the Wikimedia Foundation, which is the foundation for, took a little license here, not necessarily an association, but I think it’s still an example of a good strong messaging strategy. And what the foundation here has done is they’ve bucketed their messaging into three key areas, research, advocacy, and technology. So, when you go to the Wikimedia Foundation’s website, you can find this messaging on three separate pages, and on each page, they explain their approach to a particular topic, whether it’s advocacy, research, or technology and then they tie it back to the overall mission of Wikimedia. So, they do a really nice job of saying why our foundation is important and why giving to this foundation, in the end, supports the overall goals of the mission.

So it’s a very effective use of foundation branding messaging and it’s a very public-facing use of messaging. Okay. So, we’ve looked at some effective brand examples, now let’s talk about how you can make change for your brand. We’ll start with naming. In our view, there’s really two main ways to approach The impact of the name on your brand. The first approach is you could consider changing your name to something different that better defines your foundation’s reason for being. However, on our patent to difficulties dale here, we would rate changing your organization’s foundation name as pretty darn high. And that’s because you know there’s going to be legal implications and considerations, there’s probably going to be resistance among stakeholders, there’s brand equity, changing your foundation name is not easy. And unless there are really strong extenuating circumstances, it’s probably not going to be your first route to evaluating how your brand name can be changed or addressed. Obviously, if you’re starting a new foundation, you’ve got a leg up here. So, let’s say you’re not going to change at what do you do.

SlideWell, your second option is to explain the brand name. And from a difficulty standpoint, that’s fairly easy to do. You’re not changing the name of the foundation, so there’s no legal issues you have to consider. But you are finding a way to explain the name in a public and visual way that is easy to use throughout your marketing materials. And I just love this example by the Association for Research and Vision in Ophthalmology, the ARVO Foundation. The actual name of the foundation if you go to their website, their legal name is the ARVO Foundation. But what they’ve cleverly done is they just simply added for eye research in their logo lock-up. And they use that messaging on their website as well. So, they didn’t change the name but they write in the lock-up of their logo, they just explain what they are. So I think this is a great thing to consider if you need to change your name. And a lot of foundations do have the acronym plus the word foundation put together and it’s just the way it is. But here’s one technique you can use to address that.

And you can consider doing that right now, probably with little barriers to doing that. Another option is if you can’t change the name or you’re not interested in adding an explanation to the name in the lock-up as we showed previously, there’s two other things you could do. First, you could consider creating a tagline which is a creative, memorable distillation of your brand promise, it’s a slogan. Or you could go with a more straightforward descriptor that issues a creative approach to just give me the facts. So, those are two different opportunities to further explain what your foundation is about. So as an example, here’s a great tagline that we found for the Regenerative Agricultural Foundation. And their tagline is seeding the evolution of agriculture. So, it’s got a little creativity to it, but it also explains. Okay, the funds that I’m giving to this foundation are using to seed the future of regenerative agriculture. So, it’s a clever tagline that explains it. So when you lock that up with their foundation name or the RAF, you know what they’re about.

In terms of a descriptor, the Society of Interventional Radiology or SIR, their foundation’s descriptor, simply advancing interventional radiology through research. Certainly not a zinger of a tagline, but it explains and there’s no guesswork about the what it is that that foundation is about. Okay. Next, we’re going to move on to your look. There’s again a couple ways you can address the visual identity of your brand. The first option is a complete revolution, you just blow that sucker up and you start afresh. On a difficulty schedule or scale, we write that as still highly difficult, maybe not as difficult as a name change, because there’s some less legal things you have to consider. But it’s still a lot of work, there’s still going to be brand equity probably in your current logo, there may be a long-standing relationship to the brand, a sense of tradition, that leads to resistance to change among your stakeholders. So, if you can’t blow the thing up, maybe the better approach is an evolution approach.

And that’s where you update the logo by looking and updating the typography, you could update the colors or expand on them, maybe introduce some new ones or find a way to tie it to your associations overall brand and even look at the logo mark and the objects used within your current logo and you evolve it. On a difficulty schedule, that’s probably more around a medium, because you’re not completely changing the logo, but it still takes some work to do. And in our experience, brand evolution tends to be the way to go and is genuinely welcomed by our clients’ members, particularly if there was a strong brand education campaign that laid the groundwork for the update. So, brand evolution is usually a great way to go to give you a new look without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If you do decide to update or evolve your brand, we do make three recommendations. First, we recommend that you hire an outside brand expert.

Even if you have access to an internal designer or a design team, it’s good to consider going outside because it brings a fresh perspective, it brings foundation branding experience, which is critical to the process. And it can be done with a branding firm or an individual based upon your budget. So, we do recommend you hire outside. Next, enquire. That is gather input from your donors, your board members, and other stakeholders throughout the process that’s going to help shape your approach to your rebrand or your brand evolution whatever approach you take and it’s going to help promote buying in the end. So, hire, enquire and the last thing we love to do is coach our clients to inspire. And that means simply recruit strong advocates from among either your board or another representative of your audience. It helps sell the other stakeholders on your approach in any changes. That advocate should be a peer of your stakeholders. So it should be another member. If it’s a medical society, it’s another doctor, because there’s a respect there that is inherent in the relationship. And they really can make that authentic case for change.

SlideSo you’re going to approach a new look, hire, enquire and inspire. Three things to take away on this. Let’s finally talk about brand messaging. And messaging includes brand attributes, key messages, a brand position statement, which is just the foundation of your brand communications, and then an elevator pitch which is that short, memorable device you can use to explain your reason for being. In terms of all the things we’ve looked at today, approaching your brand messaging is probably the easiest thing to address and change. It’s a lower barrier to entry, it requires minimal layers of approval in general and it’s relatively inexpensive and yet it has a big effect on your brand and ultimately, your ability to increase donation. There’s a couple of ways you can do this. One example is to go through a brand workshop with a branding expert. We do this with our clients and we run through what we call our brand distillation funnel, we sit around in a room or these days around a virtual room and we go through the six different components.

We can look at what are the emotional benefits of your brand as you see them, what are your brand values, et cetera. We gather a bunch of information, we conduct surveys, we take all that data and ultimately distill it down into some key messages in the brand position. It’s a great process, we highly encourage it and we’ve done it dozens of times and had a lot of success with our clients. Now, another maybe easier approach to do is look at some other exercises that are out there and available in the world. And one that we’ve discovered recently, is this neat thing called Brand Deck. It’s like Cards Against Humanity, but maybe a little bit more appropriate for this approach. And what it is, it’s literally a deck of cards and it includes a stack of predetermined brand attributes and then there’s these four classifications you can decide on. There is this attribute, is it who you are, who you are not? Does it apply? Are you just not sure? And you can use this as a tool to organize and drill down to what your ultimate attributes are.

SlideIt’s inexpensive, it’s 25 bucks and it’s fun. And if you’re interested, you can purchase it at DJG has no relationship to this, we get no money from them, we just think it’s a fun tool and recommend it. So we’ve talked about name, look, and message. Those are the key components of evaluating your brand and changing how it impacts the decision to donate. There’s one other area that seems obvious, but it’s important to communicate it hear. And that is simply you have to market yourself. You do all this work to evaluate your look, your message, your name, whatever it might be, you still have to tell people. You still have to market yourself. So, we encourage you as representatives of the association foundation, to develop your own marketing strategy and then execute against it and make it work for you. I think a lot of times that we’ve talked to foundation representatives in the past and sometimes you guys get sucked up into the mothership. And that happens, but be your own advocate. Develop your own marketing plan.

If you have the wherewithal to work with a marketing agency or a marketing coordinator, by all means, take advantage of that, build your brand, do your own emails, it doesn’t mean you can’t include your messaging in association emails, but do your own marketing as well. Build that brand, be unique, be relatable, and be yourself. All right. So, we’ve got through the meat of the presentation, I hope you learned some great things, we’ll recap some takeaways in a minute. But before we do that, Jackie, if you wouldn’t mind, if you could share the results of the first quick poll. We asked, “Do you feel your foundation has a unique, distinct brand as it relates to your parent organization?” And we do see that about 80% of you do feel that you already have that unique brand. That’s great. So, you’re already ahead of the curve. And when you think about the relationship between brand and donation, you can see that this is going to work well for you. But for those who are still looking to increase your distinction and uniqueness, think about what we presented here today.

And even if you still feel this way, we encourage you to go back and look at those components. Your name, your messaging, and your look to see if indeed there are some areas that you could maybe tweak to even walk away a little bit further. So thanks for submitting your input on that. We also decided we’re going to throw a pop quiz at you. Okay. So, Jackie is going to pop up a quiz here in a moment and what we’d love to do is explore of other three ways we covered to impact your brand, name, look, and message, what would you address first? We’re going to give you 15 seconds to go ahead and put that input in there. Drew we need some… Drew’s my colleague here. We need some music or something. It’s too late, we only have four seconds here. All right. So thank you for submitting that. Let’s see what the results are Jackie.

Okay. It looks like 21% of you would look at changing or addressing your name. No one’s looking at your look, that’s interesting.
70% of you look like you will evaluate your messaging. Makes sense as we said. It’s a great place to start something you can do internally or externally. And then about 7% of you said all of the above, which is good news and we certainly hope that some of the things you’ve learned here today will help you in your approach. So, let’s wrap up here. Let’s look at the foundation branding takeaways. Again, I think we’ve established that there is data that shows brand influences giving. We also encourage you to communicate. If you’re not doing it, definitely do it or do it better or do it more of how you put your donations to work. Just tell people. Don’t be afraid to beat your chest. Do take advantage of your associations brand because there’s a good relationship there, but don’t be overshadowed by it. Be the same, yet a little bit different. Take some time and look at your name, your look, and your message and evaluate it and consider where you may make some adjustments and tweaks. Definitely, market yourself. Again, different degrees of what that means, but get out there and get your name across.

There’s one more takeaway that we’re going to give you guys today. And that’s literally a takeaway. One of you lucky attendees is going to get a free branding deck. We’re going to do a random selection from those who attended today and pick a winner and we’ll coordinate with our friends at the AFG Foundation to get you that deck. So, that’s fun. So, that wraps up my presentation today. So at this point, I’d love to open up for questions. Natalie, I’m sure you’ve got some to throw my way. So…

Natalie Zundel:
We have some already. So, the first one goes back to the great statistics you were sharing about awareness of association foundations and was that done prior to the coronavirus or during?

Ron Zywicki:
That was done prior. That study I think was about eight years old.

Natalie Zundel:

Ron Zywicki:
Oh, I’m sorry. That was the member surveys. My bad. That, we actually did within the last month, so that was after the pandemic.

Natalie Zundel:
Great. And then we had a question come in. And that question was from Dana. We had a question come in from Lynette when we were discussing the name and you were talking about, it’s a high degree difficulty to change your name. She wants to know, what about DBAs, doing business as? Have you ever worked with a foundation to do that?

Ron Zywicki:
We have not done that, but I could see that as an approach. Again, there’s probably some legal things that you’d have to consider and it goes out to marketing. If you’re marketing under a DBA, I think that’s fine. When you look at your extended messaging or what you have on your website, there’s probably some legal requirements where you have to spell out the full name, but that probably would be another avenue. I would encourage if you’re interested in looking at perhaps talk to your lawyer or another expert in that area.

Natalie Zundel:
Okay. And then we had a question come in from Joanne. Could you address triggers that would either send you down doing a full branding update versus maybe addressing just why donors aren’t finding you? So for example, developing a stronger case for support or segmenting your audience. So, when do you know that maybe you should just focus on messaging or you should tackle a full branding update?

Ron Zywicki:
It’s a great question. I think the first point again is, if you have an understanding that you’re not getting any type of feedback that suggests there’s a concern over the name of your organization or people aren’t saying, “We hate your logo or we hate your identity.” If you’re not hearing any of that type of feedback, but you’re still perhaps not seeing the activity you would like to see, start with that messaging approach because again, you can do that without really changing anything else, but it can affect the end user by clarity of message giving them a more compelling reason to consider donating and probably driving action and also gives you an opportunity to reinvigorate your marketing efforts. Go out to the audience with these new messages, it can drive new donation campaigns. There’s a lot of benefits to first starting with your message. In terms of what may trigger a complete re-haul, there’s a couple things that may do that. One obviously, if there’s any type of change in the foundation, we had a client recently, they actually had a foundation that they ended up dissolving and just going with funds.
And the reasons behind that were legal reasons but they obviously had to change the name of the funds because their foundation no longer existed. If there’s a shift in the mission of the fund or the foundation as it relates to the overall mission, you may need to consider the name change there. That might be a trigger. If there’s some type of extenuating circumstances where the brand equity or the brand image of the overall parent foundation is somehow having a measurable impact on your foundation’s name, obviously, you may need to consider a change there. If you change the name, you’re going to have to change your look. In terms of changing your look, what we usually find there is there’s some type of indicator that perhaps the look of the brand is a bit dated or out of date. And that might just be you guys sitting around and saying, “You know what? Our logo looks a little long in a tooth or we need a fresh look.” And it can be as simple as that decision.

As long as you have a good sound rationale for changing the look and a good strategy, that may be a reason to change it. It invigorates new life. Again, like messaging it gives you a new platform to reintroduce the foundation. So, that can be a very effective way to trigger a new action by looking at changing your brand. And as I mentioned, if you go the route of evolution, it’s going to be a little easier to do that as an approach than just completely changing the look. It takes a little more investment, a little more time, and more planning, but it’s definitely something that you could definitely consider if you need to make a change for whatever reason.

Natalie Zundel:
Right. I love some of the statistics that you shared. I’m scrolling back at that, I made a note. 76% of those members who didn’t know, wanted to learn more about the purpose of the foundation. So, I think that gets to something that I dealt with a lot when I was working within foundations, was we really needed to work on our messaging and raise our visibility, but there was pushback from our parent association about raising the visibility and giving more bandwidth to the foundation messaging because they were worried about why are we were just asking our members to do more when we’re already asking them to do a lot. Have you ever worked with that hole and push prospects? Is that number saying 76% who don’t know, do you want to know more a way to convince your parent association and are there any other ways to convince them?

Ron Zywicki:
I think of it this way. I understand that you have this push and pull and we haven’t seen a lot of that in our experience. I think it comes down to more, a lot of times resources are concerned how we basically like you said, asking too much or frankly emailing the clients or members too often. But what I would say is, why did you establish a foundation in the first place? There’s a reason that foundation was established. There was a desire to drive some type of monetary donation that then drives some type of benefit to your members. So, what you can do is you can go back and use this research or research of your own and say, “Look, I understand you may have concerns but our members are hungry for this information, they want to know more, they’re eager to know more.” And by the way, if they do know more, they’re more likely to give, which ultimately allows us to fund more great things for our association, which makes the association more valuable. It’s just a cycle.

So, to me you use that information, you put in front of any pushback you may be getting. Almost a non-starter. It really could kickstart the conversation. And then you can lay out using some of these other techniques, particularly a messaging strategy and say, “Hey, this is how we can go out and make the ask and make it clear why we’re doing this and how it benefits the association without taking away the focus on other things that the association may be doing and other initiatives.” I hope that answers your question Natalie. But yeah, I definitely think you could use this research to argue your case.

Natalie Zundel:
Thank you. I appreciate that. Any more questions from the attendees before we go into wrap-up mode here? I’ll make sure and check the Q&A box, I didn’t miss any. All right. Well, Ron, before I do my house cleanup business, is there any final words or any closing comments that you’d like to share with the group?

Ron Zywicki:
I think just in general, I know that this is an area of passion for foundations. And again, we’ve talked to enough of you folks in various activities and opportunities to know that it’s easier said than done, I understand that. And that oftentimes you may lack some of the abilities to make these foundation branding changes due to resources and whatnot. But I think we’ve provided some opportunities for you to at least start the journey and start the conversation. There’re some things you can do that aren’t too big to tackle and will have enough facts. So, I encourage you to look at these things, and continue to fight the good fight, build that brand awareness for your foundation, make it relative and relatable to your association. But know that when you look at the data, at the end of the day the members of your parent association are your best funding source and they want to give to you. They believe in your foundation, they believe in your mission. And all you need to do is create that connection, tell them your story and that goes a long way towards foundation success.

Thank you for allowing us to do this, it was a pleasure to put this foundation branding presentation together and yes, we’ll be sharing the deck and any other questions that may come along. My email is in the bottom corner of the slide or it will be in the deck and I’d be happy to address those and talk further. Thank you to Natalie and Jackie of AFG for bringing us in and doing a great job of hosting and moderating this presentation.

Natalie Zundel:
Thank you, Ron and Drew so much. This was a great presentation. I loved all the real-world foundation branding examples too. So thank you for making it so relevant to this group. I want to thank all of our participants today for being here asking great questions. Please watch your inbox for a summary email containing a recording of the session, the resources, the slides and speaker evaluation. I would like to also thank David James Group again, for not only being a silver sponsor at this conference, but also sponsoring our continuing education webinars throughout the year. Again, they are frequent presenters if you want to hear more on marketing and messaging, don’t forget to check your inboxes for those dialed in monthly webinars. And I hope to see you at our upcoming sessions for the conference. Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone.

Ron Zywicki:

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