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Interesting Q&A regarding the “New Normal” for non-profits from the Winter 2011 Issue of Branding Bytes (a FREE quarterly e-newsletter courtesy of Larry Checco of Checco Communications).

How dependent are we on government funding?
For decades, countless nonprofits have relied largely or exclusively on local, state and federal funding, or a combination of all three, to achieve their missions.  If yours is one of them, and you haven’t already experienced a decrease in your funding, brace yourself.   Given the state of most government budgets, it’s just a matter of time.

The Age of the New Normal demands that you start seeking alternate sources of funding.  Despite these hard economic times, there is money to tap into.

Do we still believe that marketing and branding would make us look too much like the for-profit sector?
If so, get over it. A lot of the available non-government money that’s out there is in the hands of people who made their fortunes in the private sector.   Many are seeking to support good causes. But only organizations that can effectively and clearly make their case by successfully explaining to these potential funders who they are, what they do, how they do it—and most important, why it matters—will be on the receiving end. In other words, marketing and branding should be integral parts of your business strategy.

Are we still trying to raise money under the rubric of being a “charity that makes a difference”?
If so, you’ve got a tough row to hoe. Under the New Normal, funders are seeking ever greater accountability, transparency, responsibility– and demonstrated outcomes. To simply say you make a difference will no longer cut the mustard.  You need to show how you make that difference. And the more data you have to support your claims, the better.

How well do we collect and leverage our data?
A lot of nonprofits don’t even bother to collect data, and those that do often don’t use it in a way to help promote their organization’s narrative or story. The New Normal says it’s not enough to tell prospective funders how many people walked through your doors last year.  The New Normal wants to know, among other things, how your services improved the lives of these people, what are these people doing now and what impact does your work have on the community, at large.

What about our use of technology?
Yikes!  Given the pace of technological change, the Age of the New Normal is a rapidly  moving target. At the very minimum, your organization should have a website that’s easy to navigate, is updated regularly, and allows people to donate to your organization online.  If you haven’t already, you should be looking into how best to use new social media, such as FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn as potential fundraising tools, yes, but more importantly to help build a community knowledgeable about and loyal to your organization.

FINAL THOUGHT: If a Millennial comes to you with an idea about technology, or anything else for that matter, do not respond by saying, “But that’s not the way we’ve done it in the past.”