Perhaps you can relate: You may have (what you think is) a great vision statement for your organization, but you probably can’t recite it verbatim. Your vision feels clear, but when it comes time to articulate it, you realize it’s not quite as straightforward as you believed. Or, you know your vision is unclear, and it’s a huge source of insecurity (it’s ok, your secret’s safe with us).
The truth is, most leaders struggle with clearly articulating their organization’s vision.
You want your nonprofit to be viewed as a trustworthy leader, and one that inspires confidence in how it’s impacting the world. You know what creates confidence? Clarity. And your organization can’t reach its fullest potential (or make the biggest impact) if your reason for being is fuzzy at best.
Don’t fret. It’s possible to gain this clarity — all while planning your next major fundraising initiative. The key lies in branding. You see, the process of building a brand for your capital campaign is also the ideal opportunity to refine, clarify, test, and shape your vision.
3 Common Reasons Your Nonprofit’s Vision is Unclear
Before we dive into just how branding can illuminate your vision, let’s take a closer look at what got you here in the first place.
You understand what you do like the back of your hand. So it stands to reason that you’re confused and frustrated as to why your communication of it is so cloudy. Why is it so hard to articulate? There are a few common explanations.
- Initiative overload. It could be that your organization has so many initiatives that it’s difficult to weave them together into a clear, unified vision. In an attempt to clear that hurdle, you’ve included quite the laundry list of items in your messaging strategy. From the inside, it may be hard for you to see that the water is actually quite murky.
- Growing pains. Or maybe you, as your organization’s leader, inherited the vision from your predecessor, but it no longer aligns with where your organization is headed. Imagine wearing shoes that are half a size too small. It’s hard to get on board with a direction or a vision that no longer fits. Or maybe it’s the other way around, and your organization has grown dramatically, but you struggle to articulate what’s next.
- You lack clarity. It’s also possible that you simply lack clarity and as a result that trickles down into your organization’s messaging strategy. You know the general idea, it just doesn’t roll off the tongue and is inconsistent (just when you think you’ve nailed it down). You want everyone to know about all of the good work your organization does, but you’re uncertain what message will connect most effectively. Instead of a short, sweet, memorable message, you’ve thrown in everything but the kitchen sink, hoping something will resonate with your audience.
Branding is Much More Than a Logo
A brand is like a peacock’s feathers: designed to attract attention. But at the same time, the best brands aren’t showy for the sake of being showy. They embody a deeper, more fully formed organizational identity.
When you think of a brand, you probably picture some of the most instantly recognizable logos in the world — Nike’s swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches, the Starbucks siren, and Coca-Cola’s classic script, to name a handful.
But dig a little deeper. A logo isn’t a brand, or at least a brand isn’t only a logo. That’s just the tip of the spear.
A brand is an organization’s messaging, their ethos, their reputation, the energy they carry, and everything that identifies them as a distinct, memorable organization.
Aside from a logo, a brand includes colors, fonts, and all the other elements that make up a visual identity. Sure. But it also includes how you communicate — from the way you answer the phone, to the way you respond to a request for the elevator pitch, to the language you use to describe your beneficiaries.
The exciting part? When branding is done properly, you as the leader are empowered to clarify the brand, and ultimately the vision, for your organization.
Your brand should accurately reflect the vision of your organization, but also its spirit. Remember: Branding is meant to get your attention and close the deal. It explains the who, what, when, where, why, and how of what you’re doing. That’s true whether you’re building a primary brand for your organization or whether you’re building a brand for your nonprofit’s capital campaign. It’s both the confident handshake, and the guarantee on the box to back it up.
Developing Your Brand Necessitates Clarifying Your Vision
As you work to create your capital campaign brand, you might realize you need a clearer, more refined organization-level vision. Because without that vision, your goals for the campaign will remain indistinct, and thus, less likely to resonate with your audience. At first glance, it may not feel like the right time to rethink your organization’s vision. But you should never miss an opportunity to become even clearer on why you’re doing the work.
Your organization runs many important programs, but listing them all out would make even the most interested person’s eyes glaze over. You need a succinct vision for the future that captures your audience’s interest and inspires them to partner with you. That vision should be an umbrella under which all of your programs and initiatives happily live. And if you’ve realized your vision (and vision statement) is unclear or no longer aligns with your plan for the future, revising it is more than a to-do list item. It’s a priority.
If crafting a new vision statement at the same time you’re creating a new campaign brand feels daunting, don’t think of it that way. Instead, think of your capital campaign as a testing ground. If your capital campaign brand and its goals are well-received, they serve as a soft launch for your potential new vision. Put it out there. Does it get people excited and motivated? Are they writing checks?
Keep what works; toss what doesn’t. What remains is your evergreen vision. That vision becomes part of your organization’s brand moving forward.
Refine and Illuminate Your Organization’s Brand and Vision
The story goes like this: Michelangelo was sculpting the statue of David when an onlooker approached and asked, “How did you make something so beautiful?” Michelangelo responded, “It’s easy. I just got rid of everything that was ugly.”
To chip the unsightly marble away from your breathtaking David, you need to begin with tons of input. You don’t have to have fully baked ideas to begin as you start to develop your capital campaign brand or vision. It’s okay to start with a rough idea and flesh it out. You don’t have to start from scratch, either. If your organization already has a vision statement, use that as a starting point.
As you kick around ideas for your brand, don’t fall head over heels with your first idea. Just because it rhymes, is easy to remember, and rolls off the tongue doesn’t mean you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. Make sure you spend time really ideating and testing a variety of options.
Branding your campaign is a vision-refining process. If “refining” is the hammer and the chisel, “clarifying” is the sand and polish. When you create your vision statement, you’ll first use a hammer and chisel to come up with the big picture of what you’d like to communicate. Then, you’ll clarify that rough idea with “sand,” smoothing out the rough edges and adding polish and shine.
You may be thinking, “But we do so much! How do I know what’s important when all of it is so important?” It’s unlikely that everything your non-profit does is so important that it needs to be said, or can be said, in an elevator. Refinement is key. Set the hook and give your listener a chance to ask questions.
Your vision and capital campaign brand must be in sync in order to be truly successful. And by honing in on creating a truly refined capital campaign brand, you will most certainly also be clarifying your vision. Only then will you truly uncover a masterpiece ready to be shown to the world.