As a nonprofit, your organization is likely in the middle of a capital campaign, wrapping up a capital campaign, or ramping up for your next one. And no matter which phase you’re in, the goal of your campaign is straightforward — raise money to fund your mission, and ultimately to fund progress.
Unfortunately, with all the noise out there from the volume of capital campaigns running at any given time, you’re also struggling to rise above the din and be heard by potential donors, but you may not know how.
What a lot of successful fundraising organizations know that yours may not know is that a solid campaign brand is the key to cutting through that noise and executing a successful campaign. You may have a campaign name and logo worked out — but that’s not enough to build a memorable brand or gain traction. In fact, those two elements are the tip of the spear of the campaign-branding puzzle, but these are only the beginning. Because while a logo and a name are important, they lack the depth that a unifying visual system, message, and supporting strategies can bring.
So how do you go about building a capital campaign brand that instantly connects with your audience and supercharges your fundraising efforts?
The Components Needed for Your Capital Campaign Brand
Put simply, a capital campaign brand is your fundraising strategy, with messaging and a visual identity wrapped around it. That’s true whether you’re branding your organization, a capital campaign nested within it, or a fundraising initiative.
Your campaign’s messaging strategy answers the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions behind your brand. In the case of a capital campaign, those questions should be answered through research in the initial phase of building your brand.
The audience you should be asking the questions to include the organization’s leadership, other stakeholders (such as recipients, researchers, or community members), donors, and/or potential donors. Questions to be answered will likely include:
- Why does this campaign exist and why should I support it?
- What kind of impact does this campaign promise to deliver?
- How are we going to accomplish our fundraising goal?
- Who do we hope to impact and in what ways?
The answers to these questions will inform your strategy, which then informs messaging. Once those elements are developed, you can begin to design a visual identity.
The brand’s visual identity includes all of the visual components that are wrapped around your strategy and messaging. This includes: fonts, colors, graphic elements, motion elements, photographic styles, and so on. When done well, this system is an effective expression of the messaging and strategy.
An effective brand includes not only the “fun” pieces, like a memorable logo and printed assets, but also the useful pieces. That includes clear language that board members, development officers, leaders at your non-profit, and others that are supporting your fundraising efforts can draw from when speaking to potential donors.
Your capital campaign should allow you, the board, and other key stakeholders to come together and create a vision of what the future of your organization could look like. When done well, a capital campaign and brand can be a vision-refining and vision-shaping exercise for the future of the organization. This exercise allows your donors — particularly the larger donors — to really participate in imagining what kind of world the organization can help shape, and by virtue, the world they can help shape.
It’s easy to get lost in the idea of needing to raise money. After all, the goal of your capital, or comprehensive campaign is to raise as much as possible for your organization. But it’s important to remember that your goal isn’t just to hit your dollar mark — it’s to change lives. As a non-profit executive once said to us, when asked how they never seem to get bent out of shape, “I never forget the mission.”
Whether you’re funding cancer research, building a performing arts center, or providing education for future generations, you have to keep your mission at the forefront. That’s true in the case of your larger organizational goals and it’s true for the specific goals of your capital campaign, too.
In order to connect with and inspire donors, that larger mission needs to be clearly articulated in your capital campaign brand.
Clarify Your Vision and Empower Your Team
Each year, thousands of nonprofits launch thousands of capital campaigns. Yet only a small minority of them are properly branded. That’s especially unfortunate when you consider that an impactful brand contributes to the ultimate effectiveness of any capital campaign.
By doing the work of creating a memorable campaign brand, you can empower your team to speak with much more confidence when they go to donors and ask for gifts. You can also convey a message that will resonate with your audience. You know this because it is directly informed by those donors and other like-minded donors that you spoke within your campaign and brand building’s research phase.
As an added bonus, the work of creating a capital campaign brand can help you clarify your vision for your organization in a broader sense. That’s because you need to ask questions in order to define the greater purpose of your campaign brand. It’s easy for the mission to get lost in a sea of fluffy words. If you have a mission and vision statement, the practice of clarifying your message for the campaign will likely result in some revision to it. The understanding resulting from that change can empower the entire fundraising team and give them simple, elegant ways of attracting and activating the right type of donors.
What’s the ROI?
ROI when branding your capital campaign is a case-by-case basis, because branding, when done well, should touch every facet of a campaign, yet its effectiveness is dependent on so many factors. Buy-in is mission critical. As an example, you can build a perfect, authentic brand with clear, inspiring messaging. But if you don’t use it, and you don’t influence your team to use it, it’s not going to be effective. If you’re not going to market your campaign brand, change your most-visited page on your website, and take other steps to showcase the branded campaign, it doesn’t matter how beautiful your brand is. That’s like building a beautiful boat and never setting sail.
Creating a capital campaign is an opportunity to test the waters on what a future vision for your organization can look like. And not just the next five years, but the next ten years, the next fifty, or even the next 125 years.
How To Get Started
The first steps to building a capital campaign brand are all about laying out your goals for the campaign. Before you can think about messaging, you’ll need a pretty good idea of what you hope to accomplish and who will help you do so. During this phase, you’ll need to do some research. This will include a lot of conversations with key stakeholders. You should:
- Develop a loose idea of what your funding goal should be. Are you hoping to raise $50 million? $100 million? $1 billion? It doesn’t need to be exact, but a good range is ideal. Keep in mind that a well-defined campaign brand can increase your fundraising potential.
- Define your funding initiatives. This is a vision-shaping exercise, so think big. Metaphorically, you’re not just considering the structure you hope to build. Think instead about what will happen inside that building. How are you going to change people’s lives? Who will you need to bring together to do that? The brand should help you add to, refine and polish this, but it won’t define it.
- Who is your team? This isn’t just your board and major donors. It should also include a technical fundraising consultant and/or trusted advisors who will be willing and able to answer questions from anyone appointed to the board, especially those questions that may seem obvious but aren’t always clearly understood by all. (What is a vision statement? How do I craft one? What is a reasonable amount of money to raise? And so on.)
From there, you can start constructing your campaign’s strategy & message. It’s only at this point that you should begin thinking about a name and logo for your capital campaign.
Side note: Your capital campaign should have a distinct identity from that of your organization. While the two brands should be related, they should really only have what you might call a “cousin connection.” In other words, the two brands should share a few features, but they will not look identical; otherwise, your campaign brand will look stale right out of the gate.
The process of answering the clarifying questions necessary to creating the brand will create feedback that will help solidify your organization’s vision for the future. Running a successful capital campaign is made easier and more successful with strong, purposeful branding.