Brand new thinking for charities

Friday, 16 October 2009 00:54

Charities are jumping to align themselves with leading brands as a new way of marketing their values and collecting more money. Many charities are turning to commercial activities to fill the gap left from the drying up fo government and donor funds. Many have entered into partnerships with retailers to market their products, which serve to raise funds for their causes. While they're doing this, charities need to show social responsibility when entering marketing and profit-making enterprises. They need to balance their sense of social mission with commercial interests This is a key challenge for many third sector organizations, with many responding to the challenge by using multiple brands to communicate specific goals, to target particular groups of stakeholders.

This of course, is a new area for the third sector. While it's fairly common for large companies to use various sub-brands to diversify their business, not-for-profits usually have a hard time straddling the line between social and profit-making activity. With charities, any diversion from the core social values towards making profit in a differing brand can equate with disaster of terms of their image of social mission.

Nevertheless, the approach is being cautiously taken, as it offers a powerful creative means of generating funds for the future.

Research that the UK's Guardian conducted into the commercial activities of third sector organizations found a critical role for multiple brands, and strong recognition among charities for the potential conflict between social aims and diversification into the commercial sector. One manager of a charity said, "It's important to match our core social values with multiple brands... For some products, we use a different brand to communicate certain values for the charity to the target market."

These insights demonstrate that charities need to develop well targeted customer groups and use a targeted strategy to support their social goals.

Another director of a UK charity said, "To support a new brand, our message is more targeted rather than using our core or main brand for all activities... This does not mean we dilute our core social values. Instead, we communicate more clearly our social goals to match our target customers and partners, and differentiate ourselves from sole commercial interests".

Charities need to align their different brands under a core brand of their social mission. In doing this, they can appeal to different sectors of the market. Cancer Research UK have done this with their designer ducks and pink products, while the RSPCA have established Freedom Food farm assurance, and a food labeling scheme. When used in an appropriate manner, multiple branding can strengthen a charities core social mission. Additionally, a "new" brand can help bring in new donors.

While this approach does offer much potential, such a strategy may not be readily available for all charities, should be well planned, and established with sensitivity to the organisation's core aims and brand.

One senior manager added, "Our brands are supported by various social activities over time... With multiple brands we are able to target different customers, rather than relying on a single brand".

A strong brand name gets established over time through a variety of social activities, which may now be related to commerce. It's the intangible aspect of the core brand that allows a charity to reach a unique market position by balancing and combining social mission. As long as that is protected, multiple brands offer charities new avenues to communicate more directly to particular audiences, broadening their stakeholder base and ensuring long term stability of their mission.