What’s the point of branding?
So you've got a brand. You've brainstormed with stakeholders, you've paid many thousands of pounds for a sparkling new logo, a corporate identity and a list of adjectives that are going to help you change the world.
And what's the result?
Has it increased response rates to your mailing packs? Has it helped reduce attrition? Has it increased donor loyalty?
If it hasn't, maybe something is going wrong.
In the commercial world, a brand adds value to a product or service. In short, it increases income.
For charities, things aren't so clear cut. I've seen 'brand expenditure' justified in terms of increasing awareness or extending knowledge of organisational goals.
All well and good. But if that doesn't translate to more supporters giving and doing more, I'm not sure that a new brand can be classified as a success.
A total of 3,203 adults took part in the survey, answering questions regarding recognition, individual giving, publicity work, trust and support.
When the answers had been cross-tabulated and added up, each charity was left with a score and this year, Cancer Research UK came out on top, followed by BBC Children in Need, RSPCA, Macmillan Cancer Support and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. SSAFA Forces Help saw the biggest rise and NDCS had the biggest fall.
You can see the full index here.
But what's most interesting are the findings about general attitudes to charities. And for me, one result stands out above all the rest – they found that less than 30% of people thought that charities were using money well, down from 32.5% in 2009.
It's left me scratching my head. Donors are continuing to lose touch with the charities they support. Trust might be up, but what about engagement? it seems to be in decline.
We know that one of the most powerful ways to engage a donor is to show them how you have used a gift. It's something donors welcome. When you ask them what they want from a charity, it's pretty much top of the list.
And if we are trying to add value to a charity brand that will translate into more funds, surely this research is showing us that we are doing something wrong. Any study of attrition rates would tend to confirm this view.
Donors have ultimate power. If they don't like the way they are treated after giving once, it is highly likley that their next gift will go elsewhere.
Perhaps they might think that by ignoring their role, we are being a little ungrateful and maybe even a little arrogant. It's happened to organisations like GAP, Coca Cola and Tropicana. There's no reason why it couldn't happen to us to.
So rather than producing advertising that says how great our charity is, perhaps we could learn from what fundraisers were doing before many of us were actually born and produce ads like this from January 1964 that thank donors for their role in raising £1,000,000.
It shows donors just how important they are – in no uncertain terms…
"So people live who would have died. And children have a chance… because you sent a cheque".
If I'd given to the appeal, that ad would have certainly made me feel good. Maybe I'd have given again. And perhaps that's what charity branding should actually be about.