Dan Dufour discusses the reasons why Branding and Fundraising teams in the charity sector notoriously have a strained relationship. This article looks at the challenges, and provides tips to working together to overcome these challenges.
In 2012, I wrote a guest article for Third Sector entitled The squabbling ugly sisters who thwart effective branding. The ugly sisters being Communications and Fundraising teams. Cinderella representing the poor charity supporter.
I thought the battle lines had subsided as more departments have merged under the umbrella of ‘Public Engagement’. But a sector peer recently informed me that this was “definitely” not the case, whilst pulling their hair out over sour relations with fundraising colleagues. Upon investigation, I realised the problem still widely persists. But why?
Some of the tensions are a result of history. The practice of creating a ‘corporate identity’ emerged through the mid-20th century, where corporations were branded to grow shareholder value, fuelled by Thatcher and Reagan’s drive for privatisation. Charities were late to professional branding and through no fault of their own have commonly applied a corporate approach.
Shelter was one of the first UK charities to take branding seriously back in 2005, where I was Brand Manager at the time. Creative Review observed branding had gone topsy-turvy as a charity adopted a corporate identity while at the same time that a bank (Abbey National) went all-friendly.
Unlike some professions, the charity sector isn’t great for natural career progression. This often results in people building their careers by moving up from one charity to the next. Often in Communications or Fundraising departments, which can lead to a tribe mentality. Unless you change sector, of course. When you’re likely to be surprised by all the sectors’ idiosyncrasies.
Brand and Fundraising professionals have different – complementary – skill-sets and personalities. But for a charity brand to truly be effective, there is a need to understand and respect each other’s specialist expertise.
Brand builders like to focus on the bigger picture, creating ‘big ideas’ that can run through the DNA of the brand, from the visual identity and tone of voice, to marketing communications, culture and innovation. Fundraisers are focused on the bottom line and often know specialist direct marketing techniques, with a good eye for data and return on investment.
We received a frosty reception from a direct marketing team as the ‘brand agency’ on a recent project. But by working together on a ‘design sprint’ to refresh the branding, and by demonstrating how it could work for brand response marketing, we made frenemies.
It was once the case that Communications teams would focus on building brand awareness, creating the ‘halo effect’ for Fundraising to sweep in with direct response marketing. But the trend is more and more for ‘brand response’ campaigns, where brand advertising has a direct response on it. Cancer Research UK have led the way in integrating brand and direct response since 2015, as they are confident it helps to uplift response by up to 30%.
To create brands that truly work for Fundraising, I have had to spend time on the other side of the fence. To learn from Fundraising colleagues on specialist direct response techniques, as well as educating and inspiring them in the ways of branding. This has led me to change the way I approach branding for the better, to make it work for a unique sector.
If you want help in breaking down the silos and creating a brand that can work for Fundraising, get in touch.