Debate About Nonprofit Marketing

It seems the nonprofit world is getting some conflicting advice when it comes to marketing.

Joe Ippolito, an entrepreneur who is starting a “social venture,” says that nonprofit groups need to respond to how donors are changing and focus more on the “design and branding” of their causes.

“Love it or hate it, you are selling a product: your cause,” he writes on his blog for Good magazine. “And while helping change the world is certainly more valuable (and, hopefully, more gratifying) than buying a toaster, you’re fighting for the consumers’ attention nonetheless, and you’re battling for their trust.”

He continues: “Everything from the literature to the letterhead of your organization needs to play a role in conveying that your cause is professional and worthwhile, and maybe even cool.”

But according to some marketing and fund-raising experts, such branding efforts are overrated.

For example, Jeff Brooks, creative director at Merkle, a marketing company, last month said that “branding is dead, more or less.”

On his Donor Power blog, he wrote that nonprofit groups need to work on creating an excellent product, which means “changing the world in a specific way that your supporters understand, love, and tell everyone they know about.”

To be sure, there may be common ground between the two views and it may depend on the various definitions of branding.

What do you think?

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