Next Thursday, Jocelyn Harmon will be presenting a new webinar for us called Your Nonprofit’s Face: Adding Personality to Your Marketing Mix . I asked Jocelyn to give us a little preview with a guest post. Here’s Jocelyn . . .

Nonprofits have mixed feelings about marketing, branding and personality.On the one hand, we know we have to get people to notice us if we’re ever going to get them interested in our causes.On the other hand, our causes are important enough to stand on their own. Right? Wrong.

Here’s the truth. Most people don’t care about your cause and they definitely don’t care about your organization. And it’s not because they’re callous or ignorant or insensitive. It’s because they’re busy!

Think about it. Most of us spend every waking moment tending to kids, careers and home care. We don’t and won’t spend our precious time decoding difficult nonprofit collateral or websites, regardless of how noble the cause.It simply takes too much time.

Luckily, there is this thing called personality that you can use to stand out in the marketplace and break through the clutter. Personality is the sparkle you add to your marketing mix. It’s the inspired and inspiring feeling that you engender in others that makes them want to come back for more. Think Care. Think Apple. Think The Nature Conservancy. All of these “causes” use personality to make you feel like you are connected to something bigger. To make you care.

In preparation for the webinar, I’ve been searching for both good and bad examples of nonprofit websites. While websites are not your only communications tool, they are a highly visible mark of your nonprofits’ personality. Your goal is to project an image that helps vs. hinders your cause.

Above is an example of a group that’s doing it all wrong. While their cause seems worthy, they are projecting an image that detracts and distracts from their work. Here are just some of the problems I see:

  • A static website template – Template-based websites are a no-no because they make your organization look out of date and I’m sure this is not the image you want to project.The good news is that with blogging and other inexpensive web software you can create a good-looking website that is also easy to update.
  • Bad colors and fonts. – Choosing colors and fonts for your website and collaterals is like choosing your wardrobe. Do it carefully. While you want some variety, you also want the all the pieces to all fit together and resonate with what you do. So for an environmental organization, like the one above, this might mean choosing blues and greens – the colors of the earth. It also means choosing a more beautiful and friendly font.
  • Stock images – Like static website templates, stock images are “out.” They are also unnecessary since the birth of sites like Flickr* which make it possible to find and use amazing photographs from all over the world. No more excuses! Stop using stock images or silly graphics in Microsoft PowerPoint on your website or anywhere. *When using others’ photos be sure to give the proper attribution.
  • Content that is grammatically incorrect – Here’s another no-no. Don’t write content that is poo.** If you can’t afford to employ a copywriter, have someone else review your content before publishing it to the web. A good editor can do wonders for your writing and your image by catching errors that you will miss.

While fonts, images and content are only part of your brand identity, they are an important part of your organization’s personality. Choose wisely.

It’s not easy to market. You have a very short time to grab someone’s attention and people are distracted, but having a great organizational personality can help.

To learn more about adding personality to your marketing mix, read Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity – and How Great Brands Get it Back by Rohit Bhargava.

And please join us on Aug 6th. We can help.


**Thanks to Mark Rovner, Principal of SeaChange Strategies for reminding us that bad content is bad content. It won’t work on a train or on a plane, in car or in a bar… “No I won’t read it Sam I Am!”