Recently, nonprofits and social enterprises have really been stepping up their branding game to attract younger demographics. It’s been working – according to a 2014 study by Deloitte, 63 percent of millennials donate to charities and 43 percent actively volunteer or are a member of a community organization.
The charitable organizations that are most successful in involving younger generations have a few things in common that others can learn from, namely:
- Create great content. This one hits close to home as we started our company, LSTN Headphones, so we could work with Starkey Hearing Foundation. Selling our headphones was the way for us to contribute to the cause. Their incredible videos showing the real impact of the foundation is what first attracted us to them. It brings the viewer (and possible sponsor) into their worldwide missions to see what it’s really like to give the gift of hearing. They’ve made such amazing video footage that it has now been parlayed into a television show called “Operation Change.”
- Brand like a for-profit. Unfortunately, charity is generally not thought of as sexy. Websites are often clunky and merchandise isn’t as wearable as one might hope. I admire companies such as charity: water that have made branding their company as if it were a for-profit enterprise an important part of their overall strategy. By aligning their look to the donors they are trying to attract, they have become extremely successful. Their magazine-quality photos, sleek website, celebrity supporters and hip merchandise are akin to a high-end fashion brand, not a nonprofit.
- Be transparent. People are more likely to purchase a product or donate to a cause if they are positive that their contribution is being used in the correct way. With social media, Google Earth, iPhones, etc., there is no reason your company can’t be open with its donors. Krochet Kids does a fantastic job of this. Not only does their website explain exactly where and how they are making a difference, but when you purchase a product, it comes with a tag sewn inside that is signed by the woman who made it. Go to the Krochet Kids website, search the name, and find the online profile of the woman who created your product. You can even send her a thank-you message! Take the extra step and make the personal connection between your customers and your cause.
- Engage with your audience. Even though Pencils of Promise was founded just seven years ago, they have one of the biggest social media followings of any nonprofit worldwide. This has contributed to their success in building 304 schools thus far. Whether it is a campaign about their follower’s favorite teachers or donating their birthday to the cause, PoP has made it easy for people of all ages to interact with and share their impact.
- Make it fun to be involved. Movember has been incredibly successful in raising awareness and funds for men’s health by injecting fun, community and competition into their cause. By sprouting millions of mustaches around the world, donors become walking, talking billboards for the foundation. Starting with just 30 participants a decade ago, Movember has grown into a global movement by making it fun for anyone to get involved. And they have raised over $559 million in the process.
What other examples of great nonprofit branding are out there? I’d love to see your favorites in the comments.
Bridget Hilton is the founder of LSTN Headphones, a social enterprise based in Hollywood, CA that connects individuals, families and communities through sound via a partnership with Starkey Hearing Foundation.
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