I found this thought-provoking article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR):  “The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector.”  The authors, Nathalie Kylander and Christopher Stone, talk with many non-profit leaders who are leery about branding (Are most?  Are you?), and find in the leaders’ reservations four important points of pride:  in mission, participatory planning, organizational values, and supportive partnerships. 

Homing in on these distinctive sources of pride, Kylander and Stone develop a concept of brand tailored to the nonprofit sector.  Their acronym, IDEA, stands for brand integrity, brand democracy, brand ethics, and brand affinity.  In short, in the authors’ words:

Brand integrity means that the organization’s internal identity is aligned with its external image and that both are aligned with the mission. 

Brand democracy means that the organization trusts its members, staff, participants, and volunteers to communicate their own understanding of the organization’s core identity.

Brand ethics means that the brand itself and the way it is deployed reflect the core values of the organization.

Brand affinity means that the brand is a good team player, working well alongside other brands, sharing space and credit generously, and promoting collective over individual interests. 

Kylander and Stone, faculty at Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, use major global nonprofits like Amnesty International, the American Red Cross, and the World Wildlife Fund as examples in their discussion.  Chances are excellent (in fact, I’d bet the house) that you are not a leader in a multi-national nonprofit.   More likely, you’re leading one of the hundreds of thousands of small- to mid-sized nonprofits that make up the vast bulk of the sector.  But Kylander and Stone’s insights apply to your organization as well. 

What do you think about branding?  Is your brand robust?  Does it meet IDEA criteria?  Let me know what you’re thinking!