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Whether you sell B-to-B, B-to-C, or Non-profit to Donor, everyone responds to brands including the donor community. This fact was born out when I received the following email from one of my non-profit clients:

“Bruce, guess what! We received a $100,000 check today for facility improvements. This was the meeting we created the case statement for!!! Thank you thank you!”

Music to my ears and hooray – proof of brand positioning! Invest the small money on strategy and messaging – then reap the big money from customers and donors!With such great ROI, brand strategy should be an easy sell, but that’s not been my experience. Here’s why:

It’s a very rare client who’s willing to dig into questions that challenge their brand identity: Who are we? Why should our customers care? How do we solve their problem? What makes our offering unique?

Fortunately, Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse, Inc., a day program for people with traumatic brain injuries, was eager to dig deep. The 501(c)3 organization was launching its first multi-million campaign – a $3 million effort to upgrade their facility, expand staff, add programs, increase visibility, and validate their clinical approach. As a relatively small program run out of a converted house in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Side by Side was preparing for its moonshot.

The challenge was to elevate Side by Side’s brand image so that major donors wouldfeel confident in funding the campaign. Here are the steps we took:

Brand Story® Workshop – This is the starting point to answer those deep-digquestions. I created a questionnaire, distributed it to key staff, and shared the results in the Workshop. The first brand question: Will donors perceive Side by Side as a Membership Organization or a Clinical Program? Researching their messaging, I found evidence for both:

The next major goal was to distill a brand position for Side by Side from this formula:

Filling in those blanks should be easy, but it never is. There are always 1) multiple audiences with 2) different needs, plus, it’s always difficult to identify your 3) Secret Sauce or unique differentiation in your market, and finally 4) proof is hard to quantify.

Bottom line: If your brand isn’t aligned to solve a customer need with a competitive difference, it’s game over. No need to be in business.

Side by Side’s Brand Position – Brand positions are not meant to be eloquent; they are part of an internal brand platform to guide all marketing efforts. Here is our result:

  • AUDIENCE: For donors, payers, and policymakers…
  • PROBLEM OR NEED: Who seek a cost-effective, positive, and proven impact on the human cost of brain injuries to our society, while improving the quality of life of the people impacted and their families…
  • UNIQUE SOLUTION: Only Side by Side, with its unique Partnership Model, rebuilds shattered lives by engaging the whole person through a community of mutual support coupled with professional guidance.
  • PROOF: The success of our Partnership Model is evidenced by our program’s ability to: Achieve incremental goals of self-sufficiency by 90 percent, increase the health and well-being of the family, reduce initial rehabilitation costs up to 85 percent, protect the payer’s investment in rehabilitation gains, and lower the total cost of future care.

Brand Platform – We built out these elements to create a small brand platform:

  • Brand Position (listed above),
  • Brand Concept: Engaging the whole person through a community of mutual support coupled with professional guidance (this is the key idea expressed in all materials)
  • Elevator Speech (It’s the core story to guide all communications. I’ve included it at the end of this article.) Together, these elements created the structure for a Case Statement.

Case Statement – When you get a chance to pitch a major donor, the case statement is the first thing that comes out of your brief case. In the past, Side by Side presented single-sheet trifolds and letters created in MS Office:

Instead, we wrote and designed a glossy 20-page tabloid size brochure. Printing cost was only $361 for 50 copies. One of the Side by Side’s members had become a talented one-handed photographer after her injury, so we had access to a wealth of photos to tell the story.

Brand Identity Changes – With trepidation, I suggested changing the logo and shortening the brand name from Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse to Side by Side. Executive Director, Cindi Johnson was willing to give it a try despite 16 years with the old logo. We also branded the campaign as Side by Side 2020 and their unique clinical approach (the secret sauce) as the Side by Side Partnership Model.

Results – Cindi Johnson was ecstatic with the campaign’s success. As she explained, “You want major donors to respond to what’s in your heart, but you’re ultimately judged by your professionalism and execution. And that’s okay. Foundations have their own constituencies to be accountable to.”

“You want major donors to respond to what’s in your heart, but you’re ultimately judged by your professionalism and execution.” Cindi Johnson

In addition to the Case Statement, it became clear that all the collateral needed to speak with a consistent message and look. Donor cards, service brochures, the Web site, and other materials all received rebranding and new messaging.

Side by Side Elevator Speech: An elevator speech should be 3-5 short paragraphs that present the urgency of the problem, the unique solution, and the proven result:

Problem: With over 300,000 combat veterans having returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries, public awareness of TBIs has never been greater. Often overlooked, are the millions of TBIs that occur in the United States at an annual cost of $76 billion. 2.5 million emergency room visits are diagnosed with TBI each year, usually from falls, sports, and accidents.

While most people recover quickly from a mild concussion, a severe brain injury can disrupt family, career, and daily living – often for life. The big question facing providers, payers, and policy makers: After the person is released from medical care, what comes next? With 5.3 million Americans disabled by TBI, how do they rebuild their shattered lives?

Solution: In the state of Georgia, only one organization offers a next step for persons with mild to severe TBI. Side by Side has pioneered a Partnership Model for rebuilding lives that have been broken by a traumatic brain injury. Our proven approach engages the whole person through a group setting of skills-based rehabilitation and mutual emotional support coupled with professional guidance.

Proven Result: The success of our leading approach is evidenced by our program’s ability to:

  • Achieve incremental goals of self-sufficiency (by 90 percent of our members),
  • Increase the health and well-being of the family,
  • Reduce initial rehabilitation costs by up to 85 percent,
  • Protect the payer’s investment in rehabilitation gains, and
  • Lower the total cost of future care.

To learn more about the good work of Side by Side, visit: http://www.sidebysideclubhouse.org/