Stop f***ing about with your logo and stick to fundraising instead

Mark Phillips of Bluefrog Fundraising explores the potential negative impacts of a major charity rebrand and explains why good fundraising is where your emphasis should be.

Written by
Mark Phillips
Added
June 23, 2022
Are you putting changes to your brand ahead of your fundraising?

A few weeks ago, I presented Rogare’s inaugural Critical Fundraising lecture at Kingston University.

My topic was charity rebranding. It’s an area of work I’ve long been interested in. I love great brands, and as a result, I tend to track what happens after a charity rebrands by keeping an eye on the numbers in their annual reports.

By and large, if a rebrand is a tweak – that’s a change of visual ID, typeface or even a logo, it doesn’t really have much impact on the bottom line. There might be a small reduction in income but nothing substantial. However, when charities go the whole hog and change their name as well, there is often a big negative impact on income that can only be tackled by significant increases in fundraising expenditure.

It’s not hard to understand why. Years of recognition and brand loyalty can be lost at a stroke, as a seemingly new charity appears, leaving the donor wondering what happened to that charity that they used to know and love?

I’m also constantly amazed that when rebrands go ahead, it’s always what a charity looks like or how it describes itself that dominates the process. It appears that few rebrands involve much time trying to understand what can actually bring donors closer to an organisation. Consequently, many of the huge benefits that can be gained by incorporating the needs of donors into the new brand are regularly missed.

Perhaps, as many fundraisers have told me, it’s because fundraising is often kept at arms length when a rebrand goes ahead. A cloud of secrecy can envelop the process that only dissipates once the final brand is presented, seemingly often cast in stone. There is no place for changes as the launch date arrives and the new brand is shared around the organisation and beyond.

Following my presentation, I received a number of emails from frustrated fundraisers sharing stories how they battled, begged and pleaded to get changes introduced after a rebrand for good, sensible reasons such as enhancing legibility in direct mail pieces, increasing personalisation and making photographs more authentic and engaging.

As a result, I thought the lecture might be worthy of a wider audience. The recorded presentation follows below.

You’ll see that it’s broken into three main parts:

  1. When and why charities became enamoured with commercial marketing practices.
  2. What can happen to income when charities introduce a rebrand.
  3. What actually matters in a rebrand, when they are needed, what should be the focus and what should be left alone.

If your charity has recently rebranded with negative consequences, you’ll find the last section (from 16 minutes and 20 seconds in) most useful as it gives insight into what you can do to turn things round. And of course, if you are in the midst of a rebrand, you’ll hopefully see what you should do to ensure you don’t make some expensive mistakes.

The fact is, if you are hoping a rebrand might increase your income, it may well be the case that you really should be speaking to a fundraising agency instead.

Finally, I hope you enjoy the video. I’ve tried my best to make it interesting with relevant film clips which meant that I really had to level-up my editing skills.

Thanks for reading (and watching).

SOFII note: you can watch Mark’s video below and read the original piece here. We are grateful to Mark for letting us reproduce this on SOFII.

About the author: Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips started fundraising for ActionAid UK in the late 1980s and later became head of fundraising at YMCA England. He set up Bluefrog in 1997 with one simple goal – to be the agency he would have wanted to employ. His approach to fundraising is based on understanding and answering donor needs. Mark shares his research, ideas and findings via his blog.

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