• An environmental group that believes land conservation policy should be rooted in the best science available builds a base of supporters that deeply trusts the organization’s point of view.


  • A social service organization that believes volunteers can play a key role in helping people out of poverty adds over 1,000 volunteers within three years.


  • A theater company that believes all its patron should be treated like family effectively transforms single ticket buyers into subscribers and subscribers into multi-year supporters.


Principles, values, beliefs are like magnets — clarifying your identity and crystalizing your message — engaging audiences whose own view of the world forms a complimentary connection to  your organization’s beliefs. Successful nonprofit branding is dependent on well-articulated principles that become the super glue needed to build relationships that transform how the public participates in your work.


When exploring your principles, here are a few things to consider…


  • Take a Deep Dive – One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is trying to identify what they believe in using one word, for example: collaboration, innovation, quality, excellence. These are great descriptors that unfortunately mean nothing unless you explore what they mean to your organization. Ask board, staff, and volunteers this question: “If one of our beliefs is to be ‘collaborative’ what does that look like when we behave that way?” Here, you are able to surface the unique way you create value.


  • Make Sure Its Real – As you are exploring your organization’s principles, talk with the people you serve to make sure that what you believe in is actually being translated into action. There is nothing worse than thinking you are “innovative” when the community thinks you are “conventional.” Perception is reality. Make sure that what you believe in aligns with the perception people have about your work.


  • Write Your Principles Down and Discuss Them – One of the key ways to create alignment between your principles, how you take action, and what is perceived by your audiences is to simply write them down. It is also important to spend time with your colleagues identifying when and where your principles are being illustrated through your work.


  • Segment Your Audience by Their Beliefs – Organizations often segment their audiences by the role they currently or potentially can play within the organization (e.g. donor, participant, etc.) This approach does not help you broaden or deepen your relationship with the audience you are trying to reach. By understanding how your audiences’ beliefs shape their understanding of what they feel they need from you or what they think you can provide for them, you can then identify how your principles connect to their principles– identifying the best way to reach them with the right message.


Bottom line, standing up for what you believe in (and making it visible through every interaction) is the most important thing you can do to enhance participation and strengthen your brand.