Part 2: The 7-year-old solution to branding

The seven-year-old solution to branding

In their book, Made to Stick, the Heath brothers refer to something that affects us all: “The Curse of Knowledge.” The more you know about something – the greater your expertise and familiarity – the more impossible it is to see it as an outsider would. This applies especially to organizations.

The more we become entrenched in our own work, the easier it is to assume others see the world the same as we do. But of course, they don’t. Which may explain why they aren’t responding to your appeals as you’d like or getting as excited as you are about the wonderful organization you represent!

You may assume that your organization is well known in your area of specialization. But that assumption occurs if you only hang out with staff, donors and others from similar organizations. Step out into the “real world” and you find a very different level of understanding.

Another humbling realization is that even your best donors likely support many other charities. They may love you, but their relationship isn’t monogamous: Research has shown that they’re probably just as enamored with several other non-profits who are doing the same thing you are: thinking they are the world to these donors and assuming these donors understand them the way you internally do.

One way to overcome this lack of understanding on the part of both outsiders and even those we may think of as insiders such as donors is this:

Become like a child.

Or at least think like one.


Ask yourself how would you explain your organization to a seven-year-old. If you can’t do it in a way that a child would understand it, you’re probably not going to be able to communicate it well to a prospect . . . or even an existing donor who may know only a part of what you do.

Remember from our earlier branding blog that your mission is what you do. Your brand is your distinctive way of carrying out that mission. So learn how to communicate that distinctive in a simple and clear way. One even a child can understand.

Try it.

And if you can’t find a seven-year-old to explain it to, give us a call. We’ll connect you with one. And if after you try to explain your work to this kid and they still look at you like something unfathomable from ancient history (which, to them would be sometime in the 1990’s), then let us know that as well. We just might have a few ideas on how to help. . .

This post is the 2nd part of an ongoing series on non-profit branding. Read the 1st post here.