Part 6: To know yourself is not enough

“Know thyself.”

These words worked well as a maxim written on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and later used by Plato in reference to sayings of Socrates. Every organization should know itself as well. But you can’t stop there.

Unfortunately, too many organizations do.

They believe that knowing and communicating their programs and organizational news are the key to donor engagement. After all, why would a donor become a donor if they didn’t care about the organization, right?

Not so fast.

Donors often give primarily to a cause. Your organization just happens to represent that cause. The question is, what else do you represent? In short, what do you really mean to your donor or to prospective donors? What is your brand in their minds?

Knowing and talking about yourself is not enough. You need to understand what your donor’s need and what they think about you. Or better, what they feel about you since most people make decisions, including donation decisions, based on emotions more than logic alone.

You uncover these deeper feelings, associations and perceptions through brand research. Unlike traditional donor research that explores why donors give, what offers motivate them and how they like to receive communications, brand research goes deeper to address core emotional connections donors have to your ministry.

Here are some questions we typically ask in brand research:

  • What does (your organization’s name) do?
  • What does the organization do better than anyone else?
  • Who else would you turn to for similar services/products/ministry?
  • What three words best describe the organization?
  • What do you value most about the organization?
  • If the organization were a person, how would you describe him or her?
  • What would you miss most if the organization disappeared tomorrow?

Simple questions. But try this experiment.

First, answer each of these questions the way you think your donors would answer them.

Second, call up three donors. Just three (or enough to have three conversations if you can’t reach some by phone).

Ask them these questions.

Compare the results.

You may find you get some very different answers; between yours and theirs, and between each of theirs.

You may also find some other surprises. Most of all, you may realize how much you can learn from your donors. Remember, for all you say about your brand, it only exists in your audience’s mind. What they think of you matters far more than what you think of you. That’s pretty humbling, but true.

So use brand research to get to know what they think. In so doing, you may also uncover another surprise. You may actually get to know yourself better as well.