Nonprofits: Romance Your Brand

by: Smith and Howard Wealth Management

In a speech hosted by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Tim Halloran, author of Romancing the Brand talked to attendees about the importance of their nonprofits’ brands. Following is a summary of the key points Halloran made to his audience, written by Stephanie Vaughn, a member of Smith and Howard’s Accounting, Advisory and Assurance Services and Nonprofit groups.

As the title implies, Romancing the Brand is a step by step guide to making donors “fall in love” with a brand. Halloran emphasized that nonprofits must do more for the donor to show their mission is being carried out. If done well, donors will give more and will not “cheat” on organizations with other nonprofits.

We gathered eight key elements for nonprofits to “romancing the brand”:

Know yourself: Determine how you will be different

Know the mission of your nonprofit and what values the Organization stands behind. When you know yourself, you are better able to promote yourself and have a niche in the market.

Know your type: Understand your donors and their specialness

What types of donors are you looking for? Which companies and individuals care about what you are doing? When you understand who you are, you are then able to understand who your consumers are. You want consumers whose beliefs and mission coincides with yours.  When your consumer believes and thinks the way you do – you are better able to find ways for them to help you (donate time and/or money).

First and continuous impression: Tell your story and create an experience. Have a compelling personality that shines through all your interactions.

How did you meet your donor and/or potential donor? Did that first meeting go well? Did you perhaps throw them off or contradict yourself? When you are meeting people throughout the community that are consumers (donors) that you would like to have – they will want to trust you. Many people base their initial trust level off their first impression and judgment of you.

Make it mutual: Make your partner feel special

They have to want your mission to be carried out as much as you want them to donate (time and/or money). This means understanding what consumers you want and need to help your organization grow. If they feel as though they are benefiting by donating to your organization – they feel equally important to you throught more than just their dollars and/or time.

Deepen the connection: Leverage your evangelists to spread the word

Once you have a good relationship with your donors – you can leverage that relationship to obtain more benefits beyond the donation. Before asking your donor to help with those benefits, the Organization should consider if the relationship has been recently increasing, plateauing or even declining. Does your donor still feel that deep connection or would they not notice if you fell off the earth? Can someone (ie. another organization) easily replace you in their life to fulfill a mission? On a more positive note, would they feel a sense of loss if you were not there to carry out a mission they strongly believe in? If the relationship is strong, good – continue to keep the “fireworks” sparking their continued interest in you. However, if the relationship is in a rut and struggling – start concentrating on them and deepen their “love” for you.

Keep love alive: Be honest

Keep performing the mission and making the donor see results from their contribution.

Making up: Leverage mistakes and missteps to get stronger

If you “cheat” on your partner in life – you have to make it up (or lose the relationship). If there is a glitch in the story of your relationship with your donor – you are going to have to fix it and rework to rebuild that trust.

Breaking up and moving on: Make your relationships the highest priority in everything you do

What if 10 years down the road you and the donor aren’t good partners for each other? What if their personal or corporate revenue streams have changed and they care more about other purposes? Don’t rely on that one person to “come back crying”. Make sure that you have enough of a support system and relationships with your other donors that you can easily overcome this issue without going through a depression.

Coffee, High School Dates = Your Brand

We consume and fund brands on a monthly, daily and continuous basis. We think of the brands as another relationship.

For instance, coffee can be a significant portion of someone’s life; there are times when they rely on it, just like they would a person. The coffee can help that person stay alert and wake up to face the day in front of them. Coffee lovers and their morning coffee are in it for the long-haul.

On the other end of the spectrum is high school. In high school, dates for most people were just flings. These dates were fun, but we often soon realized that we were not compatible or were not being treated the way we wanted or even deserved. This made us move on and find someone that cared about the same things in life – or our mission, in a way.

If your nonprofit mission is a “good close connection” that reminds people of happy things (coffee) vs what they don’t want out of life (a high school date), you have the opportunity to build that long-term relationship and continue to receive donations over the long haul to fund that opportunity.

The nonprofit teams of Smith and Howard Wealth Management and Smith and Howard seek to help our nonprofit clients view their organizations not just from a financial perspective, but from a strategic perspective. Without a clear mission and a strategy for engaging and maintaining evangelistic donors, the organization will struggle to achieve its goals and fulfill its mission. Therefore, our mission is to help our nonprofits fulfill their mission. We’re the coffee.


Tim Halloran:
Tim has built and directed some of the world’s largest brands. With over 20 years of strategic consumer brand management, insights, and new product development experience, he speaks extensively to business professionals on ways to improve the relationships between their brands and consumers.

Mr. Halloran is President of Atlanta’s Brand Illumination and has provided guidance to top marketing companies, including Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Kraft Foods, Glaceau (vitaminwater/ smartwater), Georgia Pacific (Consumer Package Group), Vita Coco, Sprout Organic Baby Food, the NBA, Intercontinental Hotels Group,  Chico’s/White House Black Market, Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, Simon Malls, and Turner Broadcasting. Prior to consulting, Tim spent 10 years in the Coca-Cola brand management organization, leading multiple beverage brands and marketing innovations. His successes at Coke include the national launch of Powerade sports drink and its sponsorship of the Olympics, co-development of Dasani bottled water, development of Coke’s first Internet marketing initiative with his work on Cherry Coke, and the overhaul of Coca-Cola’s U.S. tea strategy, including the creation of Gold Peak Tea. Tim has been featured as a brand expert on numerous radio, television, and newspaper outlets.  He was awarded Innovator of the Year by Coca-Cola and named Max Award Finalist for Innovation by Georgia State University.

Tim also serves as an adjunct faculty member of Marketing at both Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and Mercer University’s Stetson School of Business where he teaches in the BBA, MBA, Evening MBA, and Executive MBA programs.

The Speech:
After the book:

Romancing the Brand reveals what it takes to make consumers fall in love with your brand. Step by step, it shows you how to start, grow, maintain, and troubleshoot a flourishing relationship between brand (nonprofit mission) and consumer (donor). Along the way, Halloran shares the secrets behind establishing a mutually beneficial “romance.” The book is filled with examples, strategies, and tools from powerful brands that consumers love, including Coke, Dos Equis, SmartWater, the Atlanta Falcons, Domino’s Pizza, Bounty, Turner Classic Movies, and many more.

For more information, call us at 404-874-6244.