The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 14

Building a Compelling Nonprofit Brand in a Noisy World with Matthew Quint

In this Episode:

Matthew Quint, Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School, discusses the challenges and opportunities nonprofit brands are facing today.

Boris and Matthew talk about what defines a brand and how your brand can be an authentic voice that rises above the noise. They also discuss the importance of understanding your donors and how you can connect with them using your brand’s story to help them understand your purpose and support it.

Listen to this Episode

[00:00:20.170] – Intro Video
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast, and podcast. Where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better word for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:21.950] – Boris
Da-Ding!, it’s been so long since I’ve heard that. Welcome back to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, everybody. After a bit of a hiatus in the craziness of the pandemic, we’re excited to be back chatting with experts in communications, marketing and fundraising and technology that can help nonprofits create a bigger impact and a better world for all of us, as I like to say. I’m really excited to be back with a guest today that is also a good friend of mine.

[00:00:46.190] – Boris
He is a researcher, a writer and a knowledge sharer on a wide range of issues critical to building a strong brand, including marketing ROI strategies for marketing in the digital age and how to develop creative and effective brand communications. His name is Matthew Quint. He is the director. He is a director at the Columbia Business School in their Center for Brand Strategy. He also produces the acclaimed BRITE Conference, which I’ve enjoyed attending in the past, to discuss how innovation and technology help build and maintain strong brands. And he serves on the board of the New York City Children’s Theater, which is an organization that I am a big fan of as well.

[00:01:24.260] – Boris
Matthew describes his superpower as helping organizations think strategically about what it takes to build and maintain a strong brand. And I’m going to bring him on to tell you more about that and ask him a whole lot of questions about how nonprofits can really use their brand, activate their brand, grow their brand and compete in this noisy space that we’re all in.

[00:01:43.940] – Boris
So without any further ado, let’s bring on Matthew Quint.

[00:01:48.960] – Boris
Hey, Matthew.

[00:01:49.860] – Matthew Quint
Hey, Boris, pleasure to see you, really happy to be hosted by you right now.

[00:01:56.400] – Boris
Thank you so much for being on. I appreciate it. And no pressure. Like I said, you’re just our first guest back after a nine month hiatus. So if you mess this up, it’s all over for us, Matt.

[00:02:06.690] – Matthew Quint

[00:02:09.570] – Boris
With that said, why don’t you–I obviously I read your bio–tell us your story though.

[00:02:14.820] – Matthew Quint
Yeah, absolutely, Boris. So I was born back in. We’ll jump ahead a little bit. So professionally I sort of have largely a two-career path. So for a decade after college I worked at the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC, on nuclear science policy. So kind of an interesting thing. And then moved to New York, got a job at Columbia, realized I could also get a degree while I was there and got a Masters of Science in Strategic Communications, which is offered by the School of Professional Studies while I was working there and in a small center that was just starting up.

[00:03:00.420] – Matthew Quint
And then as I was finishing the degree program after a couple of years, slid into this role as a director at the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School. And I’ve been there for over a decade now, so I really enjoy it and enjoy the nonprofit world have been involved. A few, as you mentioned, served on a board of one. The work I do at The Brand Center is broad and obviously largely for profit oriented. So the examples in the way I think we talk today will be a mixture of general trends I’m seeing in the space, as well as some specific, unique elements that go into nonprofit branding in particular.

[00:03:48.480] – Boris
Honestly, I think that’s super valuable because I find in my work a lot of times that’s what I’m doing. I’m translating the latest marketing trends or the latest storytelling trends, whatever they might be, technology trends and helping nonprofits understand exactly the best ways to use them. And that is helping them compete by staying staying level with the other organizations out there that are vying for the same exact attention, dollars and everything else, all the resources that nonprofits do need and deserve to get.

[00:04:22.810] – Boris
So it’s great that you’re able to bring those kinds of insights and then translate them to nonprofit space. So I guess let’s start with a nice, broad question, which is what are you seeing out there in branding in general and or in the nonprofit branding in specific?

[00:04:41.760] – Matthew Quint
Yeah, I mean, right now, I think the biggest overall issue going on for companies, there are two core ones. The first one is this transition we’re in right now towards what’s being called stakeholder capitalism from shareholder capitalism. Right. So changing the very responsibilities of what it is to be a corporate entity. And while many have often had corporate social responsibility programs, cared about their community, et cetera, there’s been a ramp up of the expectations of companies, particularly for profits, but nonprofits as well, in terms of what are they delivering, how are they bringing back, how are they advancing society?

[00:05:27.360] – Matthew Quint
So everything you’re doing, if you’re selling potato chips or Ford one fifty F one fifties, you’re forward. Right? Each of these is OK. What’s our overall organization mission? What’s our purpose? How are we contributing? And then for what are the products and services that we’re delivering? How are those meeting our mission and where are they helping society and not just revenue generation profits? And so as a brand, how you’re mixing in those elements is ramped up to a level that it hasn’t we haven’t been at really ever before.

[00:06:04.140] – Matthew Quint
In some ways, it’s an advantage to nonprofits who usually start with a very strong mission and purpose. Right. There’s a resonance there in the consumer mindset, particularly among younger consumers, about where is this contributing back into society element of what you’re doing. There’s mostly respect that you need to be profitable to stay in business. And everyone you talk to, all the experts around whether you’re for profit or nonprofit, that’s the big thing that they focus on.

[00:06:36.840] – Matthew Quint
It’s like we can’t execute our mission and whatever service it is to society, we can’t generate revenue and be profitable. So that doesn’t go away. And then the.

[00:06:48.930] – Matthew Quint
Another key thing, obviously, is just changes going on right now with. Problems in supply chain, right, which is just affecting brands and delivering on your promise to customers. Right. It’s hard to people if you’re selling F one fifties, you may not be able to sell them right now because the chips that are necessary is one example to go into the car in order to build it aren’t available.

[00:07:15.350] – Matthew Quint
So there’s there’s shortages on these kind of things. So and yes, I apologize. I’m having a little video delay, it seems.

[00:07:26.750] – Boris
That’s OK. We’re still getting everything. So it’s all good. So when it comes to that that brand authenticity, that that connection to a deeper mission, you actually kind of mentioned driven by younger consumers. I know that millennial culture as widely been associated with this. It’s not that that Ford one day woke up and decided to be woke, if you will, it’s that consumers and consumers are the same people who are also donors. Right. They have started asking.

[00:08:03.200] – Boris
They’ve started to vote with their dollars. And that’s really what they’re doing every time they donate or buy anything to vote with their dollars, the types of organizations that they want to support because they want a certain world in the end, not just a gadget or a car.

[00:08:22.850] – Matthew Quint
That’s correct. I think there’s been pressures economically and politically, globally that have created a new expectation of what the non-government sectors in our society are doing to care for society. Now, some of those attitudes are. Representative in that dollar spent in many cases, in some cases, people are we have to remember it, it affects some choices consumers are making and donors are making. Right or users of nonprofit services it affects some of that doesn’t affect all of us.

[00:09:02.140] – Matthew Quint
It’s not like we’ve had a massive sea change, but all it takes, as we know in most cases, is a bit of a trend going in one direction. And the reality is that especially for the corporate world, it’s as much about talent recruitment, talent management affecting churn. Right.

[00:09:23.050] – Matthew Quint
We’re talking about younger generations. They now want to work for an organization in which they feel better about the way that organization is contributing to society. Again, one of the things about a nonprofit that has been so strong is they get committed individuals often who are right working to quote unquote, better the world in some way and some corner in some element and often sacrifice to make sacrifices in terms of salary and other things, because the renumeration isn’t there.

[00:09:55.690] – Matthew Quint
But that’s what they want. So in some cases, it may be difficult for nonprofits moving forward. And the corporate world, which may have more money to pay in salary, gets into driving more social impact related elements. As an organization, it’ll be an interesting trend to keep up with over the next decade plus, but also potentially leading to more and more partnerships. And that’s, I think, something that nonprofits need to look at is take a look outside your your sphere and look at what organizations, what for profit organizations seem to have matching passions to yours.

[00:10:32.860] – Matthew Quint
Many organizations do that already, but I think there’s going to be an even greater willingness for both foundations that come out of companies. I just did an interview. We’re about to launch a podcast at The Brand Center called Bright Ideas. And we interviewed the CEO of the Lego Foundation, which is a long time, long running since the Eighties Foundation, which actually owns twenty five percent of the Lego group. Very interesting model. And that’s going to continue to grow.

[00:11:05.170] – Matthew Quint
And we’re going to see more companies looking at where can I drive, find a matched purpose with an organization that is doing something that aligns with what my purpose and what my goals to improve society are.

[00:11:20.290] – Boris
There’s a lot of stuff to to look at there and to consider there. But I realized that you’re a branding expert and this is a great opportunity to ask someone who lives in this space because everybody has their own definition. Matt, what is a brand.

[00:11:40.150] – Matthew Quint
The way I think of a brand and we think of a brand in terms of what we try to execute at The Brand Center, is anything that affects the relationship between an organization and its stakeholders affects the brand. Right. So a brand is not just marketing and communications. It’s not just your brand identity in terms of your name, your logo. It also taps into the operations of what you do, your supply chain issues, as I was just mentioning earlier, your overall mission and purpose.

[00:12:17.590] – Matthew Quint
All of these things create a perception that you’re trying to drive as the brand itself and also a perception that’s in the mind of your stakeholders about who you are. So you manage your brand, but you do not entirely control your brand. Right. So it’s important to think about the fact that you need to be paying attention as much as you can to people outside of your organization, even outside of your core stakeholders, your direct owners, your direct ticket purchasers, especially those who are NACAC.

[00:12:56.500] – Matthew Quint
And what is what’s going on outside of that sphere and how do they think about you as well as, of course, trying to get data on how some of your core stakeholders think about you, what they think about your brand? Because sometimes what you there’s an enlightenment that can occur where you realize we’ve thought of ourselves this way, but it’s really, really interesting insights that those who are involved with us think about us a little differently. And where can we fit into that, especially building a brand.

[00:13:27.070] – Matthew Quint
Right. If you’re trying to changing perceptions is the hardest thing to do. So if you can find a way to take an existing perception in a consumer’s mind and a person’s mind and find out how you can match and just wiggle it or adapt to what you do to match their perception and flow along with it. That is a lot easier than to try to do something from a communications marketing perception perspective to switch their perception into something different. I want them to think about us this way and they don’t.

[00:14:01.910] – Matthew Quint
Well, that’s going to be a step by step process if you really want to do that, right?

[00:14:08.510] – Boris
I think that’s a great definition. In my world, since I positioned everything from storytelling perspective. A brand is basically the story that gets triggered almost involuntarily in someone’s mind when they hear your name, see your logo or see you in context anywhere. It’s an association. They have with it a story usually based on some personal experience or knowledge that they have around it.

[00:14:36.350] – Matthew Quint
Yeah, and you can be a strong brand and have people hate you. Right. Is one of the things right? Because everyone has different perceptions of things. Some people like chocolate. Some people like vanilla. Right. So there’s not a there’s very few brands out there that are loved by all even some of the most beloved brands. Apple, as an example. Right. Has a lot of fans. I personally respect Apple as a brand and many elements of what it does, but I find there’s a lot of myth there, too.

[00:15:06.860] – Matthew Quint
And as I look under the hood of what many of the elements of the Apple brand are, it’s sort of not a brand for me, Matt Quint. And there are many like me, right? There are there are Apple more Apple lovers than Apple haters out there.

But whatever brand you are for profit nonprofit, you have to be accepting of the fact that you’re not going to appeal and please everyone unless you’re Bob Marley.

[00:15:32.780] – Boris
So that’s it’s interesting because there are definitely brands out there that almost like politicians are very divisive. Right. They’re going to be excuse me, they’re going to be either someone that you’re going to either love or hate. And then there are brands that try to be not quite Switzerland, but we love all. All should love us. What makes a more effective brand and maybe it’s not the extreme of one or the other, but what is more effective and keeping in mind that nonprofits have to be associated with social good or they don’t have to be, but ideally should be in order to get the support that they want out there.

[00:16:12.800] – Boris
How how does a nonprofit brand grow strong and define itself?

[00:16:19.000] – Matthew Quint
Yeah, really through all the same, all the elements that we’re talking about, whether it’s for profit or nonprofit. And it’s really interesting how the term brand when I started working at The Brand Center in 2009, we did an interview with Hayes Roth, who was the chief strategy officer at Landor at the chief marketing officer at Landor at the time. One of the leading brand agencies, New York based independent brand agencies in the US. And, you know, the B word was something nonprofits didn’t like back then because at that time, brand was still associated with something pushed out from a company, a for profit company, trying to get attention and be known for something.

[00:17:01.430] – Matthew Quint
So for brands, it was reputation was the terminology. Right. And it’s sort of, as he talked about at the time, really didn’t matter what terminology used. What you needed to do was understand yourself, what you are trying to change. What are you trying to deliver in the world? What are the obstacles to that? How are you breaking through those obstacles with what you are doing and then finding proof points that demonstrate how you’re actually making these changes in the world?And and then to your point, Boris, it’s wrapping all of that up in the story.

[00:17:36.020] – Matthew Quint
You know, that’s what makes it compelling to the audience, is understanding not just what you’re doing, but give me some sort of anecdote to be simple. You need, as I call it, the anec-data and the data. Right. So you need the story arcs that demonstrate where you’re actually succeeding in the mission that you’re trying to accomplish.

[00:17:59.900] – Matthew Quint
And then you need a bit/some/any element if you’re a nonprofit, I think it’s going to be especially one of the key things moving forward as you look to not individual donors, per say, but foundational, corporate, government donors, whatever, wherever your resources come from as a nonprofit. In that case, you’re going to need to have evidence that you are kind of moving the needle on what your mission is and finding that data and finding some support for it.

[00:18:26.480] – Matthew Quint
And that is a big change for a lot of organizations. And it’s begun to happen a few years ago. And as I see things in the world, I still see even people trying to understand what brand is stuff that I got enlightened to as I started working at The Brand Center in 2009, and it’s still moving, so I think there are some nonprofits that are that are leaders already, but maybe that’s 15, 20 percent of them and 80 percent are still catching up to that that data gathering element.

[00:18:58.330] – Boris
The only thing that I would take issue with, if it’s not really what you just said, is that not so much individual donors. I disagree. I think individual donors these days definitely want to know where’s my money going, how is it going to be used and my making a difference, because it’s all about these big organizations, big foundations that are going to fund your work and they’re the ones who can handle it versus how do I make a difference, like on a on a donation page or a crowdfunding page.

[00:19:27.220] – Boris
If you say that 50 dollars enables this and this to happen. And I could associate specific results that you’ve already gotten in the past and can give me some sort of guidance on how my money will be used, I think that’s absolutely critical today.

[00:19:41.920] – Matthew Quint
And I didn’t mean to dismiss what you are talking about there. And I think a lot of organizations have that level data we have in terms of or the data that’s been used and has worked effectively, I think still will for a lot of individuals is the action data. We have accomplished this. So many people have been through our programs, et cetera, and that’s great. And that is has been and obviously will continue to be. That’s your organization demonstrating what it does to functional needs.

[00:20:13.930] – Matthew Quint
Right. A brand is a mix of functionality and emotion. That’s where we’re this in the mind. There’s like I buy the chips because they taste great. But I also think a little bit about the company or the emotion or the advertising and some of the other things. Right. So there’s the mix of that with every brand. And so as a nonprofit, you need that functional demonstration of something. I think the deeper layer is beyond the action oriented numbers and data.

[00:20:42.160] – Matthew Quint
How many people have we served? How many people have been through us right now? We’re getting into, well, what changed from who they were before we serve them to who they are now, after they serve them as transformational data points. And I think individual donors will eventually come to the expectation of seeing some of that, too. And certainly, if you can show that that’s going to be a benefit to you as a nonprofit to actually be demonstrating that you care about this and that you are trying to show that you’re moving the needle, but your foundation, any other large donors, that kind of thing, that that is going to be a crucial, absolute need in order to continue to get their funding.

[00:21:23.080] – Matthew Quint
It’s going to be less about the pure philanthropy and more about show me how I’m moving the needle and changing society with this money. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:21:31.930] – Boris
I absolutely agree with you. I teach that this should be on your website. There should be a lot of your materials because even for individuals, they want to be part of a winning team. They want to feel like this organization is actually doing something, moving the needle, creating an impact, changing the world into some place that I want to see in my community or globally, wherever it might be.

[00:21:54.430] – Matthew Quint
Exactly. And it’s like, where’s the the outcome oriented data is the harder thing to get very difficult for people. Right? We we do. In New York City, Children’s Theater does a lot of programing in school districts throughout New York City of performances.

[00:22:12.370] – Matthew Quint
And Antibully, they have an anti-bullying program, et cetera. Well, where where’s the outcome? The people, kids who came to that anti-bullying program, can you find a way to get a little data about has bullying gone down in the schools in which that program was?

[00:22:31.020] – Matthew Quint
Executed or not. And it’s not easy to always get that data instinctively, that action oriented thing, hey, you’re trying to explain and teach about anti-bullying or about the dangers of bullying and how you handle it also is just a good on its own. And people will commit and support that. You’re going to get more support and more growth. To your point at the beginning of how do we do that? If you can actually get that outcome data like we serve this many schools with this program, there were this many reported bullying incidents prior.

[00:23:03.720] – Matthew Quint
There are this many after we’re not the sole or not the sole impact of that. But we contributed to this reduction. Exactly.

[00:23:12.380] – Boris
Exactly. And speaking of New York City, Children State are a great example. So they are traditionally New York City based and work with New York City schools. And yet a little something happened over the course of the last year called Covid. And now all of a sudden, New York City, which has it right in the title children’s theater, is appealing to kids around the parents really around the country and around the world and to educators. There has been a shift in strategy as we’ve gone more online.

[00:23:43.470] – Boris
And I think as things are returning to some state of normal, it’s a new normal. It’s a hybrid normal. How has Covid changed things for organizations, nonprofits, specifically? What’s different today and going forward that they should really be thinking about?

[00:24:02.100] – Matthew Quint
Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot to unpack in that. And I think there are still unknowns, right?

[00:24:07.020] – Boris
I ask the easy questions, Matt.

[00:24:09.810] – Matthew Quint
Predicting the future is folly, as many will say, but there are indicators that you can go into. So the example is in the idea of like now with the transition of—giving New York City Children’s Theater as example—digital programing, not only live shows in New York and in-person experiences in the schools, but more digital programing, well, that expands the audience that they can reach. That is creates a brand new opportunity for what they can do.

[00:24:42.870] – Matthew Quint
Therefore, how do you move forward as a brand leveraging the New York City versus the, you know, the children’s theater? Right. And that’s a key thing as we talk about… the beauty of a good brand and a good communications or marketing elements of it is simplicity is often what you want. Right. So you get into these challenges of can we be recognized around the nation? If we’re called New York City Children’s Theater or people are going to just constantly think of New York City? And so there can be subtle things in which you you adjust your marketing campaign to deemphasize New York City and emphasize children’s theater as you’re doing programing that’s digital, for example.

[00:25:27.840] – Matthew Quint
Right. Or you deemphasized the logo entirely. Or you create a subbranch related to your digital programing, which you and you’re focusing purely on that subbrand, which is produced by New York City Children’s Theater, but is bigger. And you can look to write NPR as a great example. Right. A lot of the podcasts and episodes that you listen to there, they’re crafted by public radio stations all across the country. But we think of them as NPR episodes, whether they’re from Chicago or New York or L.A. And I think that’s kind of the model for brands to think about, is where do you focus on the mission that you can you want to deliver?

[00:26:12.960] – Matthew Quint
And as there’s new opportunities to reach stakeholders well, outside side, what might be your local area that you’re focused on? How do we craft the brand to meet their mindset and not think of us as being entirely local and be which ones are the right opportunities to take? I mean, resources, as we know, are sometimes scarce in nonprofits.

[00:26:35.550] – Boris

[00:26:35.550] – Matthew Quint
So it’s it’s. Yeah, exactly , always. Right. I work for a nonprofit. Columbia University is a nonprofit institution, so I know it well myself.

[00:26:47.730] – Matthew Quint
And so it’s understanding where the opportunities to do it, where you take where you take a step back. And this gets into another thing. Right. As we talk about brand building in broadly. Right. Which is in the way that digital communications digitization has changed so much about our world, the way we interact with each other, the way we interact with brands, companies, products, services, part of the building of the infrastructure we do is agile building.

[00:27:16.650] – Matthew Quint
Right. This ability you test, you experiment, you go, you rebuild, you break it down, you try again. And that’s diffused now into the way all organizations need to think. They need to all be thinking as if they are an agile organization. And how do I do that? And for nonprofits, it’s often a challenge to be experimental. When you have resource constraints, too, you’ve got these core audiences often who don’t ask you to do the thing they know you do well.

[00:27:43.980] – Matthew Quint
So that’s going to be key in this expansion is find pilot projects, as it’s called. Right. Find little things you can do. Just put a small investment in it, see what goes, and ideally try five of them and potentially try five of them at very small. And then you learn which one seems to be getting sticky and getting some attention and making some traction and then ramp up on that one and ones that don’t seem to be doing well, pull back on.

[00:28:14.250] – Matthew Quint
And so that that’s going to be key in terms of how you think about the open expansion of the world you have access to in the stakeholders who have access to.

[00:28:26.250] – Boris
So when it comes to New York City Children’s Theater, I actually think in a lot of markets and a lot of ways positioning wise New York City, it is a brand. Someone says NYC or New York City. You think of all kinds of things. And I think one of them is theater. So I think that actually goes to their advantage. They I don’t think they need to even downplay it in this case. But there are plenty of organizations that don’t have the New York City name in them.

[00:28:53.700] – Boris
But they’ve traditionally been community based or somehow local. And now that they’re moving online, there’s this there’s this mixed opportunity, mixed blessing, if you will, where on the one hand they could reach a lot more people and their services are great and valuable. Online programing is great and valuable to them. On the other hand, there are a lot more organizations vying for that same dollar, that same moment of attention. There’s there’s a term for it, isn’t it?

[00:29:24.570] – Boris
A time a moment of attention right now. So there’s this need to differentiate somehow. And to the expression I like to use a lot is rise above the noise. How does a nonprofit brand and what advice would you give a nonprofit brand that wants to stand out when there’s all these meme makers and multibillion dollar companies vying for that same time unitive attention?

[00:29:57.540] – Matthew Quint
Yeah, again, and same thing all brands are trying to break through the noise, it is one of the big issues. So I know you like to share resources. You sort of led into this. Right, which is one of my favorite books. And the topic that was part of my come out and was part of my graduate program is Made to Stick, which is over a decade old now, but it’s not dated. Maybe some of the examples in the book might feel a little dated now, but because companies and the examples they’ve done have changed.

[00:30:31.050] – Matthew Quint
But the principles behind Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath are great. And it is this break through the noise techniques that you can set up. And there’s no guarantee any of this is going to work. But. Right. And the key thing is they have to call it success. And it’s like being simple, right? Messaging needs to be simple, be unexpected. And that’s the biggest thing to kind of break through the noise. And it needs to be concrete that gets back into this data, the servicing.

[00:31:01.980] – Matthew Quint
What are you doing? Something specific that people can latch on to rather than something abstract, credible. Of course, as we know in our modern misinformation world, what people view as credible sources and viable sources of information is really interesting and unique. I think for most nonprofits, there’s still an expectation of some credibility behind it. Actually, if you’re delivering any service with this, we’re benefiting society. Well, where where’s their credibility that you are? What credible stakeholders are saying that you make an impact and you make a difference, or where do you have data to do that?

[00:31:42.090] – Matthew Quint
So there’s credibility, emotional. And again, that gets right into your storytelling, Boris and. Oh, my gosh, it just went on the last.

[00:31:56.080] – Boris
Oh, we could Google it real quick. I read the book, by the way. I love it, but I don’t remember the whole acronym.

[00:32:01.330] – Matthew Quint
It’s great. And it will probably come to me as as we’re here. And that’s enough. I mean, I think for your audience, I’ve gotten through it and I’ll look up.

[00:32:11.410] – Boris
I’m really embarrassed. And that kind of thought, it might be it, but I was scared to say it. Stories, Matt. Stories.

[00:32:19.120] – Matthew Quint
So that’s why it wasn’t coming to me, because I was mentioning stories throughout the rest of the success acronym that they used.

[00:32:26.410] – Boris
So our viewers can see my face all red that forgot stories in success.

[00:32:33.880] – Matthew Quint
So that’s a great I mean, and again, these are the principles, not the nonprofits. Anyone does it. I give I’m sure your listeners maybe even come up at some point on your past episodes. Right. There’s the you know, the famous ALS ice bucket challenge as people have come to think of it. Right. And that comes up a lot. And I don’t know whether on your podcast, you’ve talked about it directly, but the ALS Society was not the creator of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

[00:33:01.390] – Matthew Quint
Right. And this gets into another kind of break through the noise thing is, where are these stories that as the stories

Most nonprofits have passionate people within their community, things often that brands want more than they always have. Right. They’re looking for those passionate people that will share their stories, that will spread the love, that will give that word of mouth. Nonprofits usually have lots of those people willing to help and who have great stories, you know, so where you can tease out those stories, especially in this resource constrained thing where you can give them the tools.

[00:33:35.590] – Matthew Quint
So just say give them an opportunity to post a little video, a selfie or whatever. Right. All these tools of the digital age and make it easy for them to share their stories about why they love you ideally and think you’re making an impact on the world and then bring those stories that gets that credibility thing. Often what you’ll find is some of those stories are unexpected. I didn’t think this I that there and you end up with those success metrics by relying on your community and the stories they have to raise you above the noise.

[00:34:10.180] – Boris
Right. And it’s always much better for someone else to be singing your praises than for you going to be singing your own. One is bragging and the other one is accepting praise humbly as it may or may not be. I often advise and I teach actually whole strategies on how to collect those stories. To constantly collect and curate and share those stories is critical because your that is proof of the work that you’re doing. It’s proof of people that support your social proof in many ways, and it is organic spreading of your message.

[00:34:47.290] – Boris
Those people are your greatest champions in a lot of ways. They’re certainly your biggest advocates and ambassadors.

[00:34:52.570] – Matthew Quint
Exactly. Or they can be small. I mean, sometimes they’re small, right? It’s there. It’s some of the greatest stories come out of the person who’s just kind of small in your community, but had this one deep moment and is now part of the community, but may not be a big player, may not be a recognized person. Right. It’s that it’s that one parent who was in a personal scenario with their family and came to a New York City children’s theater show as an example.

[00:35:20.440] – Matthew Quint
Right. And the show that day reflected an issue that was going on in their family environment. And their kids said something to them in reaction to that show. And like that impacts that in the moments. Right. To your point, too, of like that moment of attention when you when you demonstrate, like what we do sometimes is literally one movement of attention can have that ripple effect, right?

[00:35:46.690] – Boris
Yeah. It’s almost the story becomes the ambassador because that’s what connects to people on an emotional level, gets get into their minds and into ultimately their hearts, which is where you really want to be in order to get someone to take action for your organization.

[00:36:01.240] – Matthew Quint
And I think you as a nonprofit, one of the interesting things is the multiple stakeholders who have. Right. And that’s another thing you need to be sourcing and understanding is what are the difference of your big donors? Do you have foundation or government grants? What’s their relationship to you? Both the people involved in it, as well as the organizations, whatever government department might be giving it, whatever that foundation is, are they changing their mission and paying attention to all those things?

[00:36:27.730] – Matthew Quint
Right. You may have users of particular services that you’re doing. You may have, someone in between. Right. If you’re trying to do something for people who have a medical condition, your nonprofit is building a community. You may need their doctors and nurses that are these interim that need to bridge the patient who’s going to use or person with their patients. Who’s going to use your service so now you have this influencer role in between you and the direct person you’re providing service to, so again, looking at all of them, understanding all of them, and then also, you know, there’s a great another great in this tools and resources. So I’m kind of like getting through some of your process in the course of our discussion rather than separating it out.

[00:37:14.030] – Matthew Quint
There’s a great thing, again, that I know you’re sharing your tools, your resources afterwards that I pulled, which is that the executive director of the California Symphony did a couple of long form posts, on Medium, about sort of their / her change as she came in, in their cadence and how they reached out to their stakeholders and adapted the model to recognize that there were a lot of numbers of interaction that were pushing and seeing good or database numbers and the number of people that they’ve been in contact with.

[00:37:49.520] – Matthew Quint
And they realized, you know, if we’re up that moving up that level right. From like bought a ticket to one symphony into regular donor or board member. Right. You’re hopefully… not many people are going to get to the board member level, but you’re trying to raise your audience up. Most nonprofits have some kind of a ladder like that, not all, but a lot of them have a ladder like that.

[00:38:10.820] – Matthew Quint
They realized that when someone comes to see one of our shows, they don’t really want to be bothered immediately by please now donate.

[00:38:21.320] – Matthew Quint
They recognize that, yeah, that led to some donations, but they tried some experimentation on waiting and the cadence of that, and they committed to not sending any donation type communications to anyone until after a year from their first interaction with the California Symphony. Right. Which is against most… Right. You go to the show and then you follow up with an email campaign that comes in and says, great, thank you, Bob. We are always looking for more support, blah blah.

[00:38:52.430] – Matthew Quint
And what they recognized was that they were—as they took that community of people and they did their test and control experiment, they got more returnee’s. And more people who then upped after the year, because that like giving them a break and letting them soak in the information, soak in the experience, maybe there’s still some information about upcoming shows and things like that and finding those cadences. And as you can experiment, depending on how large your contact database is with different types of communications, different types of pathways, you know that that’s all really important as you understand the needs and the expectations of your stakeholders.

[00:39:33.080] – Boris
So a few things that that you touched on. I actually walk clients through a process of creating their story. Source, map. What are all the different levels? Almost like the thirty thousand foot view, the three thousand four, three hundred, and down to the three foot view of who is interacting with your brand, with your organization. And it includes your staff and your board. And it goes down to your beneficiaries and all the different points in between and your sponsors and supporters and all of them are potential sources for stories because they all have a specific experience with your organization.

[00:40:10.640] – Boris
So that’s a huge and critical for companies, organizations to think about nonprofits. The other thing that you were just talking about with the waiting to ask for money, that’s that’s a huge pet peeve of mine, is as soon as you land on most nonprofit home pages, is “Donate Now”. “Donate Now”. That’s the biggest call to action. The first call to action. I don’t know you yet. I haven’t established a relationship with you yet.

[00:40:34.310] – Boris
And I think and I’m looking forward to reading those articles now that you mention them, but I think it’s about building that relationship, not predicated on you have to give us money in order for us to care about what you want and provide you value. It’s we’re here to serve. We’re here to provide value and step by step, slowly building. I don’t know if I could wait a year, but it’s more about a commitment point. Right? So if someone has just entered your website, they’re not ready to donate.

[00:41:05.330] – Boris
They might be ready if you provide them enough value on your site to give you their email address or just sign up for a webinar in exchange for an email address. Right. Which is a form of currency today, because that’s about my attention in my inbox. And then slowly, the more value you provide, the more you can ask for in return, which is why galas are so, so huge and successful. Right. Because those are already people who are primed, they’ve already gotten value from you, and now you’re giving them this show and you’re putting them into a situation where everyone else is also excited and giving.

[00:41:35.210] – Boris
And there’s this groundswell effect where everybody’s generously opening their pockets and they also come with the expectation that they’re going to be asked for money. It’s not: “Oh, by the way, I hope you enjoyed your dinner. Now give me money.”

[00:41:48.770] – Matthew Quint
Yeah. Yeah, no, absolutely. You’re also bringing up right in this cadence of communications as we talk about it. And I know you think about this Boris. Right, the. There’re two, there’s the donor-related appeal, which is like what’s in it for me, Matt Quint. How do I feel in giving what’s why? Why should I wait? What’s going to inspire Matt Quint to want to give to you, that’s going to be good for Matt Quint?

[00:42:14.890] – Matthew Quint
Matt Quint going to feel better out of just the pure giving, obviously, because we’re past that every organization, the pure giving emotion. And then there’s the organizational related appeal. Right. Which is the what do we do? How are we serving? How are we bettering society in the corner of it that we’re trying to tackle? And there’s an interesting another place again, resource for for some of your folks to look at is the American Marketing Association.

[00:42:44.530] – Matthew Quint
They have a big search term. You can search for nonprofit and what you get there, they have a pretty good they do some pretty good what we call in the academic world, where I call this translation of what are those studies that are being done in the fields that are data oriented and trying to take out some confounding where some of these insights and there was one they highlighted about these donor appeals, donor versus organizational appeals and what are the impacts of them.

[00:43:11.980] – Matthew Quint
And and it’s really interesting if you look at the numbers, right, the donor appeals get more people to make a donation. Right. But interestingly, the organizational appeal gets people to make a higher amount of donation. And the experiments they did with this nonprofit as they were doing it, and they did it in three different settings. It’s interesting that the over to the total revenue was roughly similar. So that gets into a strategic thought process of, hey, do we just need more like is an initial thing.

[00:43:43.270] – Matthew Quint
We just kind of want more people in our database.

You definitely want to go with a donor related appeal, how will you feel or find the donors that you know are good fits and focus on the like? You know, you will be helping children versus we help children, right? In that sense. The organization thing, if you’re like we have a good kind of database, we’re looking for sort of a better revenue for outreach thing. Hey, the organization can help.

[00:44:12.810] – Matthew Quint
But the best one they found, which is a little tricky because it’s a two step process, is to do when they use Facebook as a tool and they did a paid campaign, they reached one hundred thousand people on Facebook and the best was the donor, up to half of them that got the donor appeal on the Facebook message with the link to donate. And then the donation page was all the organizational appeal.

[00:44:36.720] – Matthew Quint
So if you can actually think about that, that two step process, your communications with people and that you you separate a little bit, what are how are you going to feel donating and what do we do to impact the world and make that a two step process that was shown to be highly effective, the most effective way?

[00:44:59.850] – Matthew Quint
Essentially both get numbers and revenue generation out of it and not together together again. It’s like independent each one and they all balance. If you do them together, you got less even than just an organizational appeal in terms of number of people, but just slightly less. But they donated a little more than people who had just gotten the donor appeal. So, again, you know, you can do all of them and there’s different times. And certainly that’s the thing.

[00:45:23.430] – Matthew Quint
Remember your strategy. What’s your goal at the time? What do you need to do if you’re just starting up as an organization? You just need more people to be knowledgeable about you if you are kind of established and now you’re looking at that next step and that deeper relationship with people, you know that then your strategy is less about just numbers and it’s more about how do I ramp people up that ladder.

[00:45:48.330] – Boris
Matthew, I think we need to have you back on for for another episode. This is already going to be the longest episode I think we’ve ever recorded. And I didn’t want to cut you off because this is all gold, practically speaking, almost literally speaking in terms of nonprofit fundraising. I have a theory on why that particular approach works. And it’s because the first thing you want to do is connect with me on what I want and what what I want in my world and the effect that I can have.

[00:46:17.280] – Boris
And then you want to show me the potentials. I think most well, in a campaign like that, the job of the donation page is not to convince me to donate by that time. If I’ve clicked on your donate page, that’s my intention. Now, your job is don’t lose me, don’t turn me off and try to get me one notch higher. Right. Get me to donate a little bit more than I thought because I could see the greater impact that it’s going to have.

[00:46:43.050] – Matthew Quint
Yeah, and there are all sorts of there’s a lot of marketing literature around how you set up your payment schemes to drive a kind of biased inclination we have as human beings. So you always want to you want to set those up at relative distances to each other and have the right cadence of those to drive people into. Right. And overall better revenue model in the way you set those up. So we’re not going to share all of that today, but other things that your audience will look at or you’ll highlight in the future on other episodes or another communications and platforms that you work on, like your newsletter and such Boris.

[00:47:23.160] – Matthew Quint
So while I’ve taken up the long chat, so if people are interested in the work we do at The Brand Center, which is broad. Right, so you’re getting that and that’s we talk about it with all businesses. When we talk to people, we do exercises specifically with companies about everyone gets caught and you’re your competitor set what you think of as yours. Right. And this is nonprofits know a little better of like I’m competing with every other nonprofit that exists for that percentage of wallet that people are willing to donate.

[00:47:52.890] – Matthew Quint
You know, it’s not just the other organizations that do children’s theater. I’m competing with everyone who’s donating to hospitals and everyone who’s donating to cancer cures and anything you can think of. So but I’m so looking for that. So looking at that outside competitors so you can visit us. And again and I know Boris will share this and the resources.

[00:48:15.820] – Boris
It’s on the show notes.

[00:48:17.820] – Matthew Quint
Is GSB, Dot, Columbia, dot edu, Backslash global brands, and that leads you to our homepage, you can sign up for our newsletter there you’ll see links to all sorts of speaker videos from our events will be launching a podcast, we hope, before the end of the year, before the end of the month.

[00:48:40.700] – Matthew Quint
So you’ll have a chance to end of June. So maybe by the time you guys are watching this, the up and available and again, we will incorporate some nonprofit stuff. As I mentioned, one of our episodes coming up will be with the CEO of the Lego Foundation and the CEO of Right to Play one of their recipient grant recipients. So and if you want to reach me personally, I’m on that page or my email address is

[00:49:11.550] – Boris
You will have all that. So it’s easy for people to just click a button and link to will have all your takeaways, your resources, your calls to action. This has been invaluable. And since you guys are a nonprofit, I’m going to give you a bit of free advice, which is go get yourself a short URL that redirects to that page so you never have to spell what is a Global Center brand GCB. I already forgot it. So instead be able to just give somebody a quick, simple URL that redirects like we do with that show.

[00:49:44.720] – Boris
We’ll take it to dotOrgStrategy special. Whatever the episode number is, it’ll just make your life easier.

[00:49:50.610] – Matthew Quint
We have that for our sub brands. It’s there’s an interesting you know, when you’re you’re a small part of a large institution, there are interesting expectations. And obviously there’s a Columbia halo that we like Brand Center. So, for example, our bright conference, which you had mentioned earlier, which is our sort of key flagship event on brands, innovation and technology, so be our I.T. E-conference dotcom that goes right there. You can also get there to The Brand Center and our podcast will be

[00:50:23.330] – Matthew Quint
So, yeah, we to do that as well. There’s that there’s some some issues about the larger.

[00:50:31.330] – Boris
I won’t get into the politics of Columbia for our conversations another time. Matthew, thank you so much for coming on today and spending all this time dropping invaluable information, sharing it with everybody. I hope it’s going to help organizations really refine their brand and help their brand stand out in this ever increasingly crowded space that that we’re all in. It’s got its opportunities and it’s got its challenges. And thank you for helping illustrate those and. Teach us how to navigate them.

[00:51:03.600] – Matthew Quint
Great. Well, it was a pleasure to be on Boris, and I wish you and your audience best wishes and building your brands.

[00:51:10.980] – Boris
Thanks. Thank you, everybody, for joining us. We’ll see you again next week. Have a great day.

[00:51:16.650] – Matthew Quint

[00:51:37.400] – Outro Video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, we hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think, by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • 4:41 — One of the biggest core issues brands are facing today is the transition from Shareholder Capitalism towards Stakeholder Capitalism. Fortunately, nonprofits have a head start in this arena.
  • 9:23 — Younger generations want to work with and for organizations which they feel are making a positive contribution to society. This is also an area where nonprofits have a head start, but the competition for talent from for-profit and B-corp brands is increasing.
  • 11:40 — A brand is not just about marketing and communications. It’s not just your brand identity in terms of your name, your logo… a brand is everything that affects the relationship between an organization and its stakeholders
  • 17:36 — What makes a brand compelling to the audience is understanding not just what you’re doing, but giving some sort of story. As Matthew calls it, the “anec-data” and the data.
  • 20:13 — A brand is a mix of functionality and emotion. As a nonprofit, you need that functional demonstration. The deeper layer is beyond the action-oriented numbers and data.
  • 24:10 — Predicting the future is folly. But there are indicators that you can go into, such as the shift to greater digital/online programming. That expands the audiences organizations can reach and creates a new opportunity for what they can do.
  • 27:43 — The key to expansion is to find pilot projects. Find little things you can do. Just put a little investment in it and see how it goes. Find which ones are getting more attention and making some traction then ramp up on that and pull back the ones that are not.
  • 33:08 — One key to breaking through the noise is harnessing the passionate people within a nonprofit’s community. They have great stories that they can share to create word-of-mouth virality or social proof.
  • 41:48 — What you say in your fundraising appeal makes a difference — you can appeal to people based on benefits to them, or based on the good that you do. Studies show that one is better than the other, but both might be best.

Action Steps: What Now?

  • Resource Spotlight

    In this episode, the following resources were mentioned:

    • Made to Stick – The instant classic about why some ideas thrive, why others die, and how to improve your idea’s chances—essential reading in the “fake news” era.
    • Branding Nonprofit OrganizationsYouTube episode from Columbia Business School discussing the best practices for nonprofits undertaking brand-building projects.
    • article – “Appealing to Potential Donors: When Less Information Is More”
    • Aubrey Bergauer Article – “Audience Development: The Long Haul Model” discussing the current/typical audience development model from the California Symphony.

About this week’s guest

Matthew Quint

Matthew Quint

Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership, Columbia Business School

Matthew researches, writes, and shares knowledge on a wide range of issues critical to building a strong brand, including marketing ROI, strategies for marketing in the digital age, and how to develop creative and effective brand communications. He also produces the acclaimed BRITE Conference to discuss how innovation and technology help build and maintain and strong brands. And, he serves on the board of New York City Children’s Theater.