Public Release: 

Branding pays in the charity sector

Economic & Social Research Council

Charities can significantly increase their income from voluntary donations by employing fundraising managers who are firmly committed to branding. New ESRC-funded research reveals that charities benefit financially from building a strong brand and delivering clear and consistent messages about both their cause and their values.

Findings from a survey of fundraising managers in the UK's top 500 fundraising charities proves, for the first time, that branding charity organisations creates financial value. Says researcher Mrs Philippa Hankinson of the University of Surrey Roehampton: "This study clearly shows that fundraising managers who regard their organisations as brands and perceive branding as beneficial to the charity (high brand-orientated managers) generate more voluntary income than low brand-orientated fundraisers. On the other hand, differing brand orientation does not affect levels of statutory income since this type of funding is determined by the extent to which local and central governments require the services the charity provides."

Branding pays off, argues Mrs Hankinson, because transforming charity organisations into brands allows donors to identify more precisely what the charity does and the values it represents. Donors can then identify and select those charities whose values most closely match their own. "Branded charity organisations are more likely to attract voluntary donations than unbranded charities whose cause and values may be less clearly defined and less well known," she suggests.

The study shows that 44 per cent of high brand-orientated fundraising managers had received specific education or training in brand management compared to 28 per cent of low brand-orientated fundraisers. And, in all cases, higher brand-orientated fundraisers were significantly more likely to perceive the benefits of charity brand status than those less committed to branding. Managers committed to charity brand status stressed its importance in fundraising, raising awareness, communicating brand messages, attracting corporate sponsorship and educating the public. Moreover, they were more likely to have undertaken these activities than low brand-orientated fundraisers.

In terms of communicating their brand, this study reveals differences not only in the type of charity activities undertaken by high brand-orientated fundraising managers but also methods of brand communication. Fundraisers with greater brand commitment are more likely to promote their charity using national and local media and direct mail than low brand-orientated fundraisers, arguably demonstrating a broader skill base in the use and application of brand building techniques, Mrs Hankinson points out.

Findings further show that medium and high-branded fundraisers are able to exert more influence in their organisations than those minimally committed to brand status. "They are more likely to use their brand to fulfil organisational objectives such as campaigning, fundraising and building trust," she explains. This probably reflects their greater understanding of the value and scope of charity brand status and their willingness to exploit its potential to benefit the charity's mission and cause.

"This research provides several important pointers for charitable organisations," she continues. "In general, charities need to educate and train staff both in the benefits of charity brand status and in the need to 'act out' their charities' values in their day-to-day work. More particularly, however, it shows that high brand-orientated fundraising managers are more likely to exert influence within their organisations, more likely to use branded status to fulfil organisational objectives, more likely to use a range of brand communicators such as logos and web-sites and importantly, and more likely to attract higher levels of voluntary income than their less brand-orientated peers."

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For further information, contact Mrs Phillipa Hankinson at University of Surrey Roehampton. Tel: 020 8392 3484 Email: p.hankinson@roehampton.ac.uk Or, contact Lilian El-Doufani or Lesley Lilley in ESRC External Relations. Tel: 01793 413032.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It has a track record of providing high-quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and government. The ESRC invests more than £46 million every year in social science research. At any time, its range of funding schemes may be supporting 2,000 researchers within academic institutions and research policy institutes. It also funds postgraduate training within the social sciences, thereby nurturing the researchers of tomorrow. The ESRC website address is http://www.esrc.ac.uk

2. REGARD is the ESRC's database of research. It provides a key source of information on ESRC social science research awards and all associated publications and products. The website can be found at http://www.regard.ac.uk

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