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December 2011

Put More "Faith" in Your Brand - A Christian Tale

Faith Image









This is the tale of two of my favorite American charities. One founded by a Presbyterian minister, the other a Catholic Priest. One organization is non-sectarian, the other interdenominational. Both promote long-term sustainable solutions to break the cycle of poverty. Both are child welfare organizations – one helping children from all around the world, one in a specific region of the United States. Both were Christian organizations…that is until both underwent major transformations that more clearly defined how faith-based they really were. 

Two years ago, one of these organizations changed its name. It did so to broaden outreach, provide better brand recognition and raise more money from individual and corporate donors. While it shed its religious teachings several decades ago; its mission stayed the same and the organization felt Christians would unite to help people of other faiths. In making this bold move, the charity was putting great faith in its brand experience, as opposed to its brand name.  

Donors didn’t take the news of the name change well, and neither did charitable watchdog groups, such as MinistryWatch.com. They felt the name change suggested the organization no longer wished to be a Christian charity. As a result, the watchdog groups vowed to find new Christian charities to which “Christians” could contribute. Others felt misled – “I'd always thought that they were teaching the kids Christianity. Looks like I was wrong.”

While this transformation was occurring, another one was taking shape within the other charity. The difference, however, is that the second faith-based charity was actually strengthening its position within the Christian marketplace. In fact, it wanted all of America to know it was doing “God’s Work” – helping children, elderly and poverty-stricken families in a certain impoverished region of America. And above all else, the charity intended to “live out and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ through all their actions.” 

The second charity was also putting more faith in its brand, but unlike the first charity, this one was putting more (not less) faith in the Christian aspect of its brand – both in awareness and experience. The organization’s growth strategy is to build stronger relationships and capture a larger share of the global Christian donor market. It also intended to become an extension of the donor/prospect’s daily religious experience – and in doing so, it will facilitate more loyal and compassionate relationships with supporters.      

My experience strongly supports the notion that Christian charities that put greater faith in their brand experience will reap great rewards. Being a faithful giving organization means that you genuinely put your “faith” at the forefront of your value proposition. It means seeking and bringing together people who share in your beliefs and mission. And it means establishing a culture of genuine Christian interactions and experiences. It does not mandate that you be Christian just in name, but also in action.  

There is no doubt that both organizations – who by the way are among my most favorite charities – will continue being successful, largely because they have created an environment of trust, belief and confidence. The organization that is able to foster a multi-dimensional culture that unites people under a common umbrella, who will in turn become evangelists for the organization, will achieve the greatest long-term success. Which one will that be? Perhaps the one who puts more “faith” in its brand!

-Greg Fox

Greg is the Chief Strategy Officer of Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.   He chooses to Do What Matters because to quote Vince Lombardi, “Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him. It’s something we call heart power. Once a man has made this commitment, nothing will stop him short of success.”

The Psychology of Color

Color Post Image

Creatives love color. We hate to admit that sometimes a simple black and white envelope beats a stunning four-color photo in the mail. That’s because we know that color can be a powerful marketing tool.

Colors evoke emotion, create associations and even prompt action. Pink, once a symbol of femininity, is now the official color of breast cancer. There’s not a person in America who doesn’t know exactly what it means when they see a pink ribbon pinned on a shirt. Splash red and green on something and it’s suddenly Christmas.

Even colors that don’t have strong symbolic ties like breast cancer or Christmas have powerful emotional associations. Here’s a quick recap of a little Color Psychology for you:

Black – Authority and power
White – Innocence, purity and in some cases cleanliness and sterility
Red – Intensity and love
Blue – Peace and tranquility and in some cases loneliness, cold and depression
Green – Nature and wealth
Yellow – Happiness

So what does all this mean for your fundraising campaigns? Here are a few quick ways to apply some color psychology to your work: 

1)     Black envelopes create intrigue. When used appropriately, they can be very effective.

2)     Red commands attention! Put a bunch of colors on a page and your eye goes to red first. It’s a bold color that cannot be ignored. That’s why they make stop signs red. Red is so effective it has been proven to stimulate faster heart rates and breathing – and it inspires people to take action. Use it for urgent callouts.

3)     Yellow may be fun and happy, but yellow text is incredibly hard to read. Plus neither fun nor happy is exactly an emotional driver for donating. But that’s a topic for another blog post to come later.

Remember, much to your creatives’ dismay, sometimes a plain white envelope beats anything else. So test, test, test. And still try to splash in a little red for good measure.

-Angie MacAlpine

Angie is the Associate Creative Director in Merkle's nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because "when I leave my son and go to work everyday, I want to know it's because I'm helping to make the world a better place for him.  The amazing clients we work with allow me to do just that".

Apply the 80/20 Rule ... Everywhere

The Pareto principle (also known as the “80/20 Rule”) states that, for many events, approximately 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In the early 1900’s, Vilfredo Pareto determined that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by only 20 percent of the population, and so it began.  Nearly 100 years later the theory still held true:


  1. ^ Human Development Report 1992, Chapter 3, https://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr1992/chapters/, retrieved 2007-07-08 

So why does this matter for Nonprofit marketers?

Simply stated, this premise provides us context that the large majority of outcomes comes from a small minority of inputs.  More specifically, in the fast-paced marketing world in which we operate, framing our context around this principle can help to ensure we are focusing on things that matter most. 

What if we focused fundraising efforts around questions and outcomes such as:

  • If 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your donors (and it does) – Treat them better!
  • If 20% of your campaigns generate 80% of the donor complaints you receive – Change them!
  • If there are a few elements of your solicitations that you can never live without – Make them even better!

For a moment, I will build on the last point because this is likely an opportunity that every organization, large or small, newly established or mature has in common.

That element of solicitation commonality is your organizational brand.  Your brand is the constant in every communication piece and is likely a big influencer of results.  For great organizations, your brand creates instant credibility.  This credibility gets your envelope or email opened before others in a crowded mailbox or inbox.

At the close of your next strategic planning session, review the outcomes and ideas and ask yourselves these questions:

1)     Have we built a brand that gives us instant credibility?

2)     Do we have a value proposition that resonates with our key audiences?

If the answer is “no” then maybe it's time to step back and determine what’s important.  What is your 80 and who is your 20?

-Josh Whichard

Josh is the Senior Director of Applied Strategy in Merkle's nonprofit vertical.  He chooses to Do What Matters because "there should be no tolerance for following the status quo just because it's 'how we've always done it'".  You can follow him on Twitter @JWhichard.

What is this blog all about?

If you're serious about raising money from donors, you need to get serious about donors. More than ever before, donors are insisting that you share power with them, not treating them like passive ATMs. This blog is about the ways you can do that -- and the rewards that await you and your donors when you do.

About the Blogger

DonorPower Blog is penned by Merkle's Power Blogging Team, led by Greg Fox, our senior vice president of strategy. Working with Greg is a police line-up of guest "artists", fundraising pros all, who like to pose as blogatorialists when the sun goes down. You can reach this blog, and any of our regular contributors, at
donorpowerblog [at] merkleinc [dot] com. See this blog's policies.

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