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 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.”