Is It Necessary for Nonprofits to Support Their Brands Via Internal Marketing?

Is It Necessary for Nonprofits to Support Their Brands Via Internal Marketing?

By: Eugene Fram

Nonprofit branding is an important topic to nonprofit directors and managers with nonprofits wanting to differentiate their services, images and reputations. Some organizations are spending substantial dollars to assess and build their brands without realistic board oversight and relating their branding efforts to a strategic plan.

Most nonprofits with which I have had contact are not aware whether all their employees and board directors are “brand loyal.” and they make no efforts to assess internal brand loyalty. Some assume independent contributors (accountants, counselors, social workers, trade association executives, etc.), who work for nonprofits, see their loyalties as being related to their professions not their employing organizations.

About a decade ago, I co-authored several articles to explore the issue of employee brand loyalty with commercial firms. * Following are my reviews of some of those findings to show that nonprofit management also constantly needs to assess whether or not employees and board directors are proactively relaying positive brand messages, related to the organization’s mission, vision and values. This should be the outcome of an internal marketing effort. The impact of internal marketing should be to enlist every employee and board director to become a brand ambassador, which can have tremendous impact in relating to local communities, professional and trade associations. .

Reasons for Rejection

“The results of (our study) indicate the two most prevalent perceptions relating to low employee … brand behavior were (a) a lack of pride in the product and (b) a sense that the product is unaffordable. … This suggests that Nonprofit managers need to determine the level of product pride in mission, vision and values when the term commercial term, “products,” is translated to nonprofits.” They must motivate colleagues to take pride by celebrating professional awards and reviewing honest client satisfaction data and case studies, especially those that show how the organization has contributed to individuals and society. The mission must focus on socially incremental outcome(s) to garner brand attention of those who work for human services and professional organizations.

Quality & Features

“Internal marketing campaigns (often) may rely too heavily on appeals to employee loyalty or self-interest, thereby missing the opportunity to convert the more skeptical persons on the (NFP) payroll. … These findings imply that employers need to, where possible, continually educate employees (and board directors) on the comparative advantages of their brands involving outcomes and impact of the mission, realistic visions and demonstrated values.” Comparisons of impacts of the local organization with those of others nationally can be helpful. For example, national professional organizations often publish data that make interesting comparisons.

Values, Reliability and Prestige.

Prestige development can be accomplished in two ways. One is to add the annual IRS 990 report to the organization’s website. Another approach is to issue a press release when the organization is re-accredited by an outside organization. At this time, when transparency is becoming increasingly important, management even might want to present a detailed debriefing on the accrediting report to the board and staff as a way to discuss challenges and strengths.

Changing Perceptions

“Management needs to survey employees and board directors to fully understanding their perceptions of the organization’s mission, vision and values. (Since this usually requires professional assistance, additional budget lines or grants need to be developed.) Even having a few misconceptions circulating internally can be harmful to the brand.” For example one nonprofit recreational facility determined that several members of their board and their families were using a competitor’s facilities. In several instances, there was little they could do about it, but it is important to understand the reasons and to try to reduce the potential negative impact on its brand image. On the other hand, substantial positive changes might be highlighted to assist internal marketing.


“One responsibility of management, with overview by the board, might be to develop venues for employees and (board directors) to become more comfortable in communicating their positive attitudes to friends and relatives. There’s also significant potential for brand-loyal employees (and board directors) to act as brand champions. After all, high enthusiasm within the ranks of employees and directors brings impressive dividends.”

*Eugene H. Fram & Michael S. McCarthy (2004), “What’s Not to Like? If employees aren’t buying your brand, it important to find why,” Marketing Management, July-August, pp. 36-40.
*Fram & McCarthy (2003), “From Employee to Brand Champion,” Marketing Management, January-February, pp. 25-29.

Direct quotations from these publication are shown by “…”


  1. I’ve often said that brand is what people think when they hear your name and the best way to improve brand perception is by being excellent in what you do. That includes a clear shared vision by all stakeholders, which works to develop a culture of connection to mission with common communication of impact.


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