Reaping Big Rewards by Doing the Unexpected
By Sarah Ford on March 12, 2015
Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy
At Share Our Strength, it took us nearly 25 years to learn that doing what is most expected of us required doing what was least expected of us.
What has always been most expected of us is helping to feed hungry kids. That’s our highest priority. But scaling our efforts to reach as many of those hungry children as possible required doing what was least expected of us: investing funds in building the brand of our No Kid Hungry campaign — precisely the kinds of expenditures in marketing, communications, and promotion that give donors pause and may mean feeding fewer people in the short term. But what we learned is that a better-known and better-trusted brand attracts more supporters and yields record levels of funding support and thus greater impact.
In 2008, when our strategy shifted from grant making to helping coordinate and support a campaign to end childhood hunger, we needed a more accessible way of describing our new approach. Our board of directors understood that like most enterprises, whether profit or nonprofit, brand building was not an expertise of ours. They urged us to spend money we did not have to hire a branding and communications firm. Though that seems counter to the more conservative approach one might expect from a traditional board, our board of businesspeople believed if you had a story to tell, a story that could help more children, you had an almost moral obligation to tell it.
That firm we hired, SS&K, helped us see the power in the clarity and simplicity of the words No Kid Hungry. No Kid Hungry said what we were about and what we aspired to achieve. We put those words on everything we did, everywhere we could. We made subsequent investments internally in brand and communications expertise, including the creation of a chief communications and brand officer position. Most important, we worked to make sure all of the activities of the organization, all that we were spending money and time on, were aligned with that priority of ending childhood hunger.
As consumers began to recognize the No Kid Hungry brand, corporate partners and brands outside of our traditional culinary-industry sweet spot became interested in working with us.