New Study Highlights the Role of Nonprofit Brands to Advance Social Impact

Contact: Laura Johnston
Phone: (617) 496-9814
Date: February 16, 2012

Cambridge, MA –The power of brands as strategic assets to enhance impact is being recognized by nonprofit organizations seeking new and better ways of reaching their audiences and affecting social good. This is the focus of a new study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School’s (HKS) Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, which is to be released on February 16.
The 18-month study, “The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector,” develops a deeper understanding of the current and potential role of branding in the nonprofit sector, and proposes a framework to help nonprofit practitioners more effectively leverage their brands to advance their social missions.
“The models and terminology used in the nonprofit sector to understand brand remain those imported from the for-profit sector to boost name recognition and raise revenue,” says Christopher Stone, the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice at HKS, faculty director of the Hauser Center, and one of the lead researchers on the study. “Nonprofit leaders need new models that allow their brands to contribute to sustaining their social impact, serving their mission, and staying true to their organization’s values and culture.”
The study describes brand as having equally important internal and external roles. For example, brands help generate both internal cohesion and external trust, and help drive both organizational capacity and impact. The study outlines a framework called the Brand IDEA in which I stands for brand Integrity, D for brand Democracy, E for brand Ethics and A for brand Affinity. The IDEA principles convey a few intuitive concepts: that internal identity and external image should be aligned with mission, that brands cannot be policed, that brands and how they are deployed should reflect core values, and that brands should be good team players and enable collaboration.
The key findings are summarized in three sets of documents: an article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) in Spring 2012 entitled “The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector”; a collection of four case studies – on the World Wildlife Fund, Amnesty International, Publish What You Pay, and The Girl Effect; and a brief summary of the conference held at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York in December 2011. These documents can be found on the Role of Brand website:


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