Re-Branding

August 1, 2011       Mark Hrywna      

When Gifts In Kind International (GIKI) changed its name earlier this year, it wasn’t just some tweaks at the edges or a few nips and tucks to its logo. The Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit unveiled its new name, Good360, this past spring, in the midst of revamping its business model in a sort of mashup of Kiva, eBay and DonorsChoose.org.

And, it’s not done yet: Phase II will launch by the end of the summer, integrating its two websites and rolling out an online catalog where individuals can become “microphilanthropists” by underwriting the shipping and handling costs of product donations. Charities often must consider when to transition image and brand, which might have grown from a small, fledgling effort into a nationally recognized organization. It’s not uncommon for nonprofit managers to think about whether the brand needs to be revamped with age or whether to retain the equity in a name it’s had for so long.

For Good360, it turned out to be a new name, web portal and business model, leaving behind a name, and more, that it had for almost 30 years. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), also some 30 years old, didn’t want to lose its established name and brand, so a new logo was characterized as a “refresh” of the brand.

Both organizations ushered in new eras with new chief executive officers, who then began the process of what to do with the brand. MADD’s CEO Kimberly Earle and Chris Orzechowski, vice president of marketing, know a thing or two when it comes to rebranding. The two were at Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation when it shifted to Susan G. Komen For the Cure in 2007.

Cindy Hallberlin was hired as president and CEO at GIKI almost two years ago but it wasn’t until this past fall when the organization really began the transformation process in earnest. The nonprofit’s board asked her to accept the challenge of transforming GIKI’s nearly 30-year-old business model. “It’s a sophisticated logistics operation that gets goods to charity,” Hallberlin said. “There came a time, not surprisingly, to transform this model and extend our reach,” she said.

“What was really unique about us when we rebranded, this had to do with driving a very significant business transformation,” said Hallberlin. The beta version of its online product donation marketplace connects nonprofits with products they need, helps businesses efficiently donate their goods to qualified nonprofits and allows individuals to contribute to worthy causes. The online marketplace has connected more than 12,000 charities with corporate product donors and nonprofits can register online to be part of the Good360 network, according to the group.

Qualifying organizations can then request product donations from warehouse locations around the country and have orders shipped directly to their door or pick up donations in their neighborhood through real-time mapping.

When Hallberlin joined GIKI, the group didn’t have an online catalog, couldn’t view any products online — only through a spreadsheet, email, fax or phone. Now Good360 can vet charities online and also maintains a member services department featuring live chat.

“We’re positioning ourselves to be the largest donation marketplace in the world, with all the bells and whistles of the for-profit world,” said Hallberlin. The 360 represents a “continuous cycle of giving,” while incorporating donors, who are corporations; charities, who are the recipients, and people, who receive the products, she said. “We close the loop on what your needs are.” Good360 also instituted a new tagline: Goods for the greater good.

“We really wanted a name that was hipper, that resonated with our traditional stakeholders and with new audiences comfortable going online,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive vice president, marketing communications and strategic partnerships. Just as important as a new name is the new functionality of the organization’s website. “We consider it very innovative. It’s been online for awhile and very much connected to the new business model,” she said.

The rebranding process started with an informal survey, with the organization interviewing the corporate community, talking to current and past donors, other nonprofits and critical stakeholders. “We felt we had positive equity but it was time to change the name,” Hallberlin said. “Finding a name that no one’s used before is not that easy,” she said. Some efforts led to checking the ownership of domain names, and in some cases owners weren’t willing to part with the name without at least a six-figure payment. Other searches ran into dead-ends. Hallberlin said they wanted to explore buying donation.org but never heard back from the domain’s owner. The majority of the rebranding work was done in house, along with some pro bono work and outside consultants, Hallberlin said, declining to reveal the cost, only to say that there was a “substantial investment” in technology.

Several meetings were held with staff, including an in-office, lunchtime brainstorming session that generated a list of potential names. “It really allowed people to talk about values and what we stand for,” said Hallberlin.

The rebranding effort isn’t just encompassed in a tagline, logo and printed materials but also a new space that’s been donated for a year. The charity remains in Alexandria, Va., but the lease was up on its last space. “It gave us an opportunity to design,” said Hallberlin. “The whole space reflects the new brand,” she said, with whole circles, circle lighting, circles in the carpet and circled tables. Good360 has about 40 employees in the location, which is now on the edge of Alexandria rather than in Old Town, where it had been for more than 20 years. Hallberlin said rebranding is worth the time and effort but cautioned other charities not to be overwhelmed by it. “When you incorporate stakeholders,” she said, make sure you’ve heard the voices of everyone who’s weighed in.

One of Earle’s first priorities when she joined Irving, Texas-based MADD during the summer of 2010 was to relaunch the brand and reintroduce people to its mission of combating drunk driving, underage drinking, as well as serving victims of drunk driving. She became CEO in June 2010, amidst the organization’s 30th anniversary year, and Orzechowski joined the organization later that summer. “It was a good time to take stock, look and see where we were. The board and I saw a need for a refresh, to make sure we were putting our best foot forward to advance our mission and draw others to the organization,” Earle said.

“The name really hits it right on the head for us, but we were looking at the logo, and then looking at everything around it,” said Earle. “This is more of a real refresh,” she said. During the rebranding, you take a look at just how far you might go: “What if we didn’t do anything? What if we moved a little farther, etc., etc.,” she said. In the end, MADD kept the equity of its legacy and name over the past 30 years, but sought some modification of its logo to make it “a bit more modern, approachable and inclusive,” she said.

So much of the world is online and many times upper case letters look like someone is shouting, Orzechowski said. There’s still a strong, substantial font, that’s now lower case but the strength remains, warmed up with some gray instead of black, she said. The last time something along these lines was done at MADD was about 10 years ago.

Branding, however, is not just about logos and names but also about language and tone, Orzechowski said. “Our tone shifted a bit, to be more strategically assertive,” she said. “We don’t want to take the passion out of what got us to this point but we want to be more embracing of different audiences, including young audiences,” she said, which led to taking the concept of “motherhood” to the next level. “Those who want to be in this organization, anyone can be a mother. All have to do is care about the safety and security of others,” Orzechowski said. That’s portrayed in a new PSA for MADD, which features a father and son, and a tagline that reads, “Some of the best Mothers. are fathers.”

MADD launched a new website, giving it a look and feel to match the new brand refresh. A major part of the brand refresh includes program areas, such as the launch of a new underage drinking initiative in lockstep to bring attention to mission-related areas. MADD created Power Talk 21, a national day (April 21) to talk to your kids about alcohol.

The brand refresh will roll out in three phases, over 18 months, to all of MADD’s affiliates. “This wouldn’t be an effective transition without some transition period,” said Orzechowski. “You can’t do it overnight. To be most effective, you need to give the field the tools and training,” she said, adding that both the board and the field affiliates were involved early in the process.

There are more than 250 MADD affiliates across the country in more than 75 offices, with almost 600 employees and thousands of volunteers. Earle said it’s fairly typical in a brand launch to use “brand ambassadors” to carry the messages, so MADD used what it calls its MOM team: Messengers Of the Mission, volunteers who help audit marketing materials, train others and help with the brand transition. Earle said the cost of the refresh was kept to less than $500,000, crediting Orzechowski and her team with leveraging existing relationships to give time and services at deeply discounted rate.

“One of the important parts of leveraging our dollars was we did have activation across the country for PowerTalk 21,” she said, earning quite a bit of earned media, along with congressional resolutions and gubernatorial proclamations. “A lot of those dollars went toward programmatic efforts; it was a very good use of donor dollars that went a long way toward advancing our mission,” Orzechowski said. NPT

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