Last week I had the pleasure of talking with Judith Madigan, Co-founder and Director of BrandOutLoud, who reached out following my recent post, “Do CBOs have an image problem?”
BrandOutLoud works with aid organizations, local and international, to transform the pity-laden us/them paradigm used in many communications strategies to one that portrays the strengths and power of the people themselves.
We talked about how local NGOs often rely heavily on funding from international NGOs and how the government cutbacks announced in the Netherlands [and elsewhere] give cause for more careful thought about how international NGOs and philanthropies with less money can continue supporting local partners. BrandOutLoud suggests a new approach—empowering local organizations through branding and marketing. Learn more below…
CHANGE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The fact that funding cuts can be an impulse for positive change is something that is increasingly heard in development aid circles. While direct funding is an option, decentralizing can also be part of a new approach. Courage is required to seek inspiration from other angles, let go of control and learn more from management and marketing theories. One thing is for sure, cuts or no cuts, change is needed to guarantee sustainable development.
CREATING SUPPORT AND RAISING FUNDS INDEPENDENTLY
Financial support is always necessary to a certain extent but recent developments have shown that local NGOs need to be able to generate support and raise funds independently. Only then will they be able to continue their good work and become more sustainable organizations in the long term, regardless of cuts in aid budgets.
But how? While international NGOs have access to internal or external marketing and communication experts, local NGOs have no such opportunity or capacity. Moreover, they are often portrayed as ‘the projects of international organization X’ or can be found on ‘the website of foundation Y’? Yet every local aid organization, however small, has its own story to tell. This is its voice…its brand identity.
BrandOutLoud sees the shaping of this story as a deliberate choice. No portraits of sad, distressing cases, but a positive approach in which powerful imagery is the key. Here the focus is on the empowerment and opportunities of the people being helped by the aid organization. The story is a source of inspiration to others.
BUILDING KNOWLEDGE AND TOOLS
Using their story and knowledge, BrandOutLoud supports local aid organizations with their branding, marketing and communications. Over a period of three to four months on-site and in close partnership with the aid organization, BrandOutLoud develops a tailor-made communications strategy, including brand identity and tools, which can be directly deployed. Sharing knowledge and developing practical tools are the key elements for sustainable development aid in which empowerment of the local aid organization is the core.
A strong profile and professional marketing communications will enable local aid organizations to reach out on their own, create new partnerships and diversify their funding. In addition to developing various promotional materials such as a website, tutorials and clinics raise awareness of their own brand identity and information is provided on the local aid organization’s communications. The work on-site is closely monitored and supported for at least two years.
BrandOutLoud recently finished a project with a local aid organization in Cambodia, Cambodian Development Mission for Disability (CDMD). (DO check out their link!) In collaboration with CDMD’s financial partner, CBM International in Bangkok, BrandOutLoud developed the foundation’s branding, design and communications. The aim of this project was to provide CDMD with a stronger profile so as to reach out independently to international donors and supporters. As a result it is now promoting itself proudly with a new professional look and the right tools in place, including a website and strong imagery.
CBM sees branding of its local partners as a shared investment for more financial sustainability. A strong profile and branding of a partner helps them to achieve their goals and, indirectly, those of CBM itself.
Development aid needs to change and the time has come for local aid organizations to raise their own voice and become financially sustainable and independent organizations. BrandOutLoud opts for a positive approach that leverages opportunities and strengths, engaging long-term thinking about the needs and strengths of local organizations.
This post originally appeared in English at: http://www.brandoutloud.org/column/7 and the pdf can be downloaded here. The original publication (in Dutch) appeared in Vice Versa, the Dutch Journal on International Aid (online).