"We have always protected our supporters." Tim Willett, Head of Funding Strategy, RNLI

When I asked my fellow team for their fave charity brand 2017, I was expecting the big brands like Cancer Research UK and Macmillan to take their place on the top shelf, as voted for in Third Sector.

The heart strings

Instead, I was offered a plethora of very tiny charities, such as Dom’s Food Mission. Dom’s food mission gets right into the heart of the community by feeding the less fortunate and stopping food waste. You can value an immediate connection with the community and see whilst you’re out and about the difference Dom is making. This got me thinking. Although the big boys/girls (mentioned above) have an inevitably much stronger brand, a much bigger income and awareness, does this make for a brand favourite?

Source: Dom’s Food Mission JustGiving

It’s personal

Charity brands, like any other brand appeal to the individual. Whether it be one person, or a group of individuals at a company, trust or community group.

Stepping out of the charity sector for a minute,  I recently met Bill Collison, the founder of Bills Kitchen, an expanding chain of restaurants of which many of you will be familiar with. I asked him the question, “so now that you have many new kitchen’s opening up across the country, how do you ensure that you brand remains strong and consistent?” Bill replied, “ by making sure that all of our staff share our values.”

At Bill’s Q&A session at the recent Business Show, Bill mention that picking the right staff remained crucial. “They are usually quirky and fun.” He went on to say “Fun” is particularly important. Having fun and creating a great experience shone through. Bill describes his original store in Lewes as having a “theatrical” and fun style where hungry guests were prepared to wait in queues leading outside of the cafe to get a table.

Source: Bill’s Kitchen website, the original kitchen in Lewes

The story…the passion

Bill’s brand, like Dom’s started small. Bill and Dom both have the passion, the story and the brand values to make something good happen. This makes the foundation of an amazing brand. A great brand story. We re-grouped and explored all the charities that stood out to us individually.

The result

The result, our fave charity brand 2017 is the RNLI (although big!) and here’s five reasons why.

1. A great brand story
Have you ever watched The BBC2 series “Saving Lives at Sea”, showcasing the lifesaving work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)? We all have. Its one of those series that takes you by surprise. It’s purely personal. It touches on the lives of the RNLI voluntary team individuals and shows the extreme danger and risks they are prepared to take to save other lives. It also shows a post interview of the people (or dog) that have been rescued and what it meant to them. The series is just exhilarating, showing exactly what the RNLI does and the passion of everyone involved. What’s more, it’s not even made by the RNLI, it’s an independent series that captures the heart of their brand and does so very well.

Source: BBC TWO, Saving Lives at Sea

2. Great brand values

We recently met some of the team at the International Fundraising Convention 2017. They were passionate professionals clearly enjoying what they do and great ambassadors for their cause. Like with Bill’s staff, they get it right. A brand is about people and you can tell straight away when it’s truly embedded in the mindset. We recently met up with Tim Willett, Head of Funding Strategy at RNLI who said ” we have always protected our supporters.” For them the supporter is extremely special, often a rescuee or someone that has been touched by the work of the RNLI in some way or another.

3. Who else would do it?
When you truly understand the life saving work that RNLI does (watch the BBC documentary!) you realise that their existence is crucial. We have the police, ambulance and fire service but what would we do without the RNLI? What happens if someone you love gets dragged out to sea or one of your sailor buddies gets very quickly into a life threatening situation (this happened to one of my colleagues very recently!). You may not need them in your day to day life but if you ever did they would be there for you. Their service is tangible. There’s a definite need and therefore a very clear brand message.

4. They have tangible campaigns and messages
The RNLI’s recent Respect the Water campaign uses simple messaging that could easily save your life. Downloadable posters and Youtube videos get the message across really clearly. It’s campaigns like these that get the message across clearly without being cluttered by fundraising messages.

Source: RNLI: Respect the Water

Further reading:

The Guardian
Third Sector

Design, Innovation

The automated designer:

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