Hey, fundraisers. Go ahead. Pat yourselves on the back.

One of the many things you've done well in this sector is create bridges in a storm—finding middle ground on some of the controversial social issues that relate directly to your mission.

But now, even for the best of us, that middle ground is becoming harder to discover, both inside and outside our organizations. Indeed, trying to navigate the political turbulence in today's society can feel as though we're walking on eggshells more than on common ground.

As CEO of Brand Stories, a strategic communications and media agency in New York and Chicago, an increasing number of my client queries involve questions about how to navigate, if not create, a kind of new middle ground in this divided time in our culture, in our politics, and in the fractured communities in which we now work. As nonprofits, we've always been, in ways large and small, in the social problem-solving business; our value has always been about our nonprofit’s work in support of a social mission.

But the job is, absolutely, becoming more complex: the hyper-connectedness of our society has made it harder to break through the noise with our stories of change. Our supporters' rising expectations, that we define ourselves more as partners in the social causes they support, are making it harder for many of us to navigate new-donor cultivation, and the big data boom that's pressuring us to prove our social impact more rapidly is forcing us to elevate the role of marketing and communications beyond what our current budgets may allow.  

And yet, how well we respond to our shifting culture --strategically-- will be critical to the clarity, value, and stewardship of our brands. As our culture continues to rapidly evolve, so do our supporters' expectations that brands will accurately mirror the evolution of society. Failure to keep up with the culture can render us dangerously tone-deaf and worse, unresponsive and under-valued.

We'll talk about how to better navigate the shifting landscape of nonprofit fundraising and communications—what many in the sector are now calling "the new crisis communications" during my live, online training on March 7th, Bullet-Proofing Your Mission in a Divided World. Because a brand today is much more than a logo—and rather a psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of the branded mission, person, organization, or movement we are supporting, we need to be far more careful about how we manage these psychological associations in this new climate of cultural change. We'll also walk through these trends and share strategies for navigating today's increasingly fraught cultural landscape. At the end of the day, it's all about being aware of the new "brand bombs" to avoid and using new approaches to communication to help burnish and bulletproof your brand and mission in ways you may be missing.

The good news? What challenges us really can make us stronger—but only if we're willing to re-calibrate our identity and shared values as organizations to thrive in these times.

In addition to our March 7 live, online training, we'll be holding the second installation of our Crisis Communications series, Preparing for the Worst - Before (and When) It Happens, on April 11th, which will provide you with a toolkit for crafting your own crisis communications action plan.

About the Author(s)

Marcia Stepanek Lecturer, Media and Communications Columbia University

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