Diary of a Social Venture Start-up: Design and Branding

The face of the philanthropist is changing. The people making a difference aren't just the stereotypical elderly benefactors....

The face of the philanthropist is changing. The people making a difference aren't just the stereotypical elderly benefactors. They're creative people, business people, Apple people, Obama people, working-class people-change is coming from all over.And as the identity of the humanitarian changes, so, too, must the identity of the cause. But how? As technology continues to make communicating with the masses and soliciting donations exponentially easier, how will organizations stand out among the crowd? How can they capture the interest of these young, hungry change agents?Many nonprofits are taking a bit of a cue from for-profit industries, focusing on design and branding to help promote their causes. Because frankly, it's not just about the message; it's about the marketing. So what does that mean for social entrepreneurs? It means paying attention to details that many nonprofits seem to find extraneous, like design and branding. It also means you should hire a professional designer. Your website, your marketing efforts, your brochures, even your business cards can play an integral role in how you're viewed by donors, by backers, and by the public at large. Sound ridiculous? Maybe it is. But it's also true.Love it or hate it, you are selling a product: your cause. And while helping change the world is certainly more valuable (and, hopefully, more gratifying) than buying a toaster, you're fighting for the consumers' attention nonetheless, and you're battling for their trust.This trust is especially important with nonprofits because, unlike with consumer goods, the "buyer" here isn't really getting anything other than a warm fuzzy feeling (and a tax break) in return. For this reason, everything from the literature to the letterhead of your organization needs to play a role in conveying that your cause is professional and worthwhile, and maybe even cool.More and more, this idea of being worthwhile seems to be tied to having a novel approach. People are fed up with established ways of how things are done (remember the Generation M Manifesto?). It seems to me that as our notion of philanthropy evolves, so should our ideas about promotion.During the last Jerry Lewis telethon, comedian Jeffrey Ross joked on his Twitter page that a 7-year-old kid got out of his wheelchair and walked for the first time just to turn off the television. He was kidding, but he was onto something. Some of the old methods of brand-building and fundraising are starting to seem a little, well, old.It's a concept that hasn't gone unnoticed by some in the nonprofit realm. We're seeing, to some degree at least, a change in approach. The sob stories and "for just pennies a day" language are being replaced by modern logos, slick web interfaces, and innovative approaches to storytelling.My favorite example, by far, is a promotional video for The Girl Effect, an organization dedicated to helping empower young females in the developing world. When I first saw this video a year ago, I showed it to everyone I knew. Not only does the video do away with the traditional "needy case" photography, it removes people and photography altogether. Typography, music, and fantastic editing combine to produce a piece that is informative, engaging, and-most important-compelling as hell. As I sat down to write this article, I watched it again. Just as it did the first time, it gave me chills. Watch it here.The Takeaway: Design and branding matter. Regardless of its mission, your organization is also a brand, and while style might not be more important than substance, it certainly cannot be ignored.So here's my question: What captures your attention? Have you been intrigued by any innovative methods of fundraising or are pledge drives and bike-a-thons still the gold standard of good? Who's doing a great job of getting the word out?
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

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"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

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Me Too Kit

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The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

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Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

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via Keith Boykin / Twitter

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"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

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