Breaking Out of Transactional Mindsets

Within each one of us is a desire to belong. To have a group of people we connect with and feel accepted by – it’s one of the deepest connections we can make. We feel like we’ve found “our people.”

If that’s the desire of most people, then why don’t more people rally behind nonprofit organizations?

Simple: we’re operating in a completely different mindset. 

Although everyone wants to be part of a cause that’s bigger than themselves – their core motivation is to feel seen, heard, and understood. In short, people will identify with brands that make them feel like somebody.

People are used to for-profit companies investing millions of dollars to build a relationship with their customers and remind them of the product’s value. That’s what most expect, aka a relational mindset. 

On the flip side, most nonprofits have a great cause that people can support, but the sector is so heavily focused on fundraising. This leaves little room to attract the right people to your cause or activate them to champion your shared mission. Although nonprofits have a plan for receiving donations, there is little time invested in building a mutually beneficial relationship – they operate in a transactional mindset. 

“The 2020 new donor retention was 19.2%, meaning that less than one in five donors who gave for the first time in 2019 to a charity didn’t give to the same charity last year.”AFP Global

This disconnect is costing nonprofit organizations millions of dollars and even more importantly, the devotion of people who want to help. If nonprofits don’t start investing in relationships with their supporters, people will find their sense of belonging with another brand.

So how do we bridge the gap? We must build brands focused on people more than their money. 

Many nonprofits are functioning with brands that have been built by accident. Most believe that when it comes to developing a brand, either lightning strikes or it doesn’t. They think that big nonprofits just “lucked out.” 

The truth is, every beloved brand is built with a relational mindset and clear strategy – from Apple to Target to TOMS – they are focused on building a long term relationship that’s bigger than sales alone. We love these brands because they challenge the status quo and connect with us on an emotional level. They know what makes them unique, are dedicated to a larger cause, and communicate that vision clearly through messaging and aesthetics (what Marty Neuhauser affectionately calls “the language of feeling”). 

It’s time to shift our mindsets. 

Think of the even greater work nonprofits could do if we built a deep relationship with every donor. Imagine cultivating a tribe of dedicated supporters who follow you wholeheartedly. We believe every nonprofit can bridge this gap by investing in strong branding that listens first and speaks to the heart of its supporters. 

Here are 3 ways your nonprofit can bridge the mindset gap:

  1. Donate to your nonprofit – What does the process look like, and more importantly feel like, for donors? Note every touchpoint from the donation page to the confirmation email to the thank you note. Does it make you feel inspired and/or appreciated?
  2. Schedule coffee with a volunteer – What are they passionate about? What does their life look like outside of the organization? 
  3. Get candid feedback – Put together a short survey asking your monthly donors what they love about your nonprofit and what could be improved. They will love feeling involved in the process and will not hold back in sharing their opinions!

Branding is so much more than a cool logo and great photography – it’s about connecting with people on a gut level that makes them feel seen, heard, and understood – forming deep, passionate bonds.

When people support a brand they LOVE, they give way more than their money, they align their reputation with your nonprofit as well.

By breaking out of a transactional mindset and building a brand that connects more than it converts, you will develop lifelong advocates for your cause. 


FREE Mini-Course

How to Establish a Consistent Nonprofit Brand Without Being a Graphic Designer