Cone Inc Ranks Top 100 Nonprofits by Brand Affinity over Financials

cone nonprofit brand 100
Last week, Cone Inc., the leader in cause branding, research and innovation, in partnership with Intangible Business, unveiled their latest study,”‘The Nonprofit Power Brand 100,” marking a departure from more traditional financially-valuated rankings. This first-of-its-kind research explores the unique relationship between nonprofit brand image and financial performance, and revealed that some organizations may be leaving millions of dollars in potential unearned revenue on the table. This proprietary new brand valuation is aimed at providing nonprofits with the information – and inspiration – they need to make their brands work harder.
“Through this valuation, we want to help nonprofits better understand how to protect and evolve their brands to generate as much revenue as possible,” says Alison DaSilva, Executive Vice President of Knowledge Leadership and Insights at Cone. “Valuing their brands gives them a license to demonstrate to companies and other partners that there is an established and justified cost to aligning with their organization.”

Brands were valued based on five years of consolidated financial data and a nationally representative consumer perception survey, designed to quantify brand affinity through a mix of qualitative and quantitative metrics. The Top 10 are as follows with high profile organizations like YMCA, American Cancer Society and Habitat for Humanity not surprisingly topping the list:

nonprofit top 10

One would expect to see most of these brands ranked high as they have the strongest market penetration, and also have some of the greatest longevity among most charities out there. They’ve also done quite a bit of their own promotion apart from co-branded cause marketing types of campaigns.
The study also revealed some surprising trends:

  • A majority of the environmental/animal-related nonprofits ranked in the bottom half of the list and had similarly low brand rankings; however, environmental organizations also have the highest growth spikes in revenue of all nonprofits studied
  • The largest nonprofit sector is international needs, which accounts for 30 percent of the 100 organizations ranked; however, consumers consider this sector to be the least familiar and least relevant
  • The health and education/youth sectors are the most familiar and most relevant to consumers, yet many disease-specific nonprofits clustered indistinctly toward the center of the ranking
  • Health nonprofits are also the most likely to generate revenue from special events earning more than $1.8 billion from events alone

Why does any of this matter, and what does it mean for cause marketers?

The most important fact this research uncovered is that today’s conscious consumer is more aware of causes, social and environmental issues than ever before. While they may not be able to recall brand names as well as high profile charities, simply understanding they exist, and that there are organizations in place to help them, is an important first step toward motivating action. The point is that consumers want to do good, but don’t know where to begin, or to whom they should donate their time or money.
This is where cause marketing comes in. As I’ve ranted communicated in the past, cause marketing is not about attaching your brand to a flavor-of-the-month charity to benefit your own selfish needs of spiking sales while attempting to appear philanthropically motivated. It is about using your brand equity to generate exposure for the cause, and facilitate awareness and action among your customers in helping that cause. Sure, you get the added benefits of increased transactions and brand recognition as a socially conscious company, but the cause should always be center stage.
Why am I reinforcing this in such detail? Because this report is the harbinger of the change that is possible by forming authentic, relevant alliances with charities in need. Cause marketing is a partnership, aligned under a joint mission, and the Nonprofit 100 could serve as a vehicle for identifying and connecting with like-minded entities who will both benefit from the relationship. Those nonprofits at the bottom of the list need brand partners to champion them and help their causes resonate with consumers. Just as the study seeks to highlight, affinity doesn’t hinge on financial statements alone, but a well strategized cause marketing effort will positively enhance the brand, the cause and the bottom line.

Gennefer Gross is a writer, producer and co-founder of Gross Factor Productions, an independent film and television company focused on scripted comedy. An avid writer, author and idea cultivator, Gennefer thrives on creativity and contributes regularly to Triple Pundit on a variety of sustainable business topics. She also pens the popular series Hollywood & Green, exploring socially responsible cinema that helps connect consumers with important causes and environmental issues. And somehow she finds the time to write for her own blog, Tasty Beautiful, covering food and fashion in and around Los Angeles. Gennefer will also be launching Philanthrofoodie(TM), a charitable venture designed to spark social change through shared food experiences. An eternal student of life with an eclectic background, Gennefer brings unique insights on everything from breakthroughs in renewable energy to the latest dish in celebrity consciousness.

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