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May 9, 2023

Mission Multiplier: Visibility Cloak

Jane Pfeiffer

Hello, I’m Jane Pfieffer, president and founder of Fieldtrip. Fieldtrip is a branding and marketing firm that helps nonprofits and purpose driven organizations close the gap between where they are today and the potential of what they mean to do tomorrow and in the future with their mission. We do that in a couple of different ways. Executive leaders typically come to us for one of three reasons. One is that the need for what they do has never been more in demand and more relevant, but findingĀ  the resources and the revenue to fund the mission has never been more difficult. The second reason is there’s a gap in understanding. There’s a gap between the beneficiaries, the people that they help and what they need and why they need it and and how to provide that support in a human centered way. And then there is the gap between the people who might have the time, money or resources to support the mission but simply don’t understand why this group is in the position that they are. And there’s a lack of understanding or empathy or compassion that is the result of a lack of connection. And then finally, nonprofit leaders are tired of being the best kept secret, and that is no way to live. Yes, there is a bit of humility that comes along with leading a nonprofit in the mission, but being silent and not having a presence and receiving credit for the work you’re doing makes everything harder. When we close those issues, we multiply missions and I don’t know if that sounds like any of the issues that you’re facing, but if they do sound familiar, you’re in the right place.

Today we’re going to talk about how to have a visibility cloak, not the invisibility cloak, but how to think about the way you get recognition in a way that’s consistent with the way you lead your mission. I worked with a nonprofit yesterday in an intensive workshop. It was great. We had a large group of leaders, both top and mid-level leaders, all very passionate about the work that they do and really well aligned. It was great to see. And we talked about the service lines that they have. They have 8 to 10 different service lines and they have 15 or more audiences, which is a lot. It gets complex really quickly. But at the end of the day, what we distilled is really there’s two service lines and two audiences.

There are two service lines. One lives here and one lives here, and they’re connected and we could probably argue that they overlap, but one is where we give support. The first one is our mission. This one is our reason for being. And to be clear, we’re going to give support to others. Our other service line is the support we get from others. This is an oversimplification, and from an operational standpoint, this isn’t enough. But when you think about branding and marketing as the hero that you need to really change the course of your organization, we have to take away the complexity to really understand it. There are people in this community, whether it’s professional training or working with the unhoused, they come to you for support for help, for direction, a number of reasons. And in the other side of our business, we are going out and we’re asking others for support, whether it’s federal and state funding or foundations or individual donors or corporate partners or other nonprofit partners. We’re asking for them to support us in a number of ways. What can happen is that our reputation, our image, can be broken or at least confusing. And that’s really the case. What we identified yesterday, because we look at things from the inside out and because we’re on the inside, we can make sense of it.

This is what we do every day. But the name Fieldtrip, what our agency is based on, is that really you have to always keep the outside in perspective. That’s our role, is to make sure we’re always thinking about how we’re perceived and understood by outside audiences. In this case, that’s really damaging is this friction, because this audience knows you as one thing, but they might not understand the complexity of what you do. The multiple programs and services that it takes to really make everything happen. And this audience may know you as something completely different. It may be only one program that they’re really coming to you for. And over here you have all these funding mechanisms, you have a gala, you have a newsletter, you have tours, you have special events, and it’s kind of a stage setting. And over here maybe you’re known for something more simple. What marketing, and specifically your brand does is coalesces both of these service offerings and audiences under one image, one brand that’s very simple, that’s very strong. It’s strong because of its simplicity, and it brings everything together so that there’s more connection between your different audiences and between your different service groups. That’s the first step in making sure that you get the credit that you deserve and that you’re not the best kept secret. You have to look at the entity and ensure that you’re understood and seen consistently from every audience. If each audience sees and has a different story for who you are and what you do, then there’s friction and your work is a lot harder. If that sounds interesting, I’d love to have a conversation. Understand your business lines, how they relate to each other and the different audiences, and see if we can help move this into a more simple pattern.