November 4, 2011

The role of personal branding for nonprofit professionals

Build brand
Image by kikkerdirk for Big Stock

Why sharing your core beliefs matters to your organization

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, brands, Web publishers, bloggers, individuals.

By Tamara Schweitzer
Socialbrite staff

Tamara SchweitzerLast week I attended the Social Venture Network‘s fall conference in Philadelphia, which is always an inspiring gathering of innovative business leaders and organizations working in the social change sector. One of the most valuable sessions during the conference was an interactive discussion on “Building Your Personal Brand,” facilitated by Andy Shallal, who is best known as the founder of Busboys and Poets and is a great example of someone who has mastered the art of personal expression and branding for the greater good of his business.

Other panelists who helped guide the discussion and offer their own experiences with personal branding were seasoned communications professional Josh Baran, social media expert Amber Rae of the Unreasonable Institute and public speaking consultant Marta Flynn.

No matter what your role is in the nonprofit sector — whether you are the director of an organization, a social media manager, or the fundraising guy or gal — personal branding plays a role in your job. However, there’s often confusion over the role that personal branding should play in the business world, because as a professional you represent the core values and beliefs of the organization you work for. While passion for your organization’s mission is key to engaging supporters, in the age of Internet connectivity, your own core passions are becoming an increasingly important part of the strength and visibility of your nonprofit.

Here are some key points I took away from the session that will help you build your personal brand and in effect grow your organization even more.

On becoming a personal brand

Amber Rae, who does communications and social media work with the Unreasonable Institute, says the key to personal branding is in being yourself and unlocking your personal story. Tap into the beliefs and convictions that you hold in addition to those of your organization. They are the foundation of your personal brand and the kind of information you should be sharing with your followers, through social networking, and even on a personal blog. She says people like to follow other people on Twitter more than they like to follow businesses. That’s because people are intrigued by what makes up your personality: They want to hear about other human experiences and challenges, the mistakes you’ve made and the advice you have. In sharing your own ideas and beliefs, you’ll not only be gaining street cred, but you will cultivate your role as a leader and thinker in the nonprofit space.

On separation

Many session attendees were concerned about the nitty gritty of how to separate their personal brand from their company brand and what the differentiators should be. Rae said separation between the two is the wrong thing to focus on. Rather, she encouraged us to focus on where we can find alignment between our organizations and ourselves. Ultimately, your personal brand is an extension of the nonprofit you work with. Continue reading