In our line of work, we come across many enthusiastic leaders looking to accomplish big things. Whether they’re transforming the world through nonprofit work, launching an innovative startup or impacting their organization from within, these folks are guided by conviction and eager to affect change. Maybe this sounds like someone you know.
Maybe you’re brimming with passion yourself. Passion is a vital asset because it’s both impossible to fake and potentially contagious. Combined with compelling storytelling, passion can win you converts, inspire donors and convince investors.
But if you aren’t careful, passion can overwhelm, distract and confuse your brand message—all signs that you’re suffering from a common condition we call Passionitis.
Don’t worry; the prognosis is good! Passionitis is an easily managed condition once you understand its most prominent symptoms and how they’re best treated. And, like most problems, admitting there is one can be the hardest step.
Beware of The Fog
When you describe your organization’s goals, do they feel attainable? Or do they get a little...unwieldy?
If your ultimate purpose is to “change the world,” you may be a victim of The Fog. What started as a simple mission in your mind has grown into a far-reaching movement, and mere words can’t explain all of the things you’ve got planned. Plus: why would you want to limit yourself? But this mindset leaves those you lead overwhelmed and the brand you seek to create unclear.
Make it Tangible
Ambition is wonderful, but specificity is more relatable and compelling—and your brand needs to be both.
Having trouble narrowing things down? Sometimes a little distance can help. Find your power users—your most important customers, donors and stakeholders—and ask for their input. It should come as no surprise they know your brand well, if not better, than you do.
Here are some good questions to get you started:
What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of our organization?
What first drew you to the organization?
What would a world without our organization look like?
Once you find some common ground, combine your knowledge and those external responses and distill them into a distinct and specific story. Remember: you can always expand your reach later.
Look Out for The Weeds
Can you explain your organization’s mission to a layperson in ten seconds? If not, you may be a victim of The Weeds, an affliction that plagues the passionate, the highly-informed and the super-experienced.
The trouble here is that you might actually know your work too well, making it impossible for you to communicate with the uninitiated.
Stay on the Path
We get it. You want to describe your work accurately and with nuance. But when it comes to your brand, it’s more important to tell a simple story that resonates first, then expand into more. Imagine that you’re explaining your work to a twelve year old. You’d probably focus more on the big picture, not the process. Try and remember why you started doing this kind of work and forget those pesky details learned along the way.
Fear the Grip
Many organizations’ leaders—especially if they’re also founders—can have a hard time letting go of even small decisions around the brand’s expression. This is the dreaded Grip, one of Passionitis’s most acute symptoms.
Empower Your Team
You can’t do it all! And you’ve got a team for a reason. So let’s get you some help.
Creating useful and clear guidelines—covering everything from your visuals to your verbals—will help you empower your team members to steward the brand, freeing you up to focus on the really important stuff. This will feel like a heavy lift at first, but the consistency and confidence will be well worth it.
Building a brand from the inside out isn’t easy when you’re covered head to toe in Passionitis, but with some of these remedies in mind, you can recuperate. Perfecting your story and brand identity is essential for any organization, especially a non-profit.