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Real life brand credibility underpinning fundraising activity

For a while, I have been talking about how brand credibility not only gives charities the right to ask for donations but also how it can protect them when things go awry. This month I personally experienced a great example of the latter.

At London’s Victoria station there is always a different group of individuals collecting for various charities and in early November, prime concourse space was occupied by this year’s Poppy Appeal team.  I wanted to donate and collect my poppy so dutifully waited in line with other commuters whilst the team (presumably volunteers) tried to manage the human traffic as quickly as possible.

Whilst waiting, I was a little shocked and disappointed to hear the way in which the volunteers were speaking to the waiting donors (that’s what we were).  Most of the team were older, some wearing medals and clearly had a personal affinity with the campaign – all of which is positive.  However, they clearly were not used to rush hour and the bustle / crush this creates.  Donors were being ordered around, told they were stupid if they were going to attach a poppy in a certain way, tutted at and ignored by the volunteers.  I actually saw one younger donor ‘told off’ (seriously) by a volunteer for wanting change from a £10 note!

Once that individual had left, a bearded older volunteer looked at me, rolled his eyes and muttered “bloody teenagers”; as if I was supposed to empathise.  At this point, I started to worry that as soon as I had my poppy and walked away, the surly volunteer would be tutting to the next donor that men with long hair and an earring shouldn’t be allowed out in public.

If brand awareness = ‘I’ve heard of you’, then brand credibility = ‘I want to engage with you’ and I did want to engage with The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.  The key point is that, in spite of the behaviours I experienced, I still do.  This campaign (perhaps more importantly than the charity?) has serious credibility in my eyes and it has earned the right to make a few mistakes and not to lose my support.

Brand credibility does have to be earned and usually this is achieved by a charity doing just what it sets out to do.  Supporting people it’s supposed to support, running its own affairs efficiently and (often forgotten) communicating all of the above to supporters so that we can see the outcomes of their interventions.  The Royal British Legion has let me know just how it helps people and for how long it has been doing so with the support of the public.  And that’s why they are credible to me and why I continue to support them.

If more charities developed credibility in this way, I believe the sector would not be so concerned about trying new ideas, like social media, or investing their way out of the recession in the way business seems more inclined to do.

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