News

Personal Branding for the Nonprofit Professional

April 2020

 

Developing, defining, and promoting your personal brand is important for any career, but is especially crucial for nonprofit professionals.  Although it may feel a little uncomfortable or too self serving for some of us to think of "branding" ourselves, managing your personal brand will allow you to make a strong positive impact in your career and community. 

"Personal brand is a person's perception of another person, primarily in a business context," says Yvonne Levine, president and chief marketing consultant of YGL Enterprises, Inc, "whether you are a nonprofit or corporate leader, understanding your brand and what you have to offer greatly impacts your influence over others."

In your position at a nonprofit, your personal brand affects not only your career path, but also directly impacts your organization. Leveraging a strong personal brand will help you build a stronger network, gain the trust of potential investors and collaborators, and expand your reach in the communities you serve.  Keep reading to learn the essential (and simple) steps you should take to cultivate and promote your best personal brand. 

Step 1. Identify your unique skill set 

Your skill set is the backbone of your personal brand.  Make a list of the areas where you shine that you want to promote as the key features of your "brand."   "For your nonprofit professionals, you've got to understand how your unique talents affect your organization. You have to play on those strengths and talents in order to build awareness not only about yourself, but about your nonprofit," says Levine. 

Working with a friend, coworker, or coach can help you pinpoint your greatest strengths to develop your brand.  Your colleagues can point out skills or talents that you may have overlooked in your personal inventory, and brainstorming with others may help you remember positive elements to add to your list through conversation.  A coach may be a special asset to designing your personal brand because they can offer objective feedback on the best features and ways to present and promote your best self. 

Step 2. Build your personal branding library

Now that you've come up with a list of your key strengths and values, it is time to confidently share them with the world. Use the following free branding tools to create a personal branding library to articulate your best qualities and offerings to your followers, colleagues and community: 

 
LinkedIn

Don't just fill out the bare minimum in your LinkedIn page and hit save. Your LinkedIn profile is a powerful tool to showcase your skills, accomplishments, and certifications to potential employers, investors and community members. Keep your LinkedIn page to date with details and quantified results from your latest projects, and share posts regularly to reflect your values and achievements. 

Also, don't forget to fill out a compelling summary statement on your LinkedIn profile. Your summary statement is the first thing people see on your LinkedIn page.

 "It is your authentic statement about why you do what you do in a big sense," says Levine.   

Fill out this section in the first person, and use it to briefly highlight key points in your career path, values, and accomplishments in an engaging way to compel browsers to keep reading your profile and connect with you.

Resume 

Have you worked on a new project lately or taken on a new client recently?  Just like you do for your LinkedIn profile, make sure to review your resume periodically to keep your record of your skills, accomplishments, and involvements up to date. This also can help you come up with talents to promote in your overall personal brand, and is also great to have ready to go when you stumble upon a posting for your dream job. 

One-Sheeter

In addition to a resume, you should also have a "one-sheeter" saved on your desktop. A "one-sheeter" is essentially a one-page document that includes a photo and a concise summary to introduce you and your personal brand to a reader. Your sheet should tell your audience:  "This is who I am. This is what I do for a living. This is what brings me joy and passion personally through outside activities," clearly and concisely according to Levine. 

As your leadership capacities increase throughout your career, you will be asked for this sheet as you are asked to present or speak.  If you are at this point in your career, it is worthwhile to develop several different one-sheeter versions tailored to different audiences. The exercise of creating alternative versions of your one-sheeter will give you great practice at developing communication strategies for your brand. 

Blogging and other communication channels

To share information and promote yourself as an expert in a certain area, consider starting a blog. Your blog should be a resource that introduces unique information that is relevant to your sector and incorporates your educated, well-researched opinions on these topics. You can also build your brand by posting in forums, presenting at professional conferences, starting a podcast, or using other channels to promote your story to the public. 

When posting online, it is important to consider that every mark you make will affect your personal brand.  Think twice before you post that Yelp review, Facebook comment or retweet to make sure that everything you put out on the web reflects the image you want to portray to the world. 

Learn more about building your personal brand: