Nonprofits are facing a new reality when it comes to understanding who they are, what their stakeholders require of them and how to differentiate themselves to remain visible and sustainable. Why is this important today? Just ask a nonprofit leader and one is most likely to hear a more competitive fundraising environment about individual donors, who are more important than ever. Plus, nonprofits are finding similar support, similar programs being offered by other organizations. This creates confusion in the minds of those looking for services and those that want to support the organizations providing those services.

Before a nonprofit can have a conversation about its brand, it should have a conversation with its key stakeholders to understand what they need from their brand. Understanding stakeholder needs (clients, funders, donors, partners, board and staff) will help nonprofits understand what sets them apart and how to properly brand and message an “ownable” position.

Understanding stakeholders doesn’t need to be a burdensome process. First, determine if there’s a group of stakeholders with whom you feel your organization needs to better understand, and ultimately, connect. It may be one of your key groups; it may be all of them. Then, go ask. Ask them about how aware they are of your organization’s history, services, programs and reputation. Ask them about what they think your organization excels at and where its deficiencies may be. Ask them what more your organization could be doing to better align with each stakeholder’s needs. If your nonprofit is exploring new programs, new approaches, new ways to serve – ask your stakeholder for feedback.

But ask them.

If your organization was a major consumer brand, it would be asking its customers and prospective customers about needs and expectations. It would be testing new ideas. It would be understanding ways to stay visible to your audiences. And it would be using these inputs to influence its communications.

Don’t wait, go ask.