Hot issue: Should charities worry about what their brands are worth?

A recent league table of charity brand values has resulted in accusations of intellectual imperialism on the one hand and insularity on the other.

YES

Thayne Forbes, Joint Managing Director, Intangible Business

Brand valuation takes into account the public's perception of a charity's ability to carry out its objectives. As such, monitoring the financial value of charity brands provides unique insight into performance.

We all know charities face increasing competition from the commercial sector. To claim they are exempt from behaving similarly is outdated and insular. Given the public's appetite for ethical products, never before has the opportunity for charities been so great. Yet few are capitalising on this.

Retailers and corporations are crying out for ways to meet this consumer demand. Partnerships, such as the one between BT and the Disasters Emergency Committee, and licensing, as used by the British Heart Foundation, are two ways that charities can leverage their brand value. This increases relevancy and donations, generates income, provides extra resources and expertise and furthers charities' goals.

If charities fail to extend their brands into the commercial environment, I suspect the commercial sector will develop its own brands into the domain of charities.

NO

Joe Saxton, Co-founder, nfpSynergy

Charities exist to change the world for their clients. Companies exist to deliver a service and make a profit. So to apply to charities a measure that was created for companies is like using a steamroller to make pastry. Indeed, it is a form of intellectual imperialism, suggesting charities should be grateful for whatever ill-fitting intellectual hand-me-downs the commercial sector chooses to give away.

More important than the fact that giving a financial worth to a charity brand is a bad idea in principle is that it's bad in practice. It's totally meaningless to say that a charity is worth X million pounds. It can't be bought or sold. Did the NSPCC pay ChildLine its brand value when it incorporated the latter last year? Of course not. ChildLine was short of money and needed help.

So the only sense that any financial measure of 'brand value' makes for charities is nonsense. Charities should value their brands and have strong brand values, but those values should be based on the mission and vision of the organisation and the impact that it has on its clients.

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