Nonprofits, much like their for-profit counterparts in the corporate world, must continually assess and develop their brand. After all, these organizations are vying for scarce dollars, and creating a strong and identifiable brand is critical to securing necessary funding and building a sustainable future.
The Lincoln Center Institute, the educational arm of New York's Lincoln Center since 1975, realized that a rebranding effort was needed, and now the institute has the funding to make it reality. It recently received a $4 million grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation to support a rebranding effort and the rollout of new programs. Indeed, the grant will help pay for a comprehensive, four-year revamping of the institute itself.
This effort will start at the most fundamental level: a name change. The Lincoln Center Institute will now be called Lincoln Center Education. Its mission also will change. Whereas the institute was focused on higher education, visual and performing arts, and cultural institutions, the newly branded Lincoln Center Education will focus on K-12 arts education, teacher training, and arts education and consultancy.
The Sherman Fairchild Foundation, based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, is the charitable foundation of Sherman Mills Fairchild, the American businessman, investor, inventor, and founder of more than 70 companies. Fairchild left most of his $200 million estate to his foundations upon his death in 1971. (See Sherman Fairchild Foundation: Grants for Higher Education.)
The Lincoln Center Institute recently announced the "new identity" on its home page. What's not entirely clear at this point is the financial and/or strategic drivers that compelled the institute to transition toward this new mission, which is heavily focused on children's education. One obvious theory is that the leadership identified a demand for children's education and that this rebranding effort is an attempt to provide a much-needed service to the community as a whole.
Regardless of the institute's motives, this effort underscores the fact that non-profit organizations are, in many ways, no different from large Fortune 500 corporations. They must build and maintain a compelling brand identity that differentiates them in the marketplace and helps to attract new donors.