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A nonprofit with decades of experience is certainly doing something right. To remain viable year after year with the continued support of committed donors and consistent impact takes strong leadership, strategy and dedication. When a brand becomes so well established it has a legacy in its area of service, though, it can become difficult to incorporate new ideas and initiatives. Preconceived notions about the brand are likely pervasive, and it can be challenging to think outside the box when the organization has been doing the same work for a long time.

When a legacy nonprofit wants to shift gears, expand its audience or add a service area, it has to take a step back and first understand how people perceive the brand in its current state, particularly if this has not been evaluated in some time — or ever. Market research, then, becomes a critical step in this process.

By conducting market research with the brand’s current and target audiences (which may not be one in the same), the organization can identify and assess perceptions that affect how people are making decisions when it comes to the brand. Does the target audience see the brand as “old school” or out-of-touch? Do current donors wish there were more ways to be involved? Are people aware of everything the organization is currently doing?

Questions like these can bring invaluable insights to leadership as they consider how to move forward. This data can help define new audiences, identify potential opportunities for growth, determine ways to increase donor satisfaction or discover missing pieces in the donor experience.

While this kind of market research can be helpful for any organization, it’s particularly crucial for brands that have been in operation for decades. It can be easy for legacy nonprofits to get stuck in the mindset of “because that’s how we’ve always done it” and miss opportunities to do even more good in the world. Market research can divert that path to becoming stale or stagnant and keep your brand relevant and vibrant well into the future.

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