See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

What is the nature of compelling giving?
What are the tools to build a brand story that has soul, connectedness and impact to emerging audiences?

Dig in. Go deep. Reach far.

Finding time, reaching to the giving community in building humanitarian brand and charities

Brand soul. Soulful enterprise.
Working on the newest brainchild of client and friend, Scott Oki, and his co-founder, leadership appointee, Digivijay Chauhan, the goal was to collectively explore ideas about how to more compellingly build a model for innovation in giving: See Your Impact (seeyourimpact.org). In that modeling, literally: see – your – impact.

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

It was Oki’s visioning to approach the concept of building a new brand precept for achieving relationships, enlarging community quickly. But more so to the framing of how people could connect, personally and intimately with the nature of giving. The heart of charity is care. Who cares? Millions do. But they’re mired in the complexity of decision making — they are slowed to giving by the complexity of the process, but more over, the sheer burden of the realm of giving complications. Process. Who has the time to study — what am I really giving to, what’s the outcome, and really do I have the time to figure it out?

No. Most don’t. Lack of time burdens caring. Distractions fray execution and follow-through. An absence of time attaches to the notion of trying to deal with what’s happening “right in front of you” — and it’s harder to find the discern with the extraordinarily profound states of need.

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

The etymology of charity and care

Exploring the roots of caring and charity, they are intertwined etymologically.

Charity, the word, flowing backwards in sequence, is, from the mid-12c., “benevolence for the poor,” from Old French charité (Old North French carité), from Latin caritatem (nom. caritas) “costliness, esteem, affection” (in Vulgate often used as translation of Greek agape “love” — especially Christian love of fellow man — perhaps to avoid the sexual suggestion of the Latin amor), from carus “dear, valued,” from PIE *karo-, from base *ka– “to like, desire” (and, interestingly, see whore). Vulgate also sometimes translated agape by Latin dilectio, n. of action from diligere “to esteem highly, to love” (see diligence).

“Wyclif and the Rhemish version regularly rendered the Vulgate dilectio by ‘love,’ caritas by ‘charity.’ But the 16th c. English versions from Tindale to 1611, while rendering agape sometimes ‘love,’ sometimes ‘charity,’ did not follow the dilectio and caritas of the Vulgate, but used ‘love’ more often (about 86 times), confining ‘charity’ to 26 passages in the Pauline and certain of the Catholic Epistles (not in I John), and the Apocalypse …. In the Revised Version 1881, ‘love’ has been substituted in all these instances, so that it now stands as the uniform rendering of agape. [OED]” See: Douglas Harper, for an even broader spread of explorations. The concept of care speaks to diligence, which speaks to the nature of engagement — giving, caring, takes persistent attention. And attention, in the conflicted nature of the age, is a value of challenged involvement.

Brand soul, team engagement and brand building

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

Our process of exploring this soul brand comes to the notion of collaboration — Girvin’s BrandQuest®. Indeed, everything that Girvin does comes from listening, observing, transcribing, analyzing and evolving. Any story begins with content — but survival requires evolution, if not revolution. The idea of reaching into the soul of the brand — and its story — is never alone, a single-minded reflection, but the gathered meditations of many. There must be a leader, the foundation of the principled study — like Scott Oki — but there must be, too, conversations, the song of teams.

Building the brand team for humanitarian enterprise development

Our team for the study of the proposition was this group:
Scott Oki,
Co–Founder & Chairman of the Board
Digvijay Chauhan,
Co–Founder & CEO
Wendy Adams,
Founding Board Member
Rob Short,
Founding Board Member
Steve Eisner,
Advisory Board Member
Neil Patel,
Advisory Board Member

Each has a range of experience to support the development of the premise — and the promise — of the positioning. And to ring true the resonance and relevance of the story. And indeed, See Your Impact is about changeful storytelling — each contributor buys into a story, building a perspective relationship with the recipient, watching as lives are changed.

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

Our process asks for the following sequencing of searching explorations.

What are we doing?

Ask the question — what is the win? What are the winning expectations? What is to be accomplished — organize, define, ask and build towards defining conclusions. Working as a team is an accelerated program — it is about achieving results in a shorter time frame.

Definition of the challenges of the humanitarian brand

Define the fundamentals — what is known, what is the articulated scope of the problem? How to think about humanitarian brand development and the positioning of strategically intentioned charitable causes? Here’s a reference to the nature of the structure of such a query:

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

The problem and the opportunity:
Today, for almost all small donations (under $100 per donation), there is no human connection, for the donor, with the end beneficiary of their individual gift. The recent advances in web based media, social networking and phone technology have created a unique opportunity for existing charities to provide micro-charity giving, enabling rapid growth not unlike that of micro-finance at Kiva.org. They have grown, from zero to approximately $70 million in the span of three years.

SEE YOUR IMPACT’s solution provides a micro-charity destination website that enables donors to fund tangible, small gifts (such as a $15 Braille kit) that impact the causes they believe in. Donors will receive and easily share an online personal impact story of each individual that has benefited from their gift in the form of pictures and/or videos.

SEE YOUR IMPACT seeks to grow their organization, increase public awareness
of their mission and accelerate their fund raising, gift-giving efforts. To that end, SEE YOUR IMPACT is seeking a new, refreshed brand identity and messaging that will distinguish them in the marketplace and reflect their mission statement. This will be extended to the organization’s website with the goal to launch the newly designed site by end of quarter 3, 2010.

Working with these propositions an audition of any proposition is yet another foundation. What do things look like and how are they messaged?

Learnings are summarized and organized founded on the learnings from the team — and in that, what do they mean? What’s the point — what’s the story and who cares about it?

Propositions of value — what defines culture in charitable brands?

A unique Value Proposition:
Focus is on people, not projects: unique donor–beneficiary connection.
Sustainable business model: SEE YOUR IMPACT expects to hit self sustainability in approximately five years, at which point all proceeds for the organization will be generated via the business model, including direct donor contributions.

New Giving Paradigm:
the vision is to connect donors to billions of beneficiaries. In addition, a key value proposition for partner charities is that SEE YOUR IMPACT enables a cost effective approach to mass–market donor acquisition.

What SEE YOUR IMPACT provides (or will provide) to donors, current non–profit organizations and beneficiaries:

For donors:
The program enables each donor to connect with a unique beneficiary in an authentic and transparent manner. This allows each participant to learn about the impact on a real person and see the difference even a small donation can make. A carefully screened and trusted organization for the actual last mile touch. A simple and easy way to experience the joy of connecting by sharing a story about lives being touched. Each and every picture and correlating story will be made public on the website, providing easy access to these stories as well as transparency to assure donors that the same story is not repeated. A simple way to provide different levels of donor engagement from giving small and thousand dollar donations, to local and remote volunteering.

Building brand soulful distinctivity

This framing continues for defining relationships to non-profits, for beneficiaries and the creation of clearly articulated differentiators. Distinction is profound — the messaging and distinguishment must be easily seen and memorable. Examining “competitors” for attention is a huge component of action. Explore. Discuss. Finalize points of differentiation.

Team commentaries for “what’s good, what’s a challenge, what improvements might be considered” — all of these can be part of the distinction. HopeMongers.org, Heifer.org, others — each, their strength. And their so-called weaknesses. Having worked with many — there is power in them all. To each, their own — both to the observations of the team, but to the nature of the other organizations.

Culturally, as a brand and story, they will define and build their propositions and visualizations of expression in message, color, idea and imagery. The idea of any encounter isn’t to undermine, but to advance.

Getting it out on the table, building foundations that are extensible is the key to meaningful marketing variation. For Girvin, working intensely over the course of the last decade on defining brands, bearing out the soul of the brand and their story for charitable organizations, the ideas are fertile for expansion. And indeed our process — the BrandQuest® for team leadership and brand evolution — is not only completely customized, but entirely shifting to trend, market contexts and needs that are happening in the global causes for care.

Brand soul: documenting the outcomes of the conversations

Any phase of working exploration can’t simply be a documentation, but as well must speak to the character of outcomes and recommendations. What did the team explore, what were the conversations, who said what? And with that — what’s the recommendation? What are the conclusions? If there are conclusions, on which principles are they founded?

Defining the roles of the leadership team and what is to be expected is another attribute of the BrandQuest® program — any organization can thrive on the spirit of those that lead it. Leaders are, literally, in front. They are the principle (and principal) promulgators of the brand story. And every brand is about a story that can be held and founded in compelling engagement. Leadership must know the story and tell it — spreading the word. That apex will form the expansion of community, filtering through hybrid media and social networks.

Soul session: visioning and missioning

Central to any enterprise is the prize. What is the prize of being involved? What is the emotional connection that makes the brand relationship sustainable? It’s needed for a enriched life? It is in this link that the concept of mission aligns. Mission — for a charitable organization — lies in the promise of the relationship. What is the promise, the daily promise of the brand? Ask that?

If there’s a missionary fulfillment — the legacy of carrying out the mission, the promise — then what is the vision? Visioning a brand is just as much about thinking about the desired future state as well as it is the nature of the dream — and the distinct link of the dream of the brand attaches to, comes from, soul.

The audience

If there is a story, there’s a presumption of listeners. The point might be to consider if there are listeners, then how do they listen? Sometimes messaging might be written from the standpoint of the speaker and less so to the nature of what the hearing might be. If there’s a message, a storied sequence, then building the momentum of the right pace and voice will be crucial. So too, the strategy of sequencing content for the See Your Impact presence.

This modeling is evinced in the following simplistic, nearly scannable sequencing of audience character.

SeeYourImpact is a revolutionary way to help those in need around the world. Give a small gift, and in about 2 weeks, we’ll tell you exactly who you helped and how.

Here’s how it works:

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

People often ask us, “Really? 100% goes to my gift?” Yes. Absolutely 100%. It’s your investment in someone’s life, and we spend every penny the way you ask us to.

How do we do it?

We offer you the option of donating a tax-deductible gift to cover the cost of our services. These optional gifts help us achieve our mission: connecting people who want to give to people in need.

Ways you can give

SeeYourImpact provides simple, small gifts that transform people’s lives. Gifts like $10 Mosquito Nets, $29 Water Filters, and $85 Wheelchairs.

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

Imagine you were holding a $20 bill in your hand. A small amount can become a life-altering gift. When you give $20 to SeeYourImpact, it becomes a Braille Kit to a blind student in India. Or a Life-Saving Medicine Kit for a child in Rwanda.

We work with proven charity partners in local communities to transform your $20 into lives changed. Then we show you the difference your $20 made. It’s simple.

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

About 2 weeks after you give, we’ll email the picture of the real person whose life you changed. We’ll also send you a story, detailing exactly the difference your gift made.

It only takes about 2 weeks?

Yes. We leverage innovative technology to ensure a fast turn around on updates from the field.

We get the stories and photos delivered to you in 1 of 3 ways, depending on your gift:

  1. When you give gifts like one of our Hand-Powered Wheelchairs, our partners on-the-ground are notified within minutes. They deliver the wheelchair to someone who’s been waiting.
  2. When it’s more efficient, we deliver your gift in advance. For example, some of our partners travel to remote, hard-to-reach villages. Once there, they deliver more than one gift at a time, some of which haven’t been funded yet. Our field partners rely on SeeYourImpact donors to fund the gift they’ve given. When you sponsor a gift that’s been delivered and is waiting to be funded, you provide for the initial individual and free up funds to help someone else.
  3. Paying for someone’s school tuition is one of the most effective ways to lift them out of poverty. When you fund tuition, you’re either sponsoring the gift of an enrolled student whose tuition needs funding, or you’re making it possible for the student to return next year.

In every case, staff on the ground capture the moment when your gift is delivered. They upload the picture and story to our website. Volunteers help edit the story before it gets published. And about 2 weeks after you give your gift, you’ll receive the photograph and story of the real person you helped.

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

Valerie, a SeeYourImpact donor, gave a $29 water filter. About 2 weeks later, she received the photo and story of the family her gift helped.

See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity
Sisupan’s family and the water filter Valerie provided

Every day donors are helping people write new stories of hope for their lives. Read the stories they’ve made possible.

This sequencing builds on creating stories that in turn become the stories of the audience. Resonance is impactful, relevance is immediate (or soon thereafter).

What about the name? Considering nomenclature in humanitarian branding

Do people really get the story? Do they understand? A clear alignment between the positioning of the soulful character of the brand and the impact of the name is critical. Is there a relationship that electrifies the question? In the nature of the directness of See Your Impact, this question was asked of the team. What about the name, is it right? A query — for exploration — and finally, team decision-making. Moving forward or considering change? To the nature of this examination, if there is change, then clearly defining the strategy and foundations — and risks — of name evolution should be outlined and articulated. There are surely issues attached to legacy and equity and there are costs in making changes.

Website inquiries: exploring social networking attributes of charitable institutions
See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

The Web site is emerging as the most powerful nexus for communication of experience. If the foundations of the brand principles are suggested, then the Web site can express more clearly the power of the brand soul — here, they are summarized. Because of the layered nature of site expression, the digital centerpoint of the site becomes the most profoundly emotional reach point for anyone in understanding the brand. The only other more powerful point of messaging experience will be human. Envisioning the site as something that is a “holding place” of experiences will be more impactive to memory and distinction. While the issue of folding the layers of content in an architecture is necessary, the real issue will be about the potential of engagement in the passage of memorable content. Bear in mind the nature of market impatience — sites that are too complexly organized with series of content messages and images will be discarded or abandoned in minutes. Think of this space as relational — from one connection to another; like the premise of marketing through multiple channels of sociability, this networking — the literal webbing of relevance — will create programming that is unforgettable and striking. Bold, accessible, simplistically powerful strategies will be more evidenced in results, than complex deeply informational expectations. Stagger the messaging in a way that people can grasp key precepts quickly — then allow them to dig more deeply, moving inwardly to the tiers of experience. The soul, the spirit, should be found at first glance.

Brand soul and emotion
See Your Impact | Finding the Soul of Charity

Working with the SIY team in exploring ideations of imagery and relationships to the spirit of the organization’s intentions is another path of examination — this will lend itself to opening other channels of creative action, even inspiration. Sorting imagery, defining criteria of visual approaches, coupled with adjectival notations, brand haiku, quotations and contextual alignments enriches the detailing of the holistic experience — and, it reaches further into the soul place of branding. Describing imagery, categorizing types of presence, even seeking out the nature of procession: how does the participant come into our place of experience can all be additive to deepening the impact of how, literally, the brand presentation is sensually integrated.


The nature of brand is inherently about fire and passion. The root of the word for brand is literally that — one, fire; two, passionate commitment. Brands don’t survive without either. And in the case of humanitarian and charitable presence, if you don’t have one or the other, the necessity of reaching to a community for funding simply won’t happen. It’s been asked, “what is soul?” How, possibly, could brand be linked to soul.

Old English sawol “spiritual and emotional part of a person, animate existence,” from Proto Germanic *saiwalo (cf. Old Saxon seola, Old Norse sala, Old Frisian sele, Middle Dutch siele, Dutch ziel, Old High German seula, German Seele, Gothic saiwala), of uncertain origin. Sometimes said to mean originally “coming from or belonging to the sea,” because that was supposed to be the stopping place of the soul before birth or after death. Hence, from Proto Germanic. *saiwaz (see sea). Meaning “spirit of a deceased person” is attested in Old English from 971. As a synonym for “person, individual” (e.g. every living soul) it dates from early 14c. Soul-searching (n.) is attested from 1948, from the phrase used as a pp. adj. (1610s).

To offer a sense of history is relevant to understanding how this word evolved, and what it can mean for an enterprise of any type. If a brand is about fire, the impassioned burning of the attributes of what drives it, the power of that spark lies in the soul of its making. It either has brand soul or it doesn’t; it either evidences a thread of this ignited fuse, or it’s merely another day, another dollar, another enterprise.
Distinguishment lies in the spirit of the culture, which inherently comes from the human component of its founding. Humans create brands; and they are either linked in to the spread of its beliefs, splaying the messaging and experience for others in all directions, or it is a cold and mechanical engagement.

Beautiful brands, in their truth, are about soul — they are, as noted above: “full of feeling.”

T I M | Santa Fe, New Mexico

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