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April 30, 1992

The Generosity Brand

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Generosity has become a powerful concept recognized around the world.

Sometimes a product or product line is a brand. (Cheez Whiz.) Sometimes a whole company is a brand. (John Deere.) And sometimes a brand is even larger than that—it’s a concept that crosses organizational and international borders. In this sense, Christmas is a brand. Baseball is a brand. Fast food is a brand. No individual or corporation exclusively owns these brands, yet as concepts they are instantly understood and have the same rallying effect as other brands.
Generosity is a concept brand too. No church, no government assistance program, no foundation or charity, no corporate giving department, no high-net-worth donor owns generosity. But they each recognize it, participate in it, and promote it to others.
The generosity brand doesn’t need a logo, a color scheme, or a tag line to exert its extraordinary power. It is also different from commercial brands in that it doesn’t function primarily to drive business back to its point of origin, the way that, for example, Procter & Gamble hopes its skillful deployment of the Tide brand will drive up laundry detergent sales. Of course, many companies and other organizations hope that their use of generosity will have the effect of raising their profile or their profit. But that’s an indirect effect.
But while the generosity brand is different from any organizational brand, it can often comfortably coexist with these other brands. Nonprofit organizations such as the Kellogg Foundation and the March of Dimes have been known as generous for a long time. What’s new is the way that many for-profit businesses and even churches are ramping up their involvement in enterprises for the social good in the hope that it will weave generosity into their DNA in the public’s mind. These days, in fact, every organization needs to think about generosity in terms of co-branding: How can we do good—and be seen as doing good?
To answer this question for your organization, you need to understand the origin and peculiar nature of the generosity brand.

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