Personal branding for fundraising can seem like a daunting task.
To secure funding from a potential investor, you must have a solid pitch, communicate clearly and concisely, have traction, and differentiate yourself from the competition.
This is, of course, easier said than done. There is no shortcut to raising money, after all, besides winning the lottery.
In my experience, I’ve found that a solid personal brand goes a long way in overcoming all the challenges and helping you achieve your fundraising goals. Investors invest in the founder, not the company. So, you want to stand out from your competition by being the one with the strongest brand.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first understand the concept of a personal brand for startup founders.
A personal brand isn’t a résumé or simply a list of all your achievements on paper. It’s more comprehensive than that.
It is a collection of the values you, as an individual, stand for. It’s an amalgamation of your experience, expertise, and competency, which form an image of how you want the business world to perceive you. It’s not about bragging; it’s about demonstrating and sharing your expertise to be recognized as an industry leader.
A personal brand answers the question: What makes you stand out?
Building a personal brand requires great patience, research, and introspection. But I guarantee you that there is a solid ROI from building your brand the right way that goes beyond your fundraising efforts. Ask any personal brand strategist.
In this blog, I will outline some tips on building a unique personal brand and the various ways you can use personal branding for fundraising.
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To give you an idea of the importance of personal branding for fundraising, let’s look at the three main benefits a solid personal brand offers.
- It helps expand your network.
- It establishes you as an expert.
- It attracts more visibility.
All three aspects are crucial to anyone starting a fundraising journey. It’s a no-brainer — by increasing the number of people aware of your expertise and who have a positive impression of your brand, you are increasing the likelihood that your campaign will succeed.
Don’t just take my word for it, though — around three-quarters of organizations agree that a strong brand identity increases recurring funding. Let’s see how!
In the past, investors have been most likely to invest in founders they firmly believe in; those they have confidence will have an impact on the market.
In the past, investors tended to focus on concepts like the founder’s “mission,” “impact,” or even “the startup’s ease of use.” However, according to research from 2022, a new factor has toppled these investing concepts to take the top spot — Founder’s “trustworthiness and expertise.”
So where does a personal brand fit into these statistics? It’s simple, a strong personal brand is one of the best ways to boost credibility. By demonstrating your expertise, skills, and knowledge through your personal brand, you are proving to investors that you have the skills, industry knowledge, and visibility to give their investment in your startup the highest probability of success.
Now that we’ve established the importance of personal branding for fundraising, we’re left with a more pressing question: Where do we start?
Building a personal brand, as I already mentioned, is not an easy task. It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of strategy. The payoff is powerful and will have long-lasting positive implications for you and your company.
The following points are an excellent place to start:
To have a successful personal brand and get the most out of your fundraising journey, there are some questions you must ask yourself.
- What separates you from the competition?
- How do you want to be perceived by your investors?
- What problem or challenge do you want to solve that made you want to start your company?
- How will you and your company make an impact on your target market?
The answers will bring you closer to identifying what makes your value proposition unique.
It will help you stand out from the crowded field of other startups vying for investor’s funds by creating a unique and compelling “story” for investors to get behind and support.
The next step involves refining your messaging and communication. An important question to ask at this point is: What do you want to convey to potential investors?
To arrive at an answer, it’s essential to ascertain what your ideal investor looks like.
Do your research into investors that have invested in similar companies at the same fundraising stage, talk to other founders, look at who’s invested in your competition, and check out online sites like Pitchbook and Crunchbase to find investors interested in your startup’s niche.
With this research, you should be able to build a list and craft an elevator pitch of your message that will align with your goals and have a strong call to action that will urge investors to sit up and take notice.
Once you’ve crafted your message and value proposition, the next step would be to make your personal brand known across multiple channels — consistently. This means you need to have a consistent “Look & Feel “and consistent messaging. All of your online profiles and your personal website should have consistent colors, logos, and visual aesthetics so that when anyone sees your posts on social media or visits your website, they immediately recognize that it is you.
Nothing puts an investor off more than inconsistency in messaging. Poor communication can harm your credibility and create confusion about your mission goals.
Focusing on having a consistent tone and learning to leverage various communication channels can have a significant impact on an investor. For an idea of how much of a difference it can make, take an example from the corporate world, where consistent brand messaging across all platforms leads to a 23% increase in revenue.
If you aren’t already harnessing the power of social media, it’s time to move out from that rock you’ve been living under.
Social media is the best way to increase the impact of a personal brand. It can help you identify your audience, engage with a community, increase visibility, and control the image you want potential investors to have when they see your messaging.
An estimated 4.9 billion people worldwide use some form of social media. Trust me when I say there is no better place to build an audience of dedicated followers and investors.
Building a large audience means that your authority and visibility also rise. When you have authority and visibility, you tend to gain people’s trust. When you have authority and trust, then you can positively impact your target audience. This is not just for possible clients/consumers but also for investors. For example, if you have two founders and both are looking for funding, if Founder “A” has 50,000 followers across multiple platforms and Founder “B” has 1,000 followers, then who do you think is going to be viewed as an industry leader and an authority in that space? Which one is going to have a much easier time connecting with investors and ultimately securing funding for their startup? If you said Founder “A,” then you win!
Once you’ve gone through the hard work of establishing a solid personal brand, it’s important to avoid sitting back and resting on your laurels. Your personal brand is an investment in your future, just like an IRA. Nobody invests in their IRA the day before they retire and believes that it’s going to have any meaningful impact on their future. The same is true for your personal brand. The sooner you start, the better, and the bigger the ROI on your personal brand will be.
I’ll be honest — it’s highly unlikely that your personal brand will be perfect right from the get-go and immediately achieve all your fundraising goals. To really get an effective personal brand, it’s essential to build your personal brand over time, not just when you’re fundraising.
For a personal brand to gain the reputation of being “authentic,” it needs time and consistency to grow. By following the strategies outlined below, you can go a long way in ensuring that you stay true to the brand you set out to create.
- Remember the values on which you built your brand
- Remember the importance of personality
- Be honest, open, and transparent in your communication
- Stay consistent in your messaging
- Share your expertise and answer the “burning questions” of your audience
By keeping these steps in mind, you’re reinforcing that you have a unique story to tell your audience. This will help you differentiate yourself from the competition and remind your audience why they resonated with you in the first place.
It’s highly unlikely that your fundraising goals will stay stagnant throughout a campaign. Neither should your personal brand.
In fact, in my experience, too many personal brands and fundraising campaigns have been completely ruined by complacency and an unwillingness to pivot. To stay on top of your goals, you must develop strategies to adapt your personal brand and give your audience what they are asking for. Test many different types of messaging/posting to see what works best for your audience. Explore video as an additional channel to reach your audience, for instance. Keep your messaging fresh and to the point.
Be flexible and open to altering your communication and brand messaging, look out for untapped potential and new networks, and adapt to technological innovations to ensure your branding isn’t stale.
This will remind investors why they were so interested in your mission in the first place and allow you to stay up to date with new goals in your fundraising campaigns.
A startup founder’s personal brand can have a significant impact on fundraising for their startup. Here are some examples of how a strong personal brand can positively influence the fundraising process:
- Credibility and Trust: A founder with a well-established personal brand, built through expertise, achievements, and thought leadership, can instill confidence in potential investors. Their credibility and track record can create trust and increase the likelihood of attracting investment.
- Network and Connections: A founder with a strong personal brand often has an extensive network of industry contacts, influencers, and mentors. These connections can be invaluable when seeking introductions to potential investors or accessing funding opportunities. Investors may be more inclined to invest if they see that the founder has a robust network of supporters and industry relationships.
- Thought Leadership: A founder who consistently shares valuable insights, trends, and perspectives in their industry can position themselves as a thought leader. This can attract attention from investors who are actively looking for founders who understand the market, have a deep understanding of the problem they’re solving, and have unique insights that set them apart from competitors.
- Public Speaking Engagements: Speaking at conferences, industry events, or webinars can help a founder build their personal brand and increase visibility. A founder who is recognized as a knowledgeable and engaging speaker can attract investor interest. Additionally, speaking engagements provide opportunities to network with potential investors directly.
- Media Presence: Founders who have a strong media presence, such as being featured in reputable publications, participating in interviews, or writing guest articles, can significantly enhance their personal brand. Media exposure can generate awareness about the startup and increase its perceived value, leading to more interest from investors.
- Strong Online Presence: A founder with an active and engaged online presence, particularly on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or industry-specific forums, can build a community around their personal brand. By consistently sharing valuable content, engaging in discussions, and building relationships, they can attract attention from investors who are actively monitoring industry trends and looking for promising startups to invest in.
- Track Record of Success: A founder with a successful track record, such as having built and exited previous startups or having a history of delivering exceptional results, can significantly influence the fundraising process. Investors often look for founders who have a proven ability to execute and deliver on their promises.
It’s important to note that while a strong personal brand can positively impact fundraising, it should be supported by a strong business model, a compelling product or service, and a solid team. Investors ultimately assess the startup’s potential for success based on these fundamental factors. Still, a founder’s personal brand can serve as a valuable complement that helps differentiate the startup and increase investor confidence.
Whether it’s through building up credibility, gaining the trust of investors, or increasing the visibility of your solution, I hope this blog has helped you see the impact personal branding can have on a fundraising campaign.
As you build your personal brand, remember to follow the above-mentioned strategies, such as identifying your unique value proposition and creating strong brand messaging that aligns with your goals. Once that’s done, don’t forget to maintain your personal brand by staying authentic and adapting to the times.
Provided you follow all these tips and spend enough time on research and self-reflection, I guarantee that you will begin to see the impact personal branding can have not only on a fundraising campaign but on every aspect of your professional life.
What are you waiting for? There’s no better time to start than now.