Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Brand Image Management for Nonprofit Organizations: Exploring the Relationships between Websites, Brand Images and Donations

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Brand Image Management for Nonprofit Organizations: Exploring the Relationships between Websites, Brand Images and Donations

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

As the number of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) continues to increase, competition for donations in the nonprofit sector intensifies [Hopkins et al. 2014]. To make matters worse, people are also becoming unwilling to donate because they do not trust NPOs [National Council for Voluntary Organisations 2004; Sargeant et al. 2006]. In Taiwan, 34.16% of NPOs are experiencing operational difficulties caused by inadequate funding. This scarcity of funds is also common in other countries [Charities Aid Foundation 2014; Nonprofit Finance Fund 2014]. NPOs understand the importance of marketing and have begun to build websites to publicize their missions and activities. There is no doubt that websites are economical tools for nonprofit marketing. However, the issue of how websites can be best used to increase the viewer's intention to donate has not been addressed.

Brand image is the knowledge, feelings and beliefs people have about an organization, and through which they know, describe, remember, and relate to that organization. Brand image defines the set of associations a consumer has with a brand [Keller 1993]. As markets grow more competitive, organizations must shape their images to be competitively attractive. Positive brand image has a positive impact on brand equity and consumer behavior [Aaker & Keller 1990; Keller 1993]. Prior studies have confirms the positive relationship between brand image and consumers' purchase intention [Chang & Liu 2009; Khan et al. 2015; Wang & Tsai 2014; Yeh 2015]. Similarly to for-profit firms, nonprofit brands can create identification and differentiation characteristics in a competitive environment, intensify trust in their activities and thus secure their volume of donations [Voeth & Herbst 2008]. Prior studies have shown that the nonprofit's brand image has a considerable impact on donors' intention to donate [Bennett & Gabriel 2003; Michel & Rieunier 2012]. The act of giving to a NPO tends to be more social than economic in nature [Venable et al. 2005]. In contrast with profit brand images, nonprofit brand images should emphasize the central values of organization, trustworthiness, humanity and idealism [Voeth & Herbst 2008].

Traditional marketing techniques improve brand image by creating positive associations with a brand [Keller 1993]. For instance, an organization can use a conventional storefront to influence visitors' impressions and differentiate itself in the marketplace. The design of the storefront provides cues regarding the organization and these cues create perceptions of the organization and affect its abilities to attract resources from its environments [Winter et al. 2003]. An electronic storefront or website serves a similar function. An organization's website can influence viewers' impressions of that organization [Braddy et al. 2008; Winter et al. 2003]. Website content and functions can influence viewers' attitude toward the website [Koenig & Schlaegel 2014; Lin 2010] and further contributes to brand image [Sheng & Teo 2012; Yeh 2015], customer satisfaction, retention, and the financial performance of an organization [Hoekstra et al. 2015]. The effect of a website on a brand image can be explained by priming and signaling theories [Braddy et al. 2008; Lowry et al. 2008]. Websites have become important image building tools. However, while the impacts of websites on consumers' impressions of organizations have been studied, little academic work has focused on how to design a website to shape the desired brand image. Branding is still an emergent concept in the charity context; nonprofit marketers still devote few activities to the development and strategic use of brands [Michel & Rieunier 2012; Stride & Lee 2007; Voeth & Herbst 2008]. It is crucial to develop a greater understanding of how to build up and maintain a strong brand image in the context of nonprofit markets. NPOs can tailor their marketing communications around the desired brand image in order to increase people's intention to donate. …

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