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Joanne Fritz

Survey Finds Girl Scouts, Best Friends, Red Cross Among Top Nonprofit Brands

By July 12, 2012

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What distinguishes the best nonprofit brands? Name recognition is important, but the ability to engage supporters emotionally, inspire them to donate freely, and convincing authenticity all play a role.

In late June the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend Study named the "healthiest" nonprofit brands. The annual survey measured brand equity for 87 nonprofits across several categories.

The company performed the survey back in late Jan and early Feb. It then analyzed the responses of consumers to questions about how positively they thought of a particular nonprofit brand, and whether they would be likely to support or donate to it.

The organizations in the survey were measured across a number of traits such as familiarity, intent to give, emotional appeal, volunteerism, etc. The top nonprofits are those that scored above average across most of the measurements.

Here are the top nonprofit brands (I've listed only the first three in each category): Patch to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA


  1. Girl Scouts of the USA came out first in this category. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the Girl Scouts is second only to the American Red Cross, in consumer familiarity. The organization scored very highly on the "Emotional Connection" score, according to Harris.
  2. Reading is Fundamental
  3. Junior Achievement
The magazine from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Animal Welfare

  1. Best Friends Animal Society won in this category for the second year in a row. The Utah-based charity also came in with the best overall score for nonprofits in the study.
  2. The Humane Society of the United States
  3. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)


  1. Stand Up To Cancer, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, came in first in this category partly because it had one of the strongest "Donation Intention" scores.
  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation
  3. American Cancer Society
The American Red Cross Disaster Services

Social Service

  1. American Red Cross. This organization has sky-high recognition among the public and strong scores across the board in this survey.
  2. Habitat for Humanity
  3. Salvation Army


  1. Goodwill, best known for its stores across the country, employs thousands of people with disabilities. In the Harris survey, Goodwill scored the highest across all categories for "Donation Intention."
  2. Special Olympics
  3. March of Dimes

International Aid

  1. Food for the Poor. Even though this nonprofit is not as well known as some other international aid organizations, its strong "Quality" and "Donation Intention" scores propelled it to the top spot.
  2. Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)
  3. Heifer International


  1. Wildlife Conservation Society. Even though this nonprofit scored highly among environmental groups, the Harris study pointed out that organizations that work on these issues scored the lowest in brand equity, suggesting that they need to improve their communications.
  2. World Wildlife Fund
  3. National Wildlife Federation

See this press release for more information and the complete list of nonprofits that ranked well in the Harris survey.

Read More About Branding:

Photos: Girl Scouts USA; Best Friends; Cesar Rodriguez/American Red Cross


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