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The Power of Brand: Fundraising with Stories - A Talk by Jacob Laskowski

In this episode, we feature Jacob Laskowski, founder and creative director of 86, and we present his recent keynote address from the Petrus Development Conference in June.  Jacob shares his experience in brand development and storytelling, and he highlights ways that professional fundraisers can use the essential elements of brand management to draw donors closer to their organization’s mission and subsequently raise more money for their ministry.  

Show Notes


Jacob Laskowski comes to the Petrus Development Conference to share his experience in brand development and storytelling.  After winning a 2nd grade art contest, Jacob leaned into his enjoyment of art, grew his talent, and eventually realized he could use his art skills as a career.  After working as a FOCUS missionary and as FOCUS’s creative director, Jacob founded 86, a firm that helps organizations and ministries with their messaging, brand identities, and marketing strategies.  


What’s Your Brand?

Jacob begins his talk with a series of definitions.  He starts by explaining what a brand is and how it’s applicable to both businesses and ministries.  A brand, in the nonprofit world specifically, is the way that a mission is perceived by those who experience it.  It’s not necessarily something that companies and organizations create (though they absolutely influence it!), but it’s more about what their audience (customers and/or donors) thinks about the organization.  In contrast, organizations have control over their branding.  Branding is the collection of things that identify a ministry to its audience (e.g. name, logo, icon, etc.).  Brand strategy goes one step further, and it refers to the ways that organizations attempt to build a positive perception about who they are and how they craft the right story for their audience.  


Lessons from the Fast Food Industry

Several of Jacob’s examples in his talk involve the fast food industry, including logos, brand strategies, and sales processes.  First, by comparing a variety of logos, Jacob demonstrates how important color can be in logos as different colors evoke different emotions from customers.  Jacob also discusses how Chick-fil-a is an example of a fast food restaurant that was very deliberate in choosing what their brand strategy communicates.  


McDonald’s Dives Deep

Jacob also shares the fascinating ways in which McDonald’s grew its drive-thru business.  The company chose a specific audience segment, learned about that segment’s specific feelings and motivations, and then altered its business practices to better meet the audience’s needs.  Similarly, Jacob stresses that fundraising professionals should take note of the time and effort McDonald’s spent in getting to know and learning how to respond to its target audience.  To be effective fundraisers, we need to know who our audience is, which type of donor is most influential, and what excites these influential donors about our ministry’s mission. 


The Importance of Storytelling

Once we understand what excites our donors, we must craft stories with that excitement in mind. Jacob shares the wisdom of Simon Sinek and tells conference participants to start with the why.  He says that people don’t support what you do; they support why you do it.  If you, as a fundraiser, can craft stories that show the organization’s why and the impact of that why, you are more likely to encourage donors to join you in your efforts.  Jacob emphasizes that consistency is so important, and development teams should choose one story and use it across all of their campaign platforms.  When ministries are consistent in their branding and their storytelling, their donors can more easily share what they love about the organization and encourage their contacts to also support the ministry.  


Closing Notes

For more information about Jacob and 86, check out the 86 website at  


If you’d like to join Petrus for its next annual conference, RAISE23 in the summer of 2023 in Louisville, KY, visit the following link for more information:  Register early for a discount. Now through July 15th, you can save 15% off of your registration to RAISE23 by using the coupon code GROW 23.  We hope to see you there!  



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