The National Congress 2017 provides a wonderful opportunity to learn from all who have been instrumental in making the Society what it is today, to get a better insight into what drives and concerns our members and the challenges and opportunities they identify.
In a time of unprecedented change, growing inequality and mass uncertainty, the St Vincent de Paul Society feels more relevant than ever before. Yet competitive pressures are growing exponentially, from other charities, corporations and individuals. It is critical that as a Society we build clarity around our identity and use the values that have helped the Society become what it is today to continue to draw people to our mission.
In 2014, creative agency M&C Saatchi led internal stakeholders through a workshop exploring how our Vincentian identity could help shape our positioning. ‘Renewal’ was identified as the ‘brand essence’. Our personality was defined as empathetic, empowering, honest and brave and brand values were agreed to include commitment, compassion, respect, integrity, empathy, advocacy, courage, pragmatism, humility and potential. ‘Brand’ is the term used in commercial businesses to define the character, look and feel of the organisation. The perception that the public have of a company or organisation is not just determined by the ‘look and feel’ of the brand. It’s an image formed from every interaction they have—across every touchpoint.
Hence the importance for everyone who is involved in an organisation to embrace the brand essence and to live out the brand values. Brand is not just a responsibility for ‘the marketing people’—living our brand, our identity, is a responsibility for all of us. We at Vinnies have used the term ‘identity’ in lieu of brand as it more closely aligns with our history and who we are as a purpose-driven organisation rather than a commercial business.
Since the introduction of the refinements to our brand/identity in 2015, ‘renewal’ has been used in several ways across the country. It has guided the redevelopment of the reflection booklet in Victoria, it has supported member recruitment in South Australia, it has been rolled out to the shops in Canberra/Goulburn, and nationally it has been used to align fundraising campaigns and publications.
In workshops with the National Council and CEOs we have started to explore how our identity can help address the challenges we face as a Society, how it can function as our united voice and support the key objectives of our Strategic Plan. Can our identity indeed play a role in building a welcoming culture and attracting new members? How can we use our identity to increase our fundraising results and shop revenue? How can it contribute to the effectiveness of our social justice advocacy with the community and government?
Strong brands lead with purpose and take time and consistency to build. The Society’s identity has been doing exactly that for nearly 185 years. However, for an organisation with our history, size and outreach, we are seeking to lift our profile with the public to improve their understanding of what exactly it is we do to support the community. In doing so we will not only focus on what we do or how we assist but we will try to express why we do this in the first place. And this brings us back to our Vincentian identity, the definition of who we are, our commitment to social justice and our Vincentian spirituality.
I very much look forward to attending the Society’s National Congress 2017 and taking part in discussions with other members about how we can continue our work towards a more just and compassionate Australia. These understandings guide the further roll-out of the refreshed identity, ensuring we continue to build on our solid foundation to create a sustainable future.
Anneloes de Graeff joined the Society in August 2014 as Director of Marketing and Partnerships at the Canberra/Goulburn office. She moved to the National Council office in February 2017 as the inaugural National Manager Strategic Marketing. Anneloes is a member of the National Marketing Committee, NMC representative on the National Centres Committee and regularly liaises with the National Youth & Young Adults Advisory Committee. In her role she gives guidance to the National Digital Specialist and the Senior National Marketing Coordinator. Anneloes is an associate member of the Society’s ANU Conference.