Member Voices- For Emerging Philanthropy Professionals: The Power of Personal Branding

Peter Montoya and Tim Vandehey in their book, A Brand Called You states that “A brand is a whole set of associations, expectations, memories and desires.”  As a new emerging professional in philanthropy you can use Montoya and Vandehy’s idea of utilizing your brand to be a powerful and positive association that comes to mind when people think of you.  Do you want your name to evoke powerful emotional responses in both the communities in which you live and serve and the organizations you operate in?

Don’t get stuck here though.

Your brand doesn’t have to be all your inner workings or everything you care about. As an emerging philanthropy professional, you most likely entered the field because you were passionate about a cause, an organization, a movement, and a desire to make the world a better place.  However, your personal brand is a commitment that you make.  Think of your personal brand as your promise to people who work with you.  It represents all the things you stand for-your values and attitudes. 

When considering your personal brand:

  • Your differentiating attributes from the competition-do you have resources or relationships others do not have?
  • Your combination of unique strengths-what is your special skill?  
  • Your personal values-are you honest, reliable, deliver on time?

We operate in a world full of passionate general program officers but to stand out, become a specialist and hone your skills in a particularly needed aspect of philanthropy.  It’s important for you to be one or one of a handful of people who do what you do.  Your brand is your promise and if you are consistently delivering your brand; others will begin to perceive you as your promise.  It’s good to be aware of our brand whether we think we are exerting it consciously or not. 

To get started, here are a few steps to begin setting up your personal brand:

  1. Ask your co-workers and partners for how they perceive you.
  2. List your strong and weak characteristics.
  3. Compare the lists and focus on your strengths.
  4. Review your competition’s strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Look at how others in your field are branding themselves especially those who are good at differentiating themselves from the pack.
  6. Plan ahead-do you need to get better versed in grantmaking practices, facilitating, leading, etc.?

Chao Yang is a first generation Hmong women leader with intense focus on impact.  She is driven by a desire to empower people to realize their greatest potential by building connection, collaboration, and ownership between groups that lead to societal progress. 

She is currently a Ron McKinley Fellow at Medtronic Foundation, where she oversees a diverse local and global grant portfolio.  Chao is prolific reader, writer and nature enthusiast.  Her community involvement, leadership and activism has brought about tangible and lasting impact that helps others capitalize on opportunities and succeed.  She is currently the Chair of the Minnesota EPIP Chapter and welcomes new ways in which she can contribute to empowering underserved communities.


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