Top 100 Nonprofit Brands: YMCA, Salvation Army Rank High

June 26, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Brand Metrics | Financial Services | Pharma & Healthcare

The YMCA of the USA, the Salvation Army and United Way of America are the nation’s top-three most valuable nonprofit brands, but other well-known charities might be leaving money on the table because they are not taking full advantage of their significant brand assets, according to the? Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100 report.

The Power Brand 100 – which includes a list of the top 100 nonprofit brands – was compiled by Cone in collaboration with Intangible Business. It was undertaken to explore the relationship between nonprofit financial performance and brand image and help nonprofits learn how they can potentially reap more revenues by better leveraging their brands.

Top 10 Power Brands

The top Power Brands, which include many of America’s most trusted and recognizable organizations, were valued based on a combination of consolidated financial data and a nationally representative consumer perception survey, among several other metrics.

Among the top three, the YMCA’s brand is worth almost $6.4 billion, the Salvation Army’s brand is worth $4.7 and United Way of America’s brand is worth $4.5 billion.

Of the top 10, six are national, domestic social needs organizations that operate in communities throughout the country:


Cone noted that two of the brands on the top-10 list, Catholic Charities USA and The Arc of the United States, landed there primarily because of their multibillion-dollar revenues. However, they have significantly lower brand image rankings than their peers in the Top 10.

Brand-Image Leaders

For the survey component of the valuation, Cone conducted a proprietary national poll of 1,000 American adults to gauge the familiarity and personal relevance of each organization. These results, combined with other perception factors, including media coverage and the percent of revenue from direct public support, revealed what Cone terms the “brand image” of each organization.

The American Cancer Society stands out with the strongest brand image, in large part because of its standing as the single most relevant nonprofit organization among consumers. In addition to many of the top 10, other organizations who scored well in brand image:

  • American Heart Association – #7? Brand Image (Power Brand 100 Rank: #12)
  • Special Olympics – #8 Brand Image (Power Brand 100 Rank: #58)
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation of America – #9? Brand Image (Power Brand 100 Rank: #35)
  • The Humane Society of the United States – #10 Brand Image (Power Brand 100 Rank: #55)

The consumer survey also revealed that nonprofits with a clear mission/issue in their titles (e.g., the National Cancer Coalition) have higher consumer perception rankings than organizations in the same sector whose names are more ambiguous (e.g., City of Hope).

?Revenue – Brand Image Disconnect

By examining both a nonprofit’s image and its revenue, the research also uncovered an apparent disconnect between some organizations’ brands and their financial performance. When either significantly outperforms or lags the other, it is an indication that there is unmet revenue-opportunity left on the table, Cone said.

Results indicate that several leading nonprofits – including The Humane Society, Special Olympics and Make-A-Wish Foundation of America – may not sufficiently be leveraging their strong brand images to generate greater revenues.

On the other hand, some organizations – such as Catholic Charities and The Arc of the United States – have substantial revenues, but inconsistently low brand images, which may indicate they have occasion to grow their appeal to broader or more diverse audiences, Cone noted.

“The goal of a brand valuation is to determine the amount of money a brand contributes to a nonprofit’s revenue,” said William Grobel, international business valuation director for nonprofits, Intangible Business. “This critical synergy between an organization’s financial performance and its brand plays a significant role in generating additional funds to put toward mission services.”

Sector Insights

In addition to the brand valuation, the study revealed a number of insights into the specific nonprofit issue sectors. For example, at a time when the nation faces an economic crisis and basic human needs are paramount, domestic social needs is the most valuable nonprofit sector.
Cone noted that ten domestic social needs nonprofits were included in the top quarter of the list.

A breakdown of the Power Brand 100, by sector:


Other sector findings:

  • A majority of the environmental/animal-related nonprofits ranked in the bottom half of the list and had similarly low brand rankings; however, environmental organizations also have the highest growth spikes in revenue of all nonprofits studied.
  • The largest nonprofit sector is international needs, which accounts for 30% of the 100 organizations ranked; however, consumers consider this sector to be the least familiar and least relevant.
  • The health and education/youth sectors are the most familiar and most relevant to consumers, yet many disease-specific nonprofits clustered indistinctly toward the center of the ranking.
  • Health nonprofits are also the most likely to generate revenue from special events earning more than $1.8 billion from events alone.

“Today’s nonprofits are on par with the world’s leading companies – generating substantial revenue and competing for the attention of elusive consumers,” said Alison DaSilva, EVP of Knowledge Leadership and Insights, Cone. “Valuing their brands gives them a license to demonstrate to companies and other partners that there is an established and justified cost to aligning with their organization.”

About the study: The Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100 values 100 leading social service, environmental and/or animal-related nonprofits based on financial data, a consumer survey and other metrics. Cone solicited consolidated five-year revenue data, as reported to the IRS, from each organization and consolidated 2007 itemized revenue and expenses. To determine the consumer perception of each nonprofit, Cone commissioned a nationally representative online survey fielded by Opinion Research Corporation. Each organization was evaluated by 1,000 American adults age 18+.

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