New Cone Report Values America’s 100 Leading Nonprofit Brands



Andrea List


As nation copes with economic crisis, domestic social needs proves to be the most valuable nonprofit sector

BOSTON (June 24, 2009) – The YMCA of the USA’s brand is worth almost $6.4 billion, making it the nation’s most valuable nonprofit brand, according to The Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100. This first-of-its-kind research explores the unique relationship between nonprofit brand image and financial performance and revealed some organizations may be leaving millions of dollars in potential unearned revenue on the table.

Cone, in collaboration with Intangible Business, developed the new brand valuation to provide nonprofits with the information and inspiration they need to make their brands work harder. Brands were valued based on five years of consolidated financial data and a nationally representative consumer perception survey, among several other metrics.

“Through this valuation, we want to help nonprofits better understand how to protect and evolve their brands to generate as much revenue as possible,” says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president 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.”

The Top 10

The Top 10 Nonprofit Power Brands are a Who’s Who of some of America’s most beloved and recognizable organizations; of these, six are domestic social needs organizations with long legacies of service and touch points in communities across the country. The two surprise findings on the list are Catholic Charities USA and The Arc of the United States, which despite being multibillion-dollar organizations, have significantly lower brand image rankings than their peers in the Top 10.

Power Brand 100 RankOrganization         

Sector   Brand Value $ Million   Revenue Rank   Brand Image Rank

1 - YMCA of the USA
Education/Youth   6,393.6   1   6

2 - The Salvation Army
Domestic Social Needs   4,702.9   3   2

3 - United Way of America
Domestic Social Needs   4,516.9   2   3

4 - American Red Cross
Domestic Social Needs   3,146.2   7   5

5 - Goodwill Industries International
Domestic Social Needs   2,534.8   6   18

6 - Catholic Charities USA
Domestic Social Needs   2,361.1   4   53

7 - Habitat for Humanity International
Domestic Social Needs   1,768.0   9   4

8 - American Cancer Society
Health1,359.8   11   1

9 - The Arc of the United States
Health   1,223.6   5   96

10 - Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Education/Youth   1,168.3   8   21

Brand Image

As a crucial component of the valuation, Cone conducted a proprietary national survey 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, reveal the “brand image” of each organization.

The American Cancer Society stood out with the strongest brand image due in large part to its standing as the single most relevant nonprofit organization among consumers. In addition to many of the Top 10, other organizations who swept the brand image chart included:

  • American Heart Association – No. 7 Brand Image (Power Brand 100 Rank: 12)
  • Special Olympics – No. 8 Brand Image (Power Brand 100 Rank: 58)
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation of America – No. 9 Brand Image (Power Brand 100 Rank: 35)
  • The Humane Society of the United States – No. 10 Brand Image (Power Brand 100 Rank: 55)

The consumer survey also revealed a key takeaway for all nonprofits – say what you do. The results found 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).

Brand-Revenue Synergy

By examining both a nonprofit’s image and its revenue, the research also uncovered a 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 opportunity left on the table, in some cases millions of dollars in potential revenue.

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. Conversely, 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.

“The goal of a brand valuation is to determine the amount of money a brand contributes to a nonprofit’s revenue,” explains 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. Ten domestic social needs nonprofits were included in the top quarter of the list. Other key sector findings include:

  • 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 percent 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; and,
  • 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. To respond, they are increasingly taking a professional approach to managing their brands and ensuring they clearly communicate everything the organizations stand for,” says DaSilva. “A compelling brand is an invaluable tool in the arsenal to generate critical funds, secure rewarding corporate and government partnerships and appeal to consumers, employees and volunteers.”

For a complete copy of The Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100 and a detailed methodology, please visit or contact Andrea List ( Video commentary from Cone and quotes and video from many of the Top 10 Nonprofit Power Brands are also available.

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 on the list and consolidated 2007 itemized revenue and expenses. To determine the consumer perception of each nonprofit, Cone commissioned a nationally projectable online survey fielded by Opinion Research Corporation. Each organization was evaluated by 1,000 American adults age 18+.

About Cone:
Cone ( is astrategy and communications agency engaged in building brand trust. Cone creates stakeholder loyalty and long-term relationships through the development and execution ofCause Branding SM, Brand Marketing, Corporate Responsibility andCrisis Prevention and Management initiatives. Cone is a member of the Omnicom Group (

About Intangible Business:
Intangible Business ( is a leading independent brand valuation consultancy. Headquartered in London, UK, Intangible Business has a presence in over 12 countries around the world, including the US. Intangible Business’ consultants combine formal accounting and marketing qualifications with significant experience in industry and consultancies.