Your nonprofit’s brand is essentially the visual image that you put out into the community to remind your community members of who your organization is, your mission, and your general personality. It’s the core of your marketing strategy and helps develop your organization’s reputation.
With more than 1.6 million nonprofits registered in the United States and 86,000 in Canada, it’s important that your organization create a consistent brand that helps you convey your message and stand out from the crowd.
Many organizations create their logos and say, “My brand is ready!” But, your brand is more than just your logo. Loop’s nonprofit branding guide puts it best when it says, “While a nonprofit’s logo is a huge factor in its branding, it’s by no means the only element involved. Nonprofit branding encapsulates all of the overarching elements that an organization uses to communicate its mission, vision, and rally-cry.”
Therefore, before you can rebrand your nonprofit, you’ll need to ask yourself some key questions about your organization and mission. As long as you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have the foundation you need for re-developing your brand. In this guide, we’ll cover questions you’ll need to answer to achieve this, including:
- What is your organization’s mission?
- Who is your nonprofit’s audience?
- What is your current brand missing?
- Do you have the right branding materials?
To stand out in the crowded nonprofit marketplace, you need a brand that reflects just how unique your organization truly is. Get started developing your updated brand by pausing and asking yourself some important questions.
1. What is your organization’s mission?
You probably already have a well-defined mission statement for your nonprofit. Return to your roots by examining this statement to ensure you understand what it is, the part it plays in the community, and what you hope to achieve.
Your nonprofit brand should reflect your organization’s mission. It will be listed front-and-center throughout your nonprofit’s website and should align with your visual brand. When we explore some of the top nonprofit websites, we can quickly find each nonprofit’s mission. For example:
- Oxfam Canada’s mission statement is: “To fight inequality and patriarchy to end poverty and injustice.”
- WWF Canada’s mission is: “To conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.”
- Law in Action Within Schools’ mission is to: “To expose [high school students facing barriers to postsecondary access] to legal thinking and the justice system through workshops, mentorship, and employment programs.”
Reflect on your own mission and vision for your nonprofit. Consider your programs and how well those programs align with your overarching mission. The best brands and most powerful nonprofits have little “mission drift” and can relate all of their work back to their central goals. Before you focus on branding, you might need to refocus your work areas or even your core purpose, so be honest.
After you’ve realigned your nonprofit’s mission, start considering your competition. What makes your nonprofit different from the rest? The elements that make you unique will act as your nonprofit’s roadmap in how you position yourself and your organization’s brand moving forward.
2. Who is your nonprofit’s audience?
Your nonprofit’s audience will be the consumer of your brand. Therefore, identify who it is that your nonprofit is trying to reach with your messaging. That way, you can not only ensure your branding not only reflects your mission but also reaches and engages your target audience.
Create profiles of your ideal audience members, determining their general demographics and identifying features. Then, create profiles that represent each audience segment. This allows you to consider the type of constituents you will be targeting and can serve as the basis for future audience segmentation. You might ask questions like the following about each of your audiences:
- How old are they?
- Do they represent a particular minority group?
- Where are they employed?
- How would they most likely get involved with your cause?
This step is important because the best branding appeals to all of your demographic but most strongly to your heaviest client base or potential client base. Not only that, but you can use the information down the line to identify new audiences, as explained in Accudata’s guide on the matter.
For example, consider a nonprofit that works to support the education of elementary-age children. The clientele of the nonprofit will be the children they help. However, other audiences might include the parents of those children or the children who benefitted from the program years ago and are now young adults. The former audience will interact with the organization by enrolling their children in the programs. Meanwhile, the latter audience may be the strongest volunteers or donors because they know first-hand the benefits of the programming.
Understanding who your audience is will help you make branding decisions that resonate with the audience and their interests.
In the previous example, you might use typography that looks handwritten to evoke feelings of nostalgia for your audience of donors, bringing them back to their childhood years. Meanwhile, that same decision may subconsciously show parents that you empathize with their children.
3. What is your current brand missing?
If you’re revamping your nonprofit’s brand, it’s because your current brand isn’t satisfying some purpose for your nonprofit. Ask yourself what your current brand is missing and why you’re conducting the revamp. That way, you can ensure that the newest version of your brand will fill in those gaps.
You may even discover that you simply need to tweak your current brand instead of creating a whole new one for your nonprofit. Some of the reasons nonprofits decide to conduct a full rebrand for their organization include the following:
- The mission evolved and changed over time.
- The current brand doesn’t cover the organization’s entire range of offerings.
- People don’t understand what the organization does based on the current branding.
However, there are lots of nonprofits that go through the efforts of rebranding without a clear picture of why they’re doing so or to accomplish something that could easily be completed with a few adjustments to the current branding. For example:
- An outdated logo
- A mistake resulting in a tarnished reputation
- Missing elements in current branding (mismatched tone, undefined color schemes, etc.)
Rebranding takes a long time and a lot of effort to accomplish. You’ll need to not only make decisions to better represent your mission, but you’ll also need to make updates to all of your marketing materials, such as your website, social media profiles, email templates, brochures, and more.
Therefore, if you’re simply trying to strengthen your reputation, you might decide to partner with a for-profit corporate philanthropy program to align your reputation with theirs and benefit from their strong community goodwill and engagement. Or, if you want to strengthen your outdated logo, you can simply launch a new logo instead of undergoing a full brand relaunch.
4. Do you have the right branding materials?
Once you’ve determined the answers to the questions above, you’ll be ready to start making decisions about your new brand. Then, you can compile them into the materials you’ll need to apply that brand across your marketing materials.
Consistent branding is one of the most important best practices for your nonprofit to maintain across your website and other marketing materials. To help maintain consistency, create a guide that defines all of the important elements of your nonprofit’s brand.
Your nonprofit’s brand guide should include information about:
- Your official name and mission
- The various versions of your nonprofit logo
- Typography and fonts used in marketing materials
- Brand colours to represent your cause
- Personality and tone of messaging
If you’re starting from scratch to create your nonprofit’s brand or conducting a complete overhaul, you don’t need to go it alone! Work with a nonprofit branding expert to help you compile the key elements of your brand and apply them to your website and other key marketing materials.
Improving your brand image may sound like a daunting task best assigned to Fortune 500 marketing professionals. Don’t be scared! In short, all it entails is knowing who you are, what you do, and who you do it for and relaying that message to your community. Taking the time to develop your brand image can help you shine amongst the competition and support your ability to meet your goals.