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A nonprofit brand can be crucial to your organization’s success. Branding will help you develop trust with your clients, donors and other stakeholders, establish yourself as an authority in your industry and highlight what makes you unique. The trick to building an effective brand identity is to do it right the first time so that you don’t have to go back and change everything later on. Here are some ways to brand your nonprofit that will get the process started without leaving you redoing everything down the road.

1) Define Your Purpose

Defining your nonprofit’s purpose is important because it helps you focus on what’s most important to your organization. It also enables you to show donors, clients and other stakeholders why your nonprofit deserves their support. If you don’t have a solid sense of what your organization stands for, then you won’t be able to form cohesive messaging or create strong branding, both of which are essential in helping donors get behind you. Defining your brand is about more than just creating an eye-catching logo. If you want your brand identity—the way people think about and perceive your organization—to resonate with potential donors, then it has to reflect who you are at heart, not simply what image of yourself that you hope others will see.

2) Identify Your Target Audience

Just like every other business, it is critical for nonprofits to identify their target audiences. Most of your marketing efforts will be aimed at reaching these people, so it makes sense that they should dictate how you position your brand. By creating a profile of your typical donor, volunteer or attendee, you can define what your nonprofit needs to say about itself. It also helps determine where you should advertise and what kind of outreach is most effective.

3) Create your brand messages and communication guidelines

Before your nonprofit can start getting recognized and building a strong brand, you need a name. This is more than just an SEO play: The more memorable and distinctive your name is, and the better it fits your mission, goals and objectives, the easier it will be for people to find you. Get branding: Once you’ve settled on a name for your nonprofit—and made sure it’s available—it’s time to develop a visual identity. This means creating messaging around all of your materials (print and digital) that reflect not only who you are but what you do and why you do it. In addition to having a visual brand identity, it’s important for your nonprofit to have a well-established set of brand messages. These are your mission and vision statements, as well as how you’d like your organization described. If you don’t have one yet, consider speaking with a branding agency or an expert who can help you articulate your organization’s purpose. They can also help establish guidelines for how it should be written about in press releases and formal communications.

4) Design a visual identity

This should include a logo, typography, a color scheme,  and the overall theme that is meant to reinforce your brand. The goal of branding is consistency; if you only had one shot at making a first impression, it would be best if you could present yourself in a consistent way throughout all of your materials. You can use logos and colors across all of your collateral so people know exactly what they’re getting when they see your logo—it’s supposed to provide them with some kind of reassurance that it’s coming from you. If people are putting their trust in your nonprofit because of how professional everything looks, then that gives them another reason why they should believe what you have to say about helping others.

5) Define your audience experience

Defining your audience experience is a valuable step in building a nonprofit brand strategy. You want to direct your nonprofit brand experience instead of leaving it to chance. Start by imagining what you want your target audience’s interactions with your organization to be like. When a donor or volunteer does business with you, how would you want them to feel? What emotions do you want them to associate with your brand? Maybe they should feel inspired and motivated, or professional and confident. Dig deeper to define interactions on different channels and in different environments – from face-to-face, to your website, to a Facebook messenger interaction. Do this exercise for every audience you define – clients who use your service, donors, community partners. Defining the experience will inform what kind of resources you need to actually create the experience you envision, what kinds of brand assets you need to have in place, and will even direct the phone scripts you develop. 

6) Consistency is key

When creating a nonprofit brand, it’s important that every aspect of your messaging—including your organization’s name, logo, tagline and website—is consistent across all platforms. Consistency allows you to look professional and helps people remember you. While you want your branding message to be memorable enough for people to recall easily, though, it shouldn’t be overbearing or feel pushy. It also shouldn’t detract from your cause or what you do. When crafting your nonprofit’s brand, keep your logo and slogan consistent. Once you have a logo designed, use it consistently throughout all of your marketing materials, from newsletters to business cards. By doing so, you reinforce your brand in consumers’ minds. If someone sees your newsletter one week and then sees an ad featuring a different logo or slogan in another publication later on, they might begin questioning your credibility—and wondering whether you’re a legitimate organization. Consistency is more than just a brand promise. It’s important for establishing trust among your stakeholders. It’s about making an informed choice about how you look, how you sound and what you say.