If you are just starting a nonprofit, chances are you’re creating a logo, mission and nonprofit website – but you may not be considering your nonprofit brand. After all, isn’t branding for businesses and corporations? If you’re focused on your nonprofit mission, branding may not be top of mind. But don’t forget, the nonprofit world is competitive too. Your supporters need to know why to support you, rather than another organization with a similar mission. Creating a unique nonprofit brand will help your organization stand out and get more support from donors. That’s right, focusing on branding is going to make your other jobs easier to accomplish.
What exactly is the importance of branding for nonprofits? Is your organization’s brand clear to your constituents? How strong is your nonprofit’s brand? What are you doing to improve your nonprofit brand? These questions are important ones for nonprofit development staff to consider. Your brand is how donors recognize you and part of why they love you. All organizations, even schools and churches, need to consider their brand to be successful and grow resources.
Start Where You Are with a Brand Evaluation
If you aren’t sure how to specifically answer the questions above, you likely need to start with a branding audit. Here are the steps to accessing the current status of yoru nonprofit branding:
- Get your development, marketing or branding team together. This should be done in a group to get more than one person’s perspective.
- Gather all of your current marketing materials and review them. This includes your organization’s website, donation forms, signage, flyers and all printed materials. Do you have a consistent brand or is it used differently in different contexts? Is it outdated? What do you have to work with and what needs updated in terms of your branding?
- Ask your constituents (volunteers, donors, those who receive services) about their perceptions of your organization and brand. Confirm how they perceive your organization’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Get help from a graphic designer or team that specializes in branding. Whatever your budget is, your organization can likely benefit from professional branding assistance.
Create a Branding Foundation
You have your baseline, now how can you recreate your organization’s brand? Know that every element of successful branding is created with a clear message in mind. Start by writing a concise statement about what you want to convey to your constituents. You can come back to this statement at any time. You can add to it or edit it, but you need to know what it is that you are trying to convey. What makes your organization special or unique? What is your organization’s mission statement and vision? Who is impacted by your work?
Remember that continually showing the specific ways you add value is key to branding. Volunteers and donors decide to involve themselves with your organization when they see what you give to their town or community.
Brand Identity is Important
Your brand is how donors recognize and connect with you. Often this is not in messaging or text, but in visual format. The visual parts of your brand are known as your brand identity. Brand identity is what you can see – colors, logos, typeface and more. Still, the visual parts of your brand reflect your branding message created above.
Starting with your color scheme and logo, define who you are and what you offer. If donors can recognize and feel good about your logo, you’re on your way to success. An acronym with an image (such as WWF uses with the beloved panda), can be a strong brand identity piece that speaks a thousand words. Fonts are important here, as well, as they help to convey a feeling or theme.
More Elements in Creating A Brand For Nonprofits
What are some of the other important elements in creating your nonprofit’s brand?
- Your tagline quickly tells donors what you do. Taglines are never generic. They work with other branding elements to reinforce the central message of your mission. March of Dimes tagline is A fighting chance for every baby. Taglines should sound good to the ear and define in a nut shell your purpose.
- A good story that shares the impact of your mission is hard to forget. Planting a seed in the minds and hearts of people is good branding. Discover the story tellers among your board members, staff, and volunteer and donor base. Hold community events at your nonprofit, libraries, and schools to tell stories of real people you have helped. Video tape them and post them on social media platforms and your nonprofit website. Or invite people to tell their own story of how you’ve helped them. Write about these stories in your blog and newsletter.
- Your office reflects your brand. Ask your employees to tell you how they see your brand personality. This may surprise you and give cause to change your font or colors of your brand. Is it confident, empowered and happy? Are you reflecting that to the public in your printed materials and social media marketing? Reflect your unique personality – that is your brand.
- Your credibility is part of your brand. Ways to show this to potential donors is through simple reports on your website of your financials. Pie charts, graphics and animated videos are nice as opposed to lengthy reporting. Adding links to more in depth reports allows for a quick read, with an option to see more. How easy your nonprofit website is to read and use reflects your credibility. How easy it is for donors to make a donation on your website is another measure.
- A super important aspect of your brand is whether donors care about your work and find it interesting. One way to learn this and possibly define yourself better is ask them. Surveys and Google hangouts are ways to get their feedback. Offer a gift card as an incentive so they’ll offer their honest opinion.
- How your brand changes the world is a huge branding element. Ask for testimonials on how your projects have helped to change the world. Ask individuals how your organization has changed their life and the lives of others. Add them to your website homepage accompanied by related photos that warm hearts. Creating a brand and continually strengthening it is about what you give.
Creating a Brand for Crowdfunding & Peer to Peer Campaigns
Branding is essential when a nonprofit begins a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign, event or program. These events provide more opportunities to enforce your organization’s branding and can take on a life of their own in terms of branding. Think of the success of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Team in Training. Just be sure to refer to your original branding statement and see that your event branding supports this mission and message. Here are some more tips to branding crowdfunding and peer to peer fundraising campaigns:
- Offer cool, branded apparel well in advance of the event. Creating several t-shirt designs is a great idea, all with the same event logo. Create water bottles and cool hoodies. Everyone in town will want one, and so the excitement of the upcoming fundraising event begins. Sell these online on a eCommerce store that offers automated fulfillment.
- Ask your volunteers to share their experiences with your nonprofit on local radio, TV, newspapers and online forums. Ask them to put in a plug for the event.
- Find young volunteers who are good at graphic design. This will get them psyched about your event. They’ll invite their friends to form crowdfunding teams. Many high school and university students are masters at graphic design. Nurturing and encouraging them to be a part of your nonprofit as volunteers opens doors to a diverse way of thinking.
- As you launch your crowdfunding website, introduce it with a silent auction or raffle only available before registration. Create a buzz by listing the interesting and desirable auction items on event flyers and your homepage. Give recognition to the winning bidders.
- Introduce the opening of your online registration process by offering prizes for large donations.
- Recognize donations within your newsletter, social media pages, website and email updates. Feature these donors in short videos with your smart phone, asking them to share why they’re a part of your nonprofit.
Create a Brand for Galas and Special Events with an Event Theme
Themes are a great way to brand your nonprofit fundraising events. People remember unique events, costumes and photos. Fond memories are magic potions for establishing your nonprofit’s brand. The following year your donors will look forward to your new signature fundraising event at that special time of year.
- Visibly show potential sponsors the exposure and benefits included for each level of sponsorship. Show them how their sponsorship logo will be placed on your marketing materials. Tell them how many social media posts, emails and media releases will include their brand. Consider a PDF on your homepage to show this. It can include the same info as your email invite to them. Since videos are all the rage, ask them for a video about their brand which includes why they are donating to your gala event. Add this to your YouTube channel and other social media marketing platforms.
- Create a dazzling invitation to your gala. The effort and creativity you put into this will make people feel valued. While this can be costly, you have options. One low cost option is to form a graphic design committee with university students. Printed invitations are nice, but email and online invites are environmentally friendly.
- Take the time to create a fab gala event website. So many logistical things happen on this site that are important to the success of the event. If it’s beautiful and easy to use, that is exactly what stays in the minds of the public about your brand. Keep it continually updated with new photos, stories and event updates.
- Use well written emails to share new developments for the event and reminders to register and donate. Thank donors and volunteers for their efforts and donations. Invite them to join in on the fun of before and after parties.
- Update your social media marketing pages as the event nears. Header images or graphics can be replaced with gala specific branding for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find creative ways to include the gala event in your posts to keep the branding hot. Add links to your gala website for more info, registration and donations.
Good feelings, stories, images and memories are the essential ingredients of branding for nonprofits. Creating a brand for nonprofits is done through fundraising events and your daily work. Be sure to start with a brand audit and determine exactly what it is you wish to convey with your nonprofit branding efforts.