By Jordan Lappin
Take a moment and think of the most popular and reputable nonprofit organizations that exist today. Which ones jump to the top of your head? For me, I immediately think of the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and St. Jude’s Research Hospital. These organizations collectively bring in billions of dollars each year and make a tremendous impact in local communities and throughout the world. But what is the key that makes these organizations so successful? Branding.
What is branding? The word ‘branding’ can sound like something that’s strictly reserved for large for-profit companies, but branding is as important for nonprofit organizations as it is for businesses. Branding is “the process of researching, developing, and applying a distinctive feature or set of features to your organization so that consumers can begin to associate your brand with your products or services.” More specifically for the nonprofit sector, branding is the experience people have with your organization - your logo, your mission, your values, and the experience of being apart or working with the people in your organization.
As part of the leadership team for your nonprofit organization, you might feel overwhelmed with all of the moving pieces - the fundraising, recruiting volunteers, the operation, and most importantly ensuring that your organization is serving your mission. While all of those pieces are very important, it's critical to not overlook what might be the secret to sustained success: a strong brand.
Here is a concise guide to developing your brand as a nonprofit organization:
1. DIG DEEP INTO YOUR IDENTITY: Arguably the most important step in creating your branding is digging deeper into the core of your organization. How can your branding most accurately reflect your mission statement? How can your branding convey what goals you’re trying to achieve? Who is your audience? How can you use this information to design your branding with them in mind?
2. TELL YOUR STORY: Storytelling is the key to a compelling and successful brand. We are naturally more inclined to listen to and remember stories that pique our interest, so weaving a story through your brand can draw supporters in. A good story can also unlock the emotional appeal that can motivate your supporters to get involved.
3. DETERMINE THE VISUAL ELEMENTS: Stylistic choices can make the difference between a supporter remembering your nonprofit or simply forgetting, so be bold and strategic with your selections. Make sure to carefully consider these visual elements: Colors, Fonts, Logo Variations, Taglines, & Photos.
Lastly, while it's important to commit to these characteristics of your brand to create cohesiveness and consistency, it's important to regularly review your brand strategy! Don’t be afraid to subtly update your strategy over time.
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Jordan Hannan and Jordan Lappin