Branding A Nonprofit: How To Design Your Brand

You don’t have to own a Tesla to know that it’s one of the most high end cars out there. This is the power of branding. And it’s not just for for-profit organizations. Branding a nonprofit plays an important role in achieving its mission and goals. 

Before we take a closer look at what branding a nonprofit involves, let’s take at what branding means. Branding involves creating a name, symbol, and/or design that are easily recognizable as belonging to a particular organization. Why is it necessary? Well, it helps people identify a product or service and differentiate it from others. For nonprofits developing a branding strategy is important for many different reasons. 

What are the benefits of branding a nonprofit? 

There are several ways in which branding a nonprofit can help organizations achieve the results they want.

Differentiation 

There are many nonprofits out there today that may be working on the same cause as your own. This can make it very confusing for your common audiences to identify and understand what each organization is uniquely working towards. If you do not have good branding, your messages can easily get lost, or confused with, those of others. If you want to stand out and make sure that your nonprofit reaches the right people, great branding is a must.

Trust and loyalty 

For a nonprofit, earning the trust and the loyalty of partners and the general public who support your cause is vital. Without these pillars, you will not be able to get the funding and the support that you need to realize your mission and vision. When your brand has been crafted with purpose and has also been positioned correctly, it helps you align with your target audience. It also helps you win the trust and the loyalty of your target audience. For a nonprofit, it’s important to note that this will also enhance the sense of unity within the organization itself in terms of staff, stakeholders and volunteers. And all of these factors can come together to help the organization grow.

Engagement & fundraising potential 

There is always a lot of competition for fundraising in the nonprofit sector. Keeping this in mind, when you have a strong brand that gives you increased visibility, the potential for your fundraising automatically increases. You’ll also be more likely to reach and engage passionate supporters of your goals. 

In addition to all these benefits, the right branding can also help nonprofit organizations achieve their long-term strategic goals. This could mean increasing public trust, while enhancing cohesion within your organization. Or it could mean creating a strong brand personal while generating more opportunities to raise more awareness about the causes and initiatives you support.  

How to build a strong nonprofit branding strategy 

A branding strategy involves everything that goes into shaping, building, and sharing your brand. This in turn shapes public perception of your organization. So needless to say it’s an important part of growing your organization and increasing the impact you can make. Let’s take a look at the steps you need to incorporate into your branding strategy to get the best ROI.

Focus on what makes you unique 

When building your brand it can seem tempting to tailor it purely to your potential donors’ preferences. But while tailoring your messaging to your target audience is important, it needs to be anchored in something else. Whatever it is that makes your nonprofit unique. If there are ten other organizations lobbying for the same cause as you, show donors why you stand out from them and how.

Define your story 

Before you develop your nonprofit branding strategy, take the time to define your brand story. When you approach this step with intention, you can craft a clear and compelling story that helps both internal and external stakeholders identify with your brand. And once you have a story defined it’ll be much easier to make sure that every aspect of your brand reinforces the overarching story. It’ll also help you stand apart from other nonprofits.

As part of this process, you’ll need to think about what you want to share and how you want to share it. This includes the tone and type of language. For example, you could be a nonprofit with a lot of warmth, compassion and empathy at your core, looking out for families in need of assistance. Or you could be an organization that is progressive, no-nonsense, and focuses on advocacy for families and the challenges they face. Though the groups being focused on may be the same, or similar, they each require a different voice and approach.

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Consider the big picture and your target audience

Before you get into the design process for developing your brand assets it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture. Now that you’ve spent some time thinking about what makes your nonprofit unique, and what your brand story is, it’s time to revisit a few things to see if they’re aligned:

  • Your mission and vision statements. Do they capture everything that you’re hoping to achieve?  
  • How about your goals and organizational strategy? 
  • What about your target audience? Taking your brand story and values into consideration, have you identified the right audience? Are there new segments to consider? Be as detailed as possible when jotting down the details of who your target audience consists of.

When you build a brand you must know, without any doubt, who you want to reach out to. This will help you tailor your messaging and communication so that it gets their attention and resonates.

Specific to your target audience, here are some questions you’ll want to ask:

  • Who are your volunteers and who are your donors?
  • What are their goals and objectives?
  • What obstacles can keep them from getting involved and supporting your mission? 
  • Which marketing channels are they most engaged on?
  • How do they tend to interact with you or organizations like yours? 
Decide on your name

When you think about the name you want to give your nonprofit organization, be sure to consider options that directly speak to your mission. And be mindful of the names of organizations working within similar areas. You want to be unique enough to indicate that you have a distinct organization. And at the same time, you want to demonstrate your alignment to your core mission. An easy-to-understand name plays an important role in branding a nonprofit organization. It helps donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders identify and support you. If you are opting to choose a name that is in honor of, or in the memory of someone, you can use your logo colors and marketing copy to elaborate on and reinforce your values and mission.

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Pick the right colors and fonts 

Once you have a sense of how you want your nonprofit’s brand to be perceived, it’s time to think about your visual identity. First up – colors and fonts. Your choices in these areas need to reflect who you are, and your values as an organization. Remember that colors come with different connotations and evoke different energies and emotions. This is where color psychology comes into play, because you need to pick the colors that will evoke the right emotions. 

The colors you choose should also be an extension of the copy that you publish. For example, if you are addressing healing, health, or environmental causes, using red would be a big mistake. Instead, you may want to think about using greens and blues which have calming, soothing effects. However reds and oranges can be used to reinforce a friendly, lively and energetic message. 

When it comes to fonts, the same kind of rules apply. Fonts that have harsh lines and pointed edges are not perceived generally, as being open or friendly. Smooth and rounded corners along with flowing lines will work better instead. Take UNICEF. The broad scope of humanitarian work that they do calls for fonts that will be taken seriously. If you look at their logo, you will see that while it is simple and clean, it is also authoritative. The blue that they have used is a color that is calming and soothing. The fonts chosen are simple but sharp and emphasize the importance of the work that they do. This is a logo that immediately commands respect and makes an impact in professional spheres as well as global forums because of the font chosen. 

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Design an impressive logo 

Your logo isn’t everything when it comes to branding a nonprofit. But it definitely plays a big role. It is usually the component of your branding that people will think of most easily. So, it’s definitely something that you want to take your time creating. 

This task can be challenging though because it has to check off a whole lot of boxes. A good logo is one that is quite simple but also compelling and impactful. Your logo needs to be able to communicate who you are and what you are all about. So before you get the designing process started, go back to your brand story and your vision and mission. Try to summarize some of the main goals, themes and ideas in just a few words. 

This will guide you in choosing the right concept. When you are designing the logo, be sure to go through a few rounds and get feedback from different stakeholders. A good logo needs to resonate with those it’s intended to reach. And to that end, as you’re developing your logo it’s also a great time to come up with your tagline. Especially if you’d like versions of your logo that include it.

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Craft an authentic brand voice 

Alongside your design components, your messaging will play a big role in how well you engage your audience. And how well you communicate your mission. Similar to developing your various brand assets, crafting an authentic voice comes from digging deep into your brand story. And then distilling the themes and associations that represent it best. In this step, you can make notes of key phrases, notes about tone, and pull together references from other brands that you want to emulate. They don’t even have to be from the same sector. As you craft your copy you can figure out how to incorporate that tone into your core messages. And again, testing this out with your stakeholders and getting feedback will help you iterate on your messaging until you get that brand voice just right.

Create brand guidelines 

Consistency is the most important aspect of branding a nonprofit. To create a strong brand, your voice, visuals and copy must all work together, rather than competing and clashing. Going through the exercise of creating brand guidelines is a great way to figure out how you want your brand to be represented in different contexts. And not only will it get your internal team on the same page, but it’ll also help the designers you work with as well. 

A few things you’ll want to specify include:
  • Approved logo variations, placements, and treatments
  • If there are certain layouts to follow for certain types of designs (e.g. print vs. digital, social media vs. website images)
  • Imagery, elements, and shapes that are on-brand
  • Notes on typography (i.e. fonts, font sizes for headlines, descriptions, body copy, etc.)
  • Dos and don’ts
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Set up your marketing channels 

Once you’ve got your branding assets sorted, it’s time to start establishing that digital footprint. Be sure to set up social media profiles across the various platforms. While you may only plan on actively posting to one or two to start, it’s always ideal to secure those usernames. Once you’ve set up your profiles, use your logo as your profile picture, and for the platforms requiring cover images, have something designed that incorporates brand colors and/or imagery. The design should be simple and simply reinforce your branding.

Apart from social media, email marketing is another way to start building up brand awareness and engagement. Be sure to have the option to subscribe for updates on your website, and promote it on social media as well. Have a few email design templates created for the different types of emails you plan on sending out. This will make it easier to quickly edit and send them out so that you can do this on a consistent basis. 

And of course we can’t talk about marketing channels without talking about your blog – and guest blogging! Be sure to post updates about your organization’s activities on a regular basis. Look for opportunities to share these stories on external blogs as well. And when doing be sure to include branded images. 

The more you speak about the real success stories that you’re creating across different platforms, the more you’ll inspire others to get involved. Storytelling is an important part of branding a nonprofit.

Branding a nonprofit is all about sharing your mission

For many nonprofits, branding can seem like a secondary priority. Something that would be nice to do, but isn’t really all that important. And who can blame them? Nonprofits are often strapped for resources, while trying to tackle some pretty big challenges, with lean teams. But when you focus on building a strong brand you amplify the reach of your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and story. And that’s worth every bit of your time. To help you get started, reach out to Kimp where we offer discounts on our unlimited design subscriptions for nonprofits. Just shoot us a message on the live chat, or send an email to info@kimp.io. We’ll have you branding your nonprofit in an authentic and compelling way in no time.