Branding for Non-profits 101:
Fundamental guidelines to help simplify the process.
A survey of non-profit and volunteer organizations in Canada indicates that the majority of their revenue is earned, rather than obtained through corporate giving ("Cornerstones of Community", 2002). Regardless of whether income is derived through the sale of membership or services, personal contributions or corporate donations, a participant’s generosity is most often decided by the organization’s reputation and presence in their community. It’s proven that non-profits with a strong and recognizable brand attract both corporate and personal participants who are willing to contribute larger amounts of money.
1. What is Branding?
A brand creates strength and unity between every point of contact and communication between an organization and its internal and external audiences. A non-profit’s brand is expressed through the following avenues:
- The company and partners it attracts and keeps
- How fundraising is initiated and completed
- The kind of staff and volunteers it has and how they are treated
- Its board members and other organizations they are involved with
- The look and feel of its printed and electronic communications
- The look and feel of its office
The brand is what supporters, clients and associates see, feel and remember each time they have contact with your organization.
2. What’s a Brand Worth?
First one must ask how much is the organization worth in terms of its image, reputation, record of success, and potential for future success and growth.
For a non-profit organization a strong brand allows all existing and potential stakeholders to immediately recognize and place value and trust in an organization.
3. Benefits of an Effective and Meaningful Brand
- Attracts loyal stakeholders to the organization’s objectives, mission, values and support for fundraising goals
- Distinguishes your organization from competing causes
- Creates strong loyalty among supporters and volunteers
- Creates credibility for new initiatives
- Gives assurance in times of change
- Develops a strong media presence and platform
In contrast, an organization with a weak brand faces a more cynical and less forgiving public and media audience.
4. Is Your Brand Weak?
- Visual and non-visual brand identifiers may be old and outdated. An old brand can become tired and deflated of meaning as the organization changes in direction and growth.
- Communication materials display conflicting or unorganized visual elements
- Staff, volunteers and the Board of Directors don’t agree or share a similar vision of organizational goals
- Staff and Board of Directors are unsure of each other’s visions, objectives and activities
- Organization has a difficult time attracting corporate and media support
- Donation goals have not increased yearly
5. Building a Brand
Investing in the research and development of a new brand identity will provide a clear definition of your organizations core values. It will link the commona-lities between how it is perceived and how it wants to be perceived. Properly cared for and communicated, a new brand will help your organization’s activities become more focused, objectives more achievable and fundraising more successful.