Guide to Nonprofit Branding

As a nonprofit organization, branding may not be the highest of your priorities. It seems counterintuitive, but, while delivering meaningful and sustainable social impact is undoubtedly your first concern, quality branding is an important part of helping you do the most good. 

Nonprofit branding is a way to influence the way the public sees the work your organization does. Consider UNICEF, Red Cross, and the Humane Society. Most people are familiar with their life-changing work — largely because of their recognizable nonprofit branding. 

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While branding includes visual identity, quality nonprofit branding transcends graphic design. Rather, it encompasses the values of your organization and the way the public perceives you.

This article will cover the fundamentals of building your nonprofit brand:

  • Why nonprofit branding matters
  • Understanding your audience
  • Telling your story
  • Creating brand guidelines
  • Engaging with the public
  • Doing more good

The goal of nonprofit branding should be increased visibility, active communication, and fundraising.

Why nonprofit branding matters

While a nonprofit organization’s instincts might be to focus solely on their very meaningful work, branding is an important vehicle for growth. Taking the time to develop branding can help you to:

Stand out 

Branding is important because it can help your organization stand out from other nonprofits — so your unique message can be heard! It can be challenging to make a lasting impression on potential donors, volunteers, and the public, but unique branding can help your nonprofit organization make a truly memorable impact. 

Build trust 

By taking the time to carefully craft your brand to align with your audience, you can boost feelings of trust and loyalty among the public. This sense of trust grows from developing brand recognition. 

When the public recognizes a brand, they are more likely to engage with it and — hopefully — become lifelong supporters. Beyond this, effective branding can help boost pride among volunteers, donors, and staff. A loyal team will make your nonprofit stronger from the inside out. 

Increase engagement and raise funds

As a nonprofit organization, you know that fundraising is the key to success. Effective fundraising campaigns — such as Giving Tuesday and year-end drives  — start with public awareness and engagement. 

Ultimately, earning consistent support and donations starts with a well-built brand. 

Understanding your audience

Before you start branding, take some time to consider some of the big picture elements of your organization: 

  • Revisit your mission statement. What do you do as a nonprofit organization? Who do you serve? Keep these cornerstone ideas in mind as you hone in on your audience.
  • Consider any recent successes or setbacks. What have you learned from your triumphant moments? And your challenges? Both are an important part of your identity. 
  • Review goals as an organization. Where do you aspire to be as an organization? How do you plan to get there? This can guide your branding choices. 

Considering the foundations of your organization is the first step to understanding your target audience. It is imperative that, when building your brand, you carefully examine who you are trying to communicate with and tailor your branding to their needs. 

To take the next step, map out the qualities of your target audience:

  • Who are they? 
  • What demographic are they a part of? 
  • What lifestyle do they lead?
  • What is their motivation to work with you?

Analyzing the specifics will guide your brand-building process and take your nonprofit organization to the next level. 

Tell your story 

Effective nonprofit branding appeals to your audience’s heart (emotions) and the mind (logic and reason). To appeal to the minds of your audience, focus on:

  • The measurable impact that your work has in the communities you serve
  • Answering any pressing questions that your supporters and donors have
  • Being transparent about how donations are spent
  • Using statistics, data, and impact studies to provide proof of your success

Essentially, your goal is to give your audience measurable proof of the excellent work you’re doing! To create emotional appeal, focus on:

  • Helping your audience understand and relate to your cause
  • Telling the story of the communities you serve — consider highlighting the stories of individuals
  • Being open about the challenges you face
  • Being authentic and honest in your storytelling
  • Using multimedia like pictures and videos to create compelling narratives

Upholding your organization’s emotional appeal is one of the essential steps in connecting with supporters and — ultimately — garnering their donations. Keep in mind that most people connect with stories that are genuine and specific. Hone in on a few of the special individuals that your organization serves to paint a compelling picture of the incredible work you do! 

Creating brand guidelines

Once you are dialed into your audience and your story, it’s time to build your brand’s more technical side. When branding, it is essential that you create a cohesive brand — be consistent across your voice, visual branding, and organization-wide activities. 

Start with your logo.

When you dive into the visual aspect of your branding, start by designing your logo! This process may seem daunting, but you can do it! The design process often includes:

  • Brainstorming
  • Creating a mood board
  • Choosing an aesthetic (colors, fonts, and images) that you love
  • Using a logo making tool
  • Editing and perfecting

Designing a logo should be fun, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

Develop a guide for your branding 

Once you’ve developed your visual branding, it’s time to create a brand kit for your nonprofit organization. This handy guide is a collection of rules for your brand that will help your organization stay consistent across all platforms. A brand kit typically includes:

  • Brand colors
  • Key visual attributes
  • Brand fonts
  • A well-designed logo
  • Pre-made graphics
  • Rules for when and how to apply your visual branding

Build your website

Plan on creating a website that is in line with your newly crafted brand identity. A nonprofit website should include a:

  • Homepage: Think of your homepage as your front door — make it beautiful and inviting!
  • About us: Your about page is your chance to tell your story. 
  • Programs and services: Let your audience know what services you provide to what communities. 
  • Contact us: Help supporters, donors, and the general public connect with you and your team. 
  • Support us: You already know that fundraising is important  — this is where you make it happen! Don’t forget to create an easy-to-use donation page to make the most of your fundraising efforts. 
Nonprofit branding - homepage with donate options clear and easy
We love this homepage because it leads visitors to an easy-to-access donations page!

Engaging with the public 

Once you develop your nonprofit branding, make sure to put it to good use through community outreach and supporter engagement. One of the most effective ways to connect with the public is through nonprofit marketing tools, such as:

  • Branded social media accounts: Social media is a massively powerful tool for connecting with the public and organizing events. Remember, social media is one of the most effective fundraising tools at your disposal. 
  • Virtual fundraising events: Now more than ever, virtual fundraising events are the perfect way to appeal to a broader audience — no matter what comes your way!
  • Coordinated email campaigns: Paired with social media engagement and community outreach, email campaigns are an excellent way to connect with your supporters. 
nonprofit branding - donations are moving online so it's important to have consistent branding on all platforms
Now more than ever, your supporters are most likely to donate online. Use online marketing resources to make the most of your digital presence and make it easier to collect your hard-earned donations!

Doing more good

Now that you understand why nonprofit branding is important, how to tell your unique story to the right audience, and how to utilize marketing resources, are you ready to build your nonprofit brand? 
To learn more about how the elements of nonprofit branding come together, check out The Download, our free guide to online marketing for nonprofits. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will be able to do more of what you do best — bringing good to the world.

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