In a world overcrowded with for-profit brands, non profit brands can have a hard time competing for eyeballs. Having a strong, clear brand can help communicate the value that non-profits offer.
Yet when it comes to non-profits, branding is often overlooked. Seen as an added expense or relatively unimportant, branding may be neglected and become outdated. But should non-profits pay close attention to their brand image? Absolutely!
This past spring I started working with a mid-sized non profit in need of a rebrand. It was a complex organization, government funded and connected to several different industry sectors, communities and interest groups. The stakes were high in terms of securing continued funding, and it was essential to communicate value to several different audiences. Conditions for a rebrand were perfect- the function and future scope of the organization was not at all represented by the current brand. A new brand identity presented a brilliant opportunity to generate much needed attention and convey the evolution of the organization’s expanding role.
Still, the case for a rebrand had to be built gradually. Many stakeholders had to get on board. Buy-in from all parties was essential. Understanding what the brand had meant in the past, what it didn’t mean now and what it needed to mean in the future was a process that involved several stages of interviews, information gathering, presentations and feedback.
During this process I discovered that the current brand was not only outdated, it was a hindrance- when seeking new connections, the people working for the organization had to work hard to overcome the dull, corporate first impression made by the current brand image. However, once communities actually connected to the people and practices of the organization, very positive relationships always followed.
But wouldn’t it be nice if the brand helped this process instead of hindering it?
These days, whether you are a non-profit organization or a for–profit business, your brand usually precedes you. Before you knock on someone’s door to introduce your cause or explain your intentions, you have likely already been googled and judged. If they haven’t yet heard of you, your audience will quickly visit your website and form an instant impression of whether they want anything more to do with you. Your logo, name, tagline, website design and imagery all delivery a message about who you are. This is where you brand should open doors for you- not shut them.
Are you the kind of non-profit they want to support? Are you an organization they want to work with? Their opinions will be pre-formed largely due to the personality your brand conveys. Are you open? Warm? Professional? Trustworthy? Relevant? You may be all these things, but if your brand image doesn’t communicate this- you may not get the chance to prove it.
Good non-profit branding should not just convey what you do, but how you do it. This lays the foundation for the relationship between the organization and its audiences, whether these be connected to fundraising or future engagement.
When marketing budgets are smaller- which is the case for the majority of non-profits- investing in creating a meaningful brand identity will boost the value of all your communications, and make it easier for you to advance your cause. A well planned brand image can help bring your value into focus.