Three Branding Rules for Your Nonprofit

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This article written by CanadaHelps was originally published on Hilborn. View


The charitable and non-profit world is a busy one – it is standard for employees and volunteers to wear many different hats and juggle various projects. But with all the hustle and bustle, it can be hard to find the time to build and maintain your organization’s brand – a task that should be a top priority.

Branding is often associated with logos and graphics, and although these are key components, branding goes far beyond this. A successful branding initiative addresses something much bigger: How the public perceives your organization.

Your public image will help with growing awareness and credibility, increasing engagement, and of course, rallying for support.

Ultimately, your organization’s brand shapes the way you are perceived.

Here are three branding tips to keep in mind:

1. Set Yourself Apart

Canada has more than 86,000 registered charities, and although this is great as many tackle different problems and address a variety of targeted needs, it also means Canadians have many choices when deciding which organizations to support, either financially or through their time. So, it is important to differentiate yourself through your brand. In order to set your organization apart, you need to think strategically – how do you want the public, or more specifically your donors and supporters, to perceive your organization?

As part of your brand activities, always ask yourself:

  • Why should someone give to your organization?
  • What sets your organization apart and makes you unique?
  • What is the goal of your organization, and your method for reaching this goal?
  • Am I clearly communicating this information?

Use these questions to really think through how you can stand out and ensure people remember your organization and, subsequently, choose to support you. It’s through engaging your donors and really understanding how they perceive your brand that you can begin to develop an effective brand management strategy. You’ll identify opportunities to build out or shape your brand perception to more closely align with your strategic priorities. More than likely, you’ll also discover perceived traits that you can play up to reinforce your brand personality and provide a natural launch pad for building affinity for your brand.

 2. Be Consistent

Consistency is often considered the most important element of branding. Whether it is your website, social media channels, email or a direct marketing campaign, you must endeavour to create and share a consistent voice to ensure your organization is recognizable and identifiable in its messaging, across all channels.

Here are a few examples:

  • Develop short and catchy key messages that describe your cause and help donors understand what you do in an instant. You can use these key messages over and over again throughout your work.
  • Consider how you want to come across in writing. Do you want to be upbeat, serious, personable, casual, authoritative, trendy, or a mix of a few of these? Work with your team to build consensus on what you are, and what you are not.
  • Use your logo and colour scheme across all marking channels. Go beyond this to ensure the messaging used on your website, social channels and in emails is identifiable and consistent.

The best place to start when building brand consistency, is to create a style guide for your organization’s brand (more on this below).

3. Educate

Remember that in all your communications you are not only educating the public on your message, but also employees, volunteers and board members. If you have employees who are invested in your brand, they can be your best ambassadors. But, what about new staff and volunteers? Be sure to do brand training with anyone new to your organization. You can use your style guide to help with this.

A starter’s style guide should include:

  • Tone of voice
  • Mission, vision, values, who you serve, etc.
  • Visual identity guidelines
  • Any important dos and don’ts

It might seem like a big time investment upfront to develop your style guide, but in the long run it will be a great benefit.

Branding your organization and constantly maintaining that brand can seem like a daunting challenge for a small charity. Although it might require some initial time and investment up front to launch your brand, and ongoing work to manage and nurture it in all of your activities, the work will be a gift that keeps on giving.

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