Branding Your Non-Profit


When I think of branding the last thing that pops into my head are nonprofit organizations. This may be because the branding we are most exposed to is profit driven, were as nonprofit brands are associated with emotional images in an attempt to connect with the donor. Obviously, branding is an important aspect of any organization, but with non-profits developing a brand can be difficult.

Unlike their corporate counter parts nonprofits should not try and directly imitate corporate branding techniques. Corporate techniques don’t work because the focus is centered around products and services. This is not the focus of nonprofits.

Instead the focus should be on trust, impact and a cohesive identity, in other words a ‘trustworthy’ brand that is consistent across all platforms of social media and in user engagement.

A general template that can be followed for nonprofit branding is ‘The Brand IDEA.’ This is a method developed by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel. They researched 70 successful nonprofits to find what they were doing right with their branding strategies. The results can be boiled down into 3 key factors that should be followed.

First is integrity.  This just means that any and all promises you make will be followed through, so don’t bite off more than you can chew. Remember that it is always better for a brand to exceed a goal or set of goals that to fall short.

Second is democracy. This is a tricky one for most as it requires you to leave the control of your nonprofits brand in the hands of people on social media, something that most are unwilling to do. This can be a good thing as it allows many people to shape the brand with their experiences creating a more genuine experience. This turns everyone into a marketer and into a critic, which can be very useful for crowdsourcing new ideas or taglines.

Third is affinity. In terms of nonprofits this is focused on results, the donor only wants an impact and could honestly care less who does it. So, in order to gain and keep affinity you should focus on at very least meeting if not exceeding the goals.

Last don’t forget to set your brand apart. Being different is not just OK, it is encouraged to not blend into the crowd. Don’t be afraid the change it up, with proper planning and consideration of course, when it comes to brands taglines, content and even logos. Especially if they are aging not so gracefully.

In the digital world staying current is vital, and a gradual implementation can ease the transition, for your brand and the audience. If a nonprofit seems stale and outdated, people will be less likely to donate if not outright suspicious.


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