How Not to Ruin a Nonprofit Brand

new-brand-word-cloud-17215850By Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll

When it comes to nonprofits and branding, organizations fall into one of four categories.

  1. The Nonprofit that denies it needs a brand.
  2. The Nonprofit that knows it needs a brand, but won’t let it happen.
  3. The Nonprofit that knows it needs a brand, gets it done … and does nothing with it.
  4. The Nonprofit that knows it needs a brand, makes it happen, and rocks it.

1. The Nonprofit that denies it needs a brand:

Organization: “We really need a new look and feel; a new website and marketing materials so people get what we do.”

‘Great. Let’s start with your brand.’

“Oh, we don’t need a brand. We just need new mission statement, vision, text and wording for the site and materials.”

The Problem: By not identifying and solidifying your brand BEFORE creating content, your materials will lack cohesion and strength. Your staff will not speak the same language or give across the same message. At best your materials will lack conviction. At worst, your audience will be confused and you will need to do the process all over again.

2. The Nonprofit that knows it needs a brand, but won’t let it happen

Organization: “We need a new brand. We do so much more than we did when we started out and now our materials do not properly reflect us.”

‘Excellent – Let’s get started!’

During the process:

  • “We don’t have a lot of time and funds so let’s shorten the process and just stick to …”
  • “We can’t change that, the founder’s mother created it and according to the bylaws we have to leave it.”
  • “We have too many people that would need to approve that kind of change so, let’s just leave that as it is.”

The Problem: Knowing that an organization needs a rebrand is an excellent start, but it needs to be allowed to happen. The powers that be (board members, senior staff and perhaps major donors) must be in agreement that this is what the organization needs to survive and thrive. Resisting change and hanging on to things because they have always been done that way, or only going so far because of budget or personnel constraints is an excellent way to waste money and end up where you started.

3. The Nonprofit that knows it needs a brand, gets it doneand does nothing with it.

Organization: We need to reassess what we do, package it so it is clear, and then put it everywhere: our site, Facebook, Twitter, grant proposals, etc.

After the rebrand process:

Despite having a completed communications strategy, a schedule for social media, a list of foundations to speak with and a gorgeous new website, six months later no one is manning social media channels, queries go unanswered, website news is six months old…

The Problem: Without commitment, staff and board buy in, task allocation, a strategic plan with milestones, goals, and meetings, your new brand and materials will do nothing for the people counting on you.

4. The Nonprofit that knows it needs a brand, makes it happen and runs with it.

Org: We need a rebrand and facelift that reflects all that we do and how we work, we need it across our web presence on our site and social media channels, and in the language we use in all internal and external communications.

During the process:

  • Board members and staff are supportive and available, participate in discussions and consider new ideas.
  • A communications strategy and brand is drafted, discussed and agreed upon.
  • Brand is implemented in all communications written and online, internal and external.
  • Tasks are given to specific team members. Everyone knows their job and how to do it. Everyone is full of purpose.
  • The organization message is clear in every communication to donors, media, staff and clientele.
  • Website, social media channels and donor communications are vibrant and alive with the brand and goal and supporters know exactly what work they are supporting.

WIN: Donors are excited, staff is motivated. Communications exude purpose and professionalism. Donations and support are up and people are talking about the cause and the organization that does excellent workYOURS.

A solid brand:

  • Awakens Passion for the cause in current donors and excites new ones
  • Imbues purpose into the team
  • Makes communications easier and more efficient
  • Gives donors a clear understanding of why YOU are the cause to support.

Get your brand on. #noexcuses

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is cofounder of REACH3K, a boutique branding and communications firm. She works to get nonprofits to take their brand seriously in order to reach supporters and make them partners in their work.