Jewish Nonprofits: Your Brand is More Than Just Your Logo!

Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

By Elliot Cowan

We hear it all the time at HMC. We design a new logo for an organization and they show it to the rest of their team, saying, “HMC has created this amazing new brand for us! Isn’t it beautiful?” That’s when it gets awkward for me as a Creative Director; I find myself stopping the person mid-sentence and responding, “I’m sorry, but we’ve created your new logo. Your brand hasn’t even been touched yet.”

You see … the title of this article is the truth. Most people need an education as to the difference between a logo and a brand. With dwindling participation in Jewish groups, decreased attendance at events, and less buy-in from younger people, it’s never been more important for Jewish nonprofits to take a good, hard look at both their brands and their logos. Let me try and differentiate between these important two aspects of your organization very quickly.

Your Brand Is A Feeling

Your brand is the thought, the association, the feeling someone gets when they hear the name of your organization. Your brand is the first thing that pops into their head and comes out of their mouth. When you hear about a specific clothing company or car company, a feeling or thought about them crosses your mind (“good value,” “safety,” “innovative,” etc.) That is their brand.

When people speak about your organization at fundraising events, or when your annual appeal drops through their mailbox, what’s the first thing you want them to think of? Do you want them to think “dependable” or “cutting edge?” Would you rather be associated with “reassurance” or “excitement?”  Whatever it is, that’s your brand.

Your Logo Is An Image

Your logo is a graphical representation of your brand (or at least it should be!) It should show everything you are, or want to be in a quick and easy way. For example, banks like their logos to emulate their history and communicate how long they’ve been around, and that they are trustworthy and secure. Technology companies want to be seen as sleek, modern, and simple to understand. Look around you and you will know if a company has done a good job with their logo or not. The best logos are clean, simple, timeless, and easy to recognize from a distance.

Your Brand Needs (and Deserves!) Maintenance and Attention

Brands are tricky things because what you think your brand might be may be very different from what people are actually thinking, saying, and feeling about your brand. Plus, your brand has to be truthful. If you say you are at the cutting edge of your industry, a youthful agency that is innovative in every way, then you can’t have a logo that looks like it was designed in 1945, and you definitely can’t have a website that has outdated imagery and navigation. If you claim to be something you are not, then you will be found out quickly and people will have a negative view of you and your organization. Speak the truth, or change what you do, to suit what you want your brand to be.

Brands can be molded, shaped, and changed as needed by you and your team. Your brand can, and should, evolve. So if you want to reinvent yourself then you can, but your logo is not the only thing that will need to change. It’s a good start, but it is just one of many things that need to be carefully thought through and updated.

I Think, Therefore I Brand

The final thing about brands is that you MUST believe from the top to the bottom that it’s true. Your staff must be trained on the brand standards, and people must be brought into alignment from all across the organization on the brand journey. There has to be total buy-in, otherwise it will all fall apart very quickly.

If you say your customer service is great and a person has one bad experience, then your brand is not true in their eyes. Brands (especially of charities, philanthropies, and foundations) can not be changed overnight and they will never work if a Board just dictates the brand guidelines without team consensus and collaboration. The people “on the ground” really are your brand. They must be brought into the process and their opinion really matters.

Final Thoughts

Many organizations we work with at HMC think a new logo and a new tagline will revitalize their organization and will change their brand. The truth is, if you don’t start from the top to the bottom, have an open discussion (possibly with an outside agency who can see things you might not), and be honest with yourselves, as a company, then nothing will really change.

If you do these things, then you can determine what you want people to say about you, and how you want to make them feel. After that, you can look to alter your programs and projects, which will in turn excite your staff, filter back to the Board, and then out to the people you are trying to help. A rebrand is about an entire internal shift that can change everything (including your logo.)

Elliot Cowan is the Creative Director for Here’s My Chance (HMC), an award-winning creative agency that builds good brands by design. HMC’s mission is to create impactful, engaging designs that motivate people and lead to organizational success. Proudly headquartered in Philadelphia PA, HMC’s clients span the globe and include nonprofits and socially responsible companies that work to create positive change. We specialize in branding, graphic design, videos, websites and infographics. Learn more at