The term “brand” is not always completely understood. Branding is not just a logo or a trademark, but many components that work together to influence and shape the way your organization is perceived. Branding expert Marty Neumeier famously defines brand as “Who you are, what you do, and why you matter.” Branding is an important element of success for nonprofit organizations and should be built with careful consideration.

What is Brand?

The Nielsen Norman Group defines brand vs. branding, two often confused concepts, as such:

  • Brand (with a capital “B”) is a promise about what a company stands for, or, the value it offers its customers. For example, a specific Brand could represent a promise that its associated products might be “healthy,” “sustainably made,” or “durable.”
  • Branding (with a lowercase “b”) is then defined as the controlled manifestation of the Brand’s identity through application of logo or other guidelines to advertising, communications, packaging, and so on.

A nonprofit’s brand is the construct of perceptions about what the organization stands for, what it does and how much social impact it is thought to achieve. An organization’s brand is also the sum total of all the experiences (direct and indirect) that others have with your nonprofit. While this is something that lives in the minds of audiences, a nonprofit can work to positively influence how its brand is received by combining brand strategy with creative design to deliver more meaningful and valuable experiences.

The Value of Nonprofit Branding

When it comes to driving engagement with brands, nonprofits tend to have a more difficult time than for-profits. Instead of offering a service or product, nonprofits must “sell” a promise or vision that is removed from our daily routines. As a result, audience’s may feel they are unable to relate to an organization’s mission or feel no urgency to act. This is why it’s crucial that nonprofits think strategically about designing brand experiences that advance organizational strategy and lead to greater impact. Brand not only creates loyal supporters, but it creates loyal volunteers and donors. Brand gives them something to believe in and something to stand behind. It helps them understand the purpose of the organization and its mission.

Why It’s Important

Brands are so valuable because they make the life of the nonprofit much easier. A strong brand strategy will give your organization the tools it needs to be successful. Here are a few of the benefits of building a strong nonprofit brand:

Brands Spread Awareness

It’s not enough to simply “get the word out” about your organization’s cause. A nonprofit brand is most powerful when the organization’s internal identity and external image are aligned with each other and with its values and mission. As brand consultant Will Novy-Hildesley describes it, “Brand is an exquisite bridge between program strategy and external communications.”

Brands Build Trust

While the concept of brand is ever-evolving, its primary purpose is to balance the objectives of an organization with people’s expectations. It does this by building a trustworthy relationship with audiences. In other words, what is promised by the brand owner and what is expected by the brand’s audience become one and the same. Because nonprofit organizations rely on establishing trust with many external audiences, doing what you say you do and being who you say you are is crucial.

Brands Set Expectations

A brand that is consistent and clear puts supporters at ease, because they know exactly what to expect each and every time they experience the brand. A clear brand strategy will not only guide audiences, but can also help organizations stay focused on their mission and vision.

Get in touch to talk about your nonprofit brand and let us answer any questions you have.

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