• Alekhya Kasturi

How to build a strong brand identity for your nonprofit organization?

Nonprofit Organizations Face Marketing Challenges


Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) face marketing challenges and these are best addressed with the help of an experienced consulting firm. The creation of a strong brand identity and effective management of it are important for an NPO’s success. Why is this? A strong brand identity is critical for NPOs to have as they are finding it more and more challenging to access much needed capital to carry out their mission-related activities. Thus, it is the goal of any NPO to successfully reach out to a community at large that includes Foundations & Grantmakers, Customers, Consumers, Employees, and Volunteers. To successfully capture the nonprofit audience, NPOs must offer solutions that focus on their unique problems and present their message in a language that makes sense to them.

Otherwise, it makes the difference between having access to or not having access to much needed funding that support NPO’s operations. In this blog post, the terms brand and brand identity are defined, some of the benefits of having a strong brand identity are listed, and a description of how to build a strong brand identity is provided. 

Brand and Brand Identity Defined

Seth Godin, a marketing expert, defines the term brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer." A brand is earned. It’s the reward for the hard work of building real, passionate relationships with the audience.

What’s a NPO's brand identity? Brand identity is what makes an NPO instantly recognizable to ideal audience. It may be through the logo or other associated visuals. It encapsulates the core values of an NPO. It sets it apart from the competitors. It generates service offerings recognition.

Why is a Strong Brand Identity important?

Here are a few benefits that come with having a strong brand identity.

  1. A brand identity is the visual representation of the values and "personality" of an NPO's brand. The organization’s values build an emotional connection with ideal audience, attracting them if they share the same values. This type of connection makes it easier for an NPO to develop a long-term relationship with those audience.

  2. Creating and maintaining a strong brand identity helps to make an NPO stand out. It differentiates an NPO from the competition. It builds a solid professional image and can build a connection with critical stakeholders to help it understand who it is and what it represents.

  3. A strong brand identity allows an NPO to create a consistent message across all marketing materials.

  4. A strong brand identity builds brand association and service offerings recognition. For example, a consulting firm for NPOs, its strong brand identity as a trusted advisor to Board & Leadership Team will help to keep it top of mind.

How to Build A Strong Brand Identity?

Every successful NPO has a strong brand identity. As stated above, having a strong brand identity is important for any NPO's success, for the simple reason that competition for the time and attention of its audience members is growing increasingly fierce. There needs to be something that differentiates an NPO from the competition and that something is its brand identity.

In building a strong brand identity, ask the question “How Does It Want to Be Perceived By Its Ideal Audience?” Whatever this desired perception may be needs to make the NPO recognizable to the ideal audience. It will not form overnight nor right away in the minds of targeted audience. The process will take some work and time.

Building Brand Identity Guidelines

Once a desired perception is decided upon from which to work on, an NPO needs to create brand guidelines that will support a strong brand identity. Brand guidelines are a set of rules that explain how the brand works and keeps the NPO on the same page. It includes the basics:

  1. An overview of the NPO's history, vision, personality and key values.

  2. Brand message or mission statement – including examples of ‘tone of voice’.

  3. Logo usage – where and how to use the NPO's logo including minimum sizes, spacing and what not to do with it.

  4. Color palette – showing the NPO's primary and secondary color palettes with color breakdowns for print, screen and web.

  5. Type style – showing the specific font that the NPO uses and details of the font family and default fonts for web use.

  6. Image style/photography – examples of image style and photographs that work with the NPO's brand.

  7. Business card and letterhead design – examples of how the logo and font are used for standard NPO literature.

To make sure all the bases are covered, the brand guidelines may also include:

  • Design layouts and grids

  • Social media profile page applications

  • Brochure/flyer layout options

  • Website layout

  • Advertising treatments

  • Copywriting style (a.k.a. “tone of voice”)

  • Editorial guidelines

Brand guidelines should be flexible enough to be creative, but rigid enough to keep the brand easily recognizable. Consistency is key.

The Importance of a consistent Brand Identity

Consistency is an important element for maintaining brand identity. A consistent brand identity projects professionalism, establishes authenticity, provides clarity, build trust, offers internal direction, and provides simplicity. The brand identity should be designed to communicate an NPO's overall message. All the language used in the NPO's communications and marketing materials needs to reflect its brand identity that defines the organization so that every time someone sees a piece of collateral from the NPO, they instantly recognize it. Brand identity consistency allows audience to build a memory structure around who the organization is and what value it has to offer. 

Nonprofit Organizations rely on solid marketing to compete for funding and other resources. In a time of economic hardship, it is even more critical that the message is clear, powerful, and consistent. The Class Consulting Group assists nonprofit organizations in designing a brand management strategy to communicate effectively, to create a brand recognition and to achieve a unique competitive advantage so that nonprofits can attract, connect, engage and retain their stakeholders/audience better.

About The CLASS Consulting Group:

The CLASS Consulting Group is a trusted advisor to the Board of Directors and Senior Leadership of Nonprofits. It is a boutique management consulting firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area that provides consulting services to senior management and Board of Directors of nonprofit organizations and offers community leadership opportunities to professionals. 

Since 2002 CLASS’ volunteers have been assisting nonprofit organizations in the SF Bay Area and supporting the communities in which, we all live and work. 

Interested? Simply Request A Meeting and we'll get in touch to tell you all about this opportunity and how our volunteer-run teams are helping nonprofits make the Bay Area a better place; one community at a time.

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