5 Steps for Successful Nonprofit Branding

Steps for Successful Nonprofit Branding

If you don’t have your non-profit organizations’ brand buttoned up, you’re going to missing out on not only precious donation dollars, but also the opportunity to make a bigger impact.

Most non-profits have a hard time articulating their brand promise in a clear and concise manner. Because of this, there becomes inconsistencies with how they talk about themselves in their sales and marketing materials, and throughout their look and feel, online and offline.

It can sometimes become a case study on how not to brand and market your organization.

This creates challenges with selling your brand to people who have never heard about your organization before. But not to fear, by understanding where your brand is lacking, you can fix it.

Taking an audit of your brand, you can start to layout your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Once you understand where you’re winning and losing you can start putting together strategies that will propel and streamline your organizations’ marketing and fundraising process.

Whether a for-profit business or a non-profit business, the principle of branding stay the same. Branding, at its finest, is how your customers feel when they think of your brand name, service or product.

We must always be aligning our brand message with the main problem we’re solving, and even more importantly, we must learn how to clearly and concisely communicate and articulate that message at every touchpoint, online and offline. Speaking publicly or writing an email.

Non-Profit Performance Magazine Article by Steven Picanza

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Create A Proactive Brand Strategy For Your Non-Profit

1. Do The Research

Your non-profit organization has a purpose and a mission, and you understand them intimately. But what about your donors and patrons, do they know your purpose and mission as intimately as you do? Have they bought into it your mission? While your non-profit organization’s purpose is centered around the good you are doing, your brand must also sell the mission to the people who will be helping to fund the organization.

When working on a brand strategy for a non-profit organization, our framework always starts with research, because it’s 100% critical to the success of your organization to understand how to market effectively to your core audience. Besides understanding who we’re serving, we also need to understand who our donors are, what are they looking for in an organization, as well as trying to understand the socioeconomic and political arena in which we operate.

2. Focus on the Message

Before anything else, ensure your organization knows its pitch as it’s the most important part of delivering your brand mission. If you are not able to state the problem you solve, how you solve it, and what the solution is in clearly and concisely, then you’re losing your audience at first touch.

So much of our work is ensuring organizations understand how to clearly sell themselves without losing their audience. Ensuring that beyond the inspiring mission and aspirational vision, their core values have been set in stone and the brand voice and tone are reaching the right people. When we know what problem we’re solving or whom, only then can we put our sales and marketing into practice.

Done right, your messaging will translate into sales and marketing copy for all your organization’s materials easily. Content for your website, brochures, donation packets, media kits, etc. Easy for daily use.

Done wrong, and you’ll find consistent frustration.

3. Keep your brand (and marketing) simple and organized

Since there are thousands of touchpoints where the end-user can interact with your non-profit organization, it’s important to keep tabs on the messaging and marketing you’re putting out. Keeping up with your brand messaging can be daunting if you don’t go through a brand exercise with the right agency or consultant to help write your brand guidelines and framework, but once you do, it’s simple to refer back to over and over again.

This is a life saver as it ensures you’re not pulling your hair out trying to stay up with everything and reinventing the wheel time and time again.

This also includes your website, which in 2019 is a combination of your storefront, fundraising team, suggestion box, newspaper, and review forum. Keep it clean and focused on only the most important information. It’s also imperative to ensure that the web experience you give off is consistent across all your social media sites.

A trick we use is by creating a cloud-based custom brand framework for every client we consult. This not only houses all their brand messaging and usage guides, but also their marketing strategy, plans, templates, and assets, which ensures you aren’t looking in a thousand different places for a thousand different things.

4. Educate (and empower) your staff

The hardest part on scaling any type of organization is ensuring the brand and culture scales accordingly. When your organization begins to grow, often the brand begins to fray as individuals insert their own narrative, and like a rogue sales team in a B2B setting, it becomes a free-for-all where the brand standards and framework is used less and less, favored for a more reactive, yet limiting approach.

This can not only be reversed if caught early enough, but can also be a non-issue. With educating your staff and staying extremely proactive, you can foster a culture of brand champions as opposed to a culture of brand ego.

As a fun exercise, empower your team to keep your core messaging printed out and quiz people regularly. If they pass and nail it, reward them. You’ll be amazed at the quick progress and how those statements will be woven into the everyday brand narrative.

5. Check-in, regularly

Like fashion, your brand is never finished. It’s a repeatable cycle that must be nurtured and at times, be put back on its track.

With our clients, we have quarterly or at the very least, semi-annually brand check-ins where we perform an audit on all your brand touchpoints to ensure we’re still as optimized as possible. By doing so, we’re able to course-correct based on data and changing perceptions while at the same time keeping abreast on changing marketing trends.

This also becomes a great opportunity to rally the extended team and focus on culture and team building, because the brand becomes successful when everyone internally has a pulse on the strategy and believes in the core values and purpose.

When deciding to work on setting a framework for your brand, it can be seen like a daunting endeavor, usually starting from the very first question; “where do I start?” As with anything, take it one step at a time and find great mentors.

Once you have your brand dialed in, now we can start on the fun part – marketing and growing your organization.

Interested in learning more about the framework we use? Feel free to reach out to discuss your organization’s branding efforts and how we can help.

[Originally published on Non-profit Performance Magazine, issue 13]

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