Branding for Non-profits: it’s different, but not that different
We recently finished a digital marketing overhaul Resources for Human Development (RHD). Their goal was a good one: let’s make it easier for our community to help us. Let’s clear up our messaging. Let’s simplify donations. We enjoyed it and are proud of the collective work we did over the last few months. Generosity.org wrote a nice article about our partnership here.
We applaud RHD’s decision to take-on a large-scale digital re-brand: many nonprofits are reluctant to make it a priority. There are always complexities and nuances within organizations who have to raise funds, but we always urge nonprofits to treat their branding the same as any business would. And though they’re not selling a product, they are selling a mission. Defining a strong purpose to potential constituents who have an abundance of nonprofits knocking on their door is key. Whether it’s branding for a business or for a nonprofit, the process should always achieve these three points.
- Differentiate your message. Choose unique, specific language to describe how you are different and your reason for being. “Making the world a better place” could be said of almost any good and honest nonprofit. The MacArthur Foundation is “Committed to building a more just, verdant, & peaceful world”. Which one sounds like they’re sweating the details? Which one makes you say, “Yeah! I want to do that!” And really, how often do you hear verdant used?
- Present a strong visual identity. During times of crisis like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the iconic red cross stands as a beacon of help and hope. It’s striking and easy to remember. The American Red Cross, NPR, and St. Jude’s all are easy to spot and all evoke an emotional response.
- Use effective communication. Acknowledge your audience by answering the question: Why should you give to us? Effective, transparent communication in the non-profit space builds trust in your organization. When you engage people in your mission, they’ll take action.
It feels funny positioning your non-profit brand as a business would. But the more funds you raise, the more good you can do. The year we partnered with JEVS Human Services on a multi-phased redesign effort that focused on information design and a streamlined user experience, their online donations increased by 25% the following year.
In a world that is super-saturated with organizations seeking funds, your nonprofit can’t afford not to prioritize its brand.