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5 secrets of well-branded nonprofits

Some organizations start and stop the branding process, or implement it some places and not others. What makes an organization really embrace a brand and use it to its fullest?

Below are some common success factors for nonprofit brands. If you’re thinking of rebranding your nonprofit organization, see how many of these factors apply to you. We’re not saying you must have all five. But it tends to work best if these factors are in place. If they’re not, you might need to consider doing some work inside your organization before you launch a rebranding effort.

1. Willingness to learn

Does your organization value learning and insight, especially from those outside the agency? Are you willing to hear new opinions and learn from current donors and program participants? Organizations that are most successful want to learn to brand better. They understand that they don’t know it all.

2. Support from the top

Good brands are formed through consensus from the bottom up, but are implemented best from the top down. Does your executive director and board value the need to build and support the brand? It needs to become a value within the organization, and leadership needs to take the lead on that.

3. A trust in the process

Branding is a lot like therapy — you need to look within and explore how staff, board, supporters and participants feel about the organization. It takes trust in the process that a consultant brings to the table, and a willingness to see the organization in a new way. When we’re working with a client and feel a push against the process, it indicates that the organization may not be ready to embrace a new brand. When organizations let us lead, and trust us to get them to a better place, we know they’ll be more willing to embrace the results.

4. Realistic process expectations

Branding takes time. It’s not for fast fixes or solving crisis situations. The process moves as quickly as your organization makes decisions, and if your group needs time to think things through, it will need time to develop the brand. Don’t push the process for some arbitrary deadline. Take the time to make good decisions, because your organization will be living with them for a while.

5. Realistic implementation expectations

Implementing a brand takes time and money, and most nonprofits are short on both. Don’t feel like you have to change everything at once. Keep focused on the big picture, and implement materials over time. When the letterhead runs out, reprint with the new branding. Tackle one project at a time, with the goal of having a cohesive look and feel throughout all materials when it’s all done.

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