What it is…
An organization’s greatest asset is its brand.
In simple terms, it’s your reputation…what do people think of when they think of your organization? Branding is the process of creating clear and consistent messages and repeating those messages so that when people see your logo or hear your name, they will think of your organization in the terms you define.
The right brand holds more than the promise of making you well-known, but well-owned. It is where your stakeholders — staff, board, donors, volunteers, clients — feel a sense of connection that transcends the services you provide or any marketing piece they may see. They believe in you; they feel that they are a part of you and you are a part of them.
What it isn’t…
Your brand is not your mission statement.
A mission statement guides you but is not your brand. Your mission states what you do and for whom. A brand tells your audiences why they should care. Your logo is not your brand. It’s a part of it, but not all of it. Your brand includes both visual and verbal elements: logo, tagline, printed materials, website, what you say when you answer the phone, what you tell someone in an elevator or at a party, your colors, your voice mail, even the signature block on your e-mail.
What a brand can do…
A strong brand can help you relate to new audiences.
Nonprofits are learning that the time and energy it takes to brand an organization is well worth it. A strong brand can help you relate to new audiences and build loyalty and pride with current ones. Branding sets your organization apart and makes audiences understand what you do that is unique or different in the marketplace. Donors understand what you are doing to solve a problem or issue that everyone else is avoiding, your value becomes clear and defined.
Branding discovers what’s best about your organization.
A brand can build pride and excitement with board, staff and supporters. Branding takes what’s best about your organization and brings it to life for others to see. The process of creating a brand focuses on what you do best. Seeing that portrayed effectively to audiences gets stakeholders excited about what you are doing and where the organization is going.
Branding supports your entire organization.
Branding is not the end in itself; successful branding helps you achieve bigger outcomes like fundraising or recruitment. A strong brand supports volunteer recruitment, program efforts… everything your organization does.
Repeating the attributes of your brand consistently with words, images and actions will bring your brand to life.
What a brand can’t do…
A brand can’t replace the hard work of fundraising.
Branding supports fundraising and, by portraying a consistent value, builds confidence in prospective donors and pride in current ones. A strong brand can support fundraising efforts, but does not replace them.
Your brand does not set the direction of the organization.
Your mission statement and strategic plan define what you do and how you will do it; a brand connects your mission and vision to the audiences and helps them feel connected to your efforts.
A brand will not sell itself.
Your brand must be communicated in everything your organization does, from printed materials, websites, signage, etc. You must repeat the brand consistently, so over time, you achieve the impact you want. Take every opportunity, from events to newsletters to voice mail greetings, to communicate your brand.
A brand does not support and maintain itself.
Diligence is required to ensure the brand stays on track. It helps to have an internal brand champion, a person whose job it is to make sure the brand stays consistent and relevant to your audiences.
Why you can afford one…
Even small non-profits can have a brand and can afford to maintain it. It’s about having the discipline to be focused and consistent, not how much money you can spend. Look at it this way: you can’t afford not to have a brand…as long as you are going to have a reputation, why not make it a strong one?
How can you refresh your current brand or create a new one?
Do you feel like your organization does excellent work, but it’s not being conveyed effectively to current and potential audiences? That disparity between what you do and how you are perceived means it’s time to rethink your brand.
There are two parts to this process: first, looking internally at the organization, then looking at the audiences’ values and needs. A strong brand is at the intersection of those two processes.
Pull together broad-based group of representatives…staff, board, volunteers, clients, etc. can all be a part. The goal of a brand is to create a consistent experience through all facets of your organization, so all parts of the organization need to be represented in its creation.
Define your brand perception.
With this group, define who you are and what do you do that is different than other like organizations. What distinguishes you from other organizations will be the essence of your brand.
Determine your audiences and then look at what they value. Where do your values connect? By focusing on what your audience values, you are making your organization meaningful to them.
Distribute the brand.
Include your brand in all aspects of your organization. Consider the audience when developing communication strategies…make sure that you understand how your audience wants information so you can respond appropriately. Include your brand in everything you do, say, print or post.
Need some help?
The pressures of day-to-day work and sparse resources make it tough to give branding the time and effort it deserves. It’s especially hard to see your organization through fresh eyes when you are so entrenched in it. This is where we can help. We have developed a quick and efficient process for creating or refining your brand. We’d love to tell you all about it. For more information about 501creative or to discuss building your brand, contact Karen or 314-863-0501.