For many nonprofits, branding tends to be an afterthought. Maybe it’s because spending time or money on creating a brand feels like a waste of scarce resources, or perhaps it’s because nonprofit leaders simply don’t see it as important. In my opinion, however, good branding is crucial for any nonprofit that wants to be taken seriously or that wants to be respected as a legitimate organization.
What Is Branding?
So many people reduce branding down to a logo—that icon that you place on your letterhead and promotional pieces. While your logo is one piece of branding, branding encompasses so much more than just your organization’s logo and the typography and colors associated with it. Branding also includes your organization’s messaging—its mission, its vision, and its story.
When you think of it that way, it becomes clear why branding is so important for nonprofits. A nonprofit with a clear and compelling message can go a long way in encouraging people to support what it is doing. On the other hand, when your message is unclear, people will be hesitant to jump on board.
At the nonprofit where I serve as COO, VitalChurch Ministry, our stated mission is as follows:
Our mission at VitalChurch Ministry is to see churches reconciled and restored to unity, with gifted leadership in place, gospel values embedded, effective governance established, an exciting mission agreed on, and discipleship pathways engaged.”
We also have a more concise tagline, which is one of the first things you see on our website’s homepage. It says, “Revitalizing Churches in Crisis or Transition.”
Our organization’s leadership worked long and hard to come up with a mission statement that includes the various aspects of our ministry, as well as a short and simple tagline that helps newcomers to our organization understand what we do. These statements help guide our organization—keeping us on track as we engage in our ministry work.
In addition to crafting the above branding statements, we had a logo professionally designed by a company that specializes in branding for small businesses and nonprofits. Along with our logo, the company provided us with a style guide to help us make sure that the logo is used in a consistent manner.
All of these pieces work together to communicate our nonprofit’s brand.
Protecting Your Brand
A nonprofit organization needs to be very careful to protect its brand—maybe even more so than a business does. This is because of how important it is for a nonprofit to present a clear message to the public in order to garner and maintain support from donors and volunteers.
You can’t let people—even well-meaning people—distort your brand, or else potential supporters will become confused. If you work for a nonprofit long enough, you will likely come across someone who has a “great” idea for something they think your organization should be doing—a new service you should offer, a new population you should serve, another organization you should partner with, or some other suggestion. Before expanding your organization in any of these ways, make sure it fits within your brand. Don’t let your organization get sidetracked into projects that are off-brand or that would be too much of a distraction from your current projects or services. Not only can this take resources away from things that are more brand-critical, but it can also cause confusion in the public eye.
When you do decide to offer a new service, you want to ensure it is consistent with the quality of your main service(s). Otherwise, you may want to wait until it is before launching it.
Not too long ago, our nonprofit decided to produce an online survey for churches that they could use to easily evaluate the effectiveness of their ministries and to get some insight into their congregations. This survey was meant to be an affordable alternative to our more in-depth church assessments that we’ve been offering for many years. It was a serious undertaking, but one that we felt was worthwhile and that would be a benefit to the types of churches we serve. Our diagnostic team put together a great survey, as well as an accompanying packet to send to the churches that would be using the survey. The packet explained the survey process and offered some tips for encouraging participation among church members. Unfortunately, the design of the original packet was not on par with the other materials our organization puts out. It was a bit hard to follow and also not very visually pleasing. We ended up postponing the survey’s launch in order to redesign the packet in a way that better reflected our brand and the quality of the survey.
When it comes to your organization’s logo, have clear guidelines in place for its use. Make sure that the individuals designing materials for your nonprofit (especially volunteers) understand how to use your logo properly. Otherwise, you can end up with a logo that is stretched, distorted, or otherwise changed into a version that is very different from the one that was originally approved.
If necessary, you may need to designate someone on your staff to be the protector of your organization’s brand. Someone who isn’t afraid to be the bad guy and tell people “no” when they want to ignore the brand that has been carefully crafted. If that person is you, take the job seriously. It is worth the effort!short url: