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Non-profit branding in a noisy world

In olden times – the 90s – nonprofits were afraid to spend money on branding for fear that funders would think they were spending money in the wrong places. They didn’t want to be “too slick” or “too put together” or, god-forbid – “commercial.” The 90s were a long time ago, and non-profits have changed – owing mainly to the world getting far far noisier.

Instead of a few high-visibility non-profits as household names we’ve access to thousands in as many categories. Desktop graphics and the resulting self-taught designers and developers have also made it more affordable and more realistic to keep a brand sharp and focused. It is now completely reasonable to expect a non-profit to use their brand to “sell” their mission.

Do this:

1) Get real with the level of noise in your market – who are your competitors both regarding funding/sales and message/mission. What are their brands like? How effective are they at communicating their brand? This is classic competitive intelligence. Make it a practice; your mission will get further if you do.

2) Understand who is listening and why – select a handful of tried and true supporters. Find out from them what your brand says, or misses. Get them to tell you there perceptions and reactions to what you think you’re communicating; if you are on the same page, great, if not, figure out how to fix it.

3) Use these two pieces of information together with your vision and mission to understand what the current perception is (of your brand) and how well it aligns with your stated vision and mission. This might be a good time to check in with how effective those two critical pieces are.

4) Determine the perception you want the market to have of your brand and execute on those goals – constantly going back to 1-3 to determine the alignment.

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