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Nonprofits must look beyond the features of branding to appreciate the benefits

Too often, nonprofits fail to take advantage of critical marketing tools and resources.

In his 2013 TED Talk, The way we think about charity is dead wrong, Dan Palotta asserts that we, as a society, are often too critical of how nonprofits operate, and that this is to our collective detriment. According to Palotta, if nonprofits are to survive—much less thrive—they must utilize tools originally engineered by for-profits, but which can be reengineered for nonprofits.

Among the successful companies of our age there are a multitude of similarities. Among them is the presence of a strong and cohesive brand. While many people consider branding the exclusive domain of profit-driven companies, it is becoming increasingly clear that nonprofits stand to gain at least as much from a well-conceived and skillfully implemented brand.

In their book, The Brand IDEA, Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel note that the inherent complexity of nonprofit organizations—including multiple stakeholders with divergent interests—make branding even more important to nonprofits.

So, why do many nonprofits look at branding as an unnecessary investment? We believe it’s due to the perception of branding as a collection of elements external to an organization’s mission (eye-catching logo, snappy tagline, etc.). A more contemporary and strategic view sees a brand as helping drive an organization’s mission, both externally and internally.

Simply put, an organization’s brand exists whether it is being purposefully developed and maintained or not. When a person first hears about an organization, they experience emotions, form opinions, and decide on courses of action. This is true for employees, donors, beneficiaries, the media—everyone. A clear and cohesive brand helps all parties understand value, and contribute to the organization’s mission; whereas a muddied brand with mixed visuals and verbals can have the opposite effect.

Branding a nonprofit is different than branding a for-profit, yet many of the methodologies and components are the same. An effective brand should tell an organization’s story, a story of where it comes from and what it stands for. It gives people a chance to say, “yeah, I love what they’re doing” or “nah, that’s not for me.”

The preceding is a guest post from the team at Brand Fundamentals. Brand Fundamentals helps for-profits and nonprofits brand their organizations. Watch our short video to learn more about how branding can help your nonprofit organization.

Brand Fundamentals was founded by Peter Harris and Greg Elizondo, a seasoned Creative Director and an MBA with more than four decades combined experience.

Topics: Communications