If you’re in charge of your nonprofit’s marketing, you probably struggle with the need to produce content consistently and to adapt to new trends and algorithms. Whether you’re creating email campaigns, new social media content, blogs, or use cases, content is a huge part of your organization’s continuing success.
No matter the size of your nonprofit, it’s important that everything you create and share always leads potential (and current) donors back to your cause and the services your organization provides. This is where—as marketing professionals call it—being “on brand” comes in handy.
What does “on brand” mean for nonprofits?
Your nonprofit’s brand is more than your logo. Sure, branding includes the basics, like:
But branding also includes guidelines for content style, length, voice, etc., as well as the process you create to ensure that all content reflects positively on your organization’s values. Creating your nonprofit brand means having a tool that you can use to answer the question:
Is this content on brand? If not, what do we need to change?
And while many nonprofits still struggle to consider themselves a brand, the process of branding your content will offer huge strides in improved reputation, engagement, and—hopefully—revenue.
The easy way to create on-brand content
In a high-speed content creation world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed simply creating content you can push out, and sometimes you don’t have the time or resources to ensure that the content you’re producing is on brand.
That’s why visuals are an increasingly popular option for nonprofit content marketing. They allow a business to share information while also incorporating basic branding elements, such as logos, fonts, and color schemes. But most of all, visual content relays facts, messages, and values better than written text alone.
Visuals can tell a story in ways that no other form of content can—and it’s not limited to one platform or format. Branded visuals can be:
- Pictures of people who benefit from donations (watermarked or with copyrights)
- Infographics that showcase the work you do (with your logo, fonts, and colors)
- Videos of your team hard at work (watermarked or with copyrights)
- Social media images that link to blogs, reports, etc. (infographics, photos, etc.)
- Graphics on print materials or emails (your logos, graphic elements, colors)
- Donation form templates (your photos, logos, graphic elements, and colors)
Take it from the pros: a nonprofit branding case study
A great example of branded visual marketing is this donation page from the American Red Cross. They have a:
- Header image
- Video about relief impact
- Infographic reporting
All of these are separate pieces of visual content that refer back to their main mission—humanitarian services and programs—and are all styled to match the American Red Cross brand. When someone sees that red cross and the simple gray, black, white, and red color scheme, his or her mind goes to the Red Cross.
What triggers do you want to create in your content that make donors think of your organization?
If you’re not sure, you need to develop your visual branding. To help you create authentic, on-brand visuals, here are six things to keep in mind when taking your visual marketing to the next level.
1. Get specific: What do you want people to remember?
Not every visual makes a great piece of content; audiences online and offline are more discerning than ever, and they know when thought went into something (and when it didn’t). You need to take the information you want to share and build a story around it:
- What do you want people to remember from your picture/infographic/design?
- Why is it important? How does it relate to your cause?
- How can you make the message the most visually impactful?
Before you start translating your nonprofit’s cause into visuals, figure out the connection you want your audience and donors to make. What feelings do you want to evoke? What do you want them to remember from each piece of content? Then carry that through all other visuals you create within the same campaign. This creates brand identity and cohesive marketing.
2. Turn text into graphics
Any time you can transform dry data and the text version of your brand’s value proposition into graphics, do it! Making your information visual will grab your viewers’ attention and hold it. It also communicates your brand message clearly.
3. Write branded copy to accompany branded visuals
When creating visual and text mixed media, like in an infographic, social media image, or even a video with subtitles, you need to make a big punch with less space—and much fewer words. This is where your branding strength really shines; think of how to create images, videos, or infographics about your cause, impact, or newest program that follow the guidelines you’ve already set for yourself (font, colors, voice, etc.)
Repeat high-impact phrases from other content that your donors are familiar with, and add organization or sector buzzwords that the audience—your donors—will begin to connect back to you.
4. Make your visual campaign authentic
The best visuals convey both information and emotion; your donors have standards and expect content that hits them “where they live.” Show people what you’re passionate about in a way that conjures up a reaction—emotional responses lead to more effective conversions!
Compassion International’s “Child Sponsorship Works” Campaign
A great example of this is the Compassion International image above; it conveys a powerful emotion that triggers a reaction. Without proper branding, however, that image would not be as impactful for the organization.
5. Include a call to action
Remember to always include a call to action in your visual campaigns, usually at the end of a video or the bottom of an image. To figure out what call to action is best for the content, ask yourself:
- Why are you creating it?
- What do you want people to do immediately after consuming this content?
- What does that have to do with your brand?
A few options for calls to action include asking people to “Click here to find out more,” check out your organization’s Facebook page, or even a suggestion to “Share this with your friends and family.” Simply asking for engagement in your visuals will help, and making your content visual makes it 40 times more likely to get shared on social media (a huge driver for digital fundraising in today’s world).
6. Carry branding across campaigns—and the organization
It’s important to make sure each visual piece works together to communicate your message (like the Red Cross landing page mentioned above). While you are not stuck with the same visuals or designs forever, generating similar visual content for a large, long-term campaigns will actually build trust between you and your donors.
Studies actually show that consumers trust branded content more than advertising—and that’s not just for for-profit businesses. Creating a branded journey from initial impression to donation and future connection will ensure your donors and supporters recognize everything you put out, and trust you more for it.
The Bottom Line on Branding
Visuals can do a lot of the marketing “work” for you, in terms of getting shared, attracting new people to your organization’s efforts, driving traffic to your website and so on. But you need to optimize your visuals to share valuable information while also keeping your organization and cause at the forefront of your audience’s mind.
Correctly branded visuals create a trustworthy, consistent environment where donors can easily pick your content out of the crowd. It’s also important that your message is genuine and reflects the tone of your organization; creating random content will make your donors question how focused you are on the cause. Be picky with the elements and copy that you include in your visual campaigns; high standards will create a more cohesive brand and authentic tone.
This way, donors will be able to recognize your content at a glance, and they’ll know that the information will be valuable and impactful.
Creating an on-brand visual marketing campaign is more than just using your logo and colors. Branding is about knowing your audience and evaluating all of your content to make sure it’s aligned with your cause.
Latasha Doyle is blog editor at Easel.ly, where she discusses all things “infographic.” If you are looking for more information on creating infographics, you can also check out Easel.ly’s free ebook, “Infographic Crash Course.”