Nonprofit Marketing: Branding

This is the first article in a five-part series that details exactly what you need to market your nonprofit and make it a success. Nonprofit organizations depend on donations, fundraisers and other charitable endeavors to carry out the altruistic work that so many others count on for help. Though the mission of nonprofits is decidedly different from that of private businesses, the means by which funds are raised is remarkably similar: You have to be able to market your nonprofit for success. And like all businesses, successful nonprofit marketing begins with branding.

Importance of a branded image

Branding is crucial to nonprofit success because donors have to trust your organization to use donations as intended. Many will support your cause, because it is also their cause, so long as they feel that their dollars will affect positive change. Many nonprofits build credibility through well-rounded public relations campaigns, financial disclosure, and proof of action and results. When you can promote a visual image alongside each of these, you can build a brand that donors trust on-sight. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association are two examples of nonprofit organizations that have built trustworthy images and achieved a high level of success.

How to identify your branded image

To identify what your nonprofit brand image should be, first consider what benefits you provide to both those you help and those who donate/supply the funds so that you can provide your services. How do you differ from other nonprofits in similar arenas? A nonprofit organization that delivers food boxes to needy senior citizens might want to focus on the concept of giving back to those who have built current society but have fallen on hard times, while a nonprofit that lobbies for agriculture might want to focus on the benefits its efforts have provided to farmers. Just as with a business, nonprofits need to establish a benefit to the donor, not just the recipient. That benefit could be helping the recipient, as many donors believe in the causes they donate to - you've seen campaigns where 97 cents out of every dollar goes to the cause - or the benefit could be more direct to the donor, such as lobbying for decreased agriculture taxes for farmers.

Branding through design

Skilled graphic design can transform your nonprofit's branded identity from a written concept to a visual motivator. This image is what the world will see, and the public will perceive the ideals and emotions that your image expresses. Most importantly, you want potential donors to see your logo at a glance and feel comfortable donating to your cause or purchasing fundraising products from your representatives. When you achieve this, you've developed a powerful nonprofit brand identity.