We live in a world super-saturated with brands, logos, slogans and sponsors. It’s impossible to walk down the street or surf the web without experiencing commercial overload. Each and every day more brands are being introduced to the world, and, consequently, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. Most of these brands are offering tangible products and services like sneakers or home security systems or internet service.
But for us—for nonprofits—we offer a much different kind of product. It may come in the form of a more promising future for young people, or a more socially aware community. You can’t hold these things in your hand, and, more often than not, they aren’t immediately apparent. People like immediate satisfaction and physical, tangible proof of purchase. This is why now, more than ever, nonprofits need to have better, smarter, more compelling branding if they want to make a case for their cause and make a lasting impact on the world.
Many nonprofits take on branding initiatives in hopes of raising funds. This is a good place to start, but it shouldn’t be the extent of your branding objectives. Putting your name and logo on t-shirts, pens and notepads is great for brand recognition and a little revenue generation, but let your brand do more; let it be a launchpad to tackle grand, long-term social goals while strengthening your organizational identity.
Allow your brand to represent an entire idea or mission. When people see your brand name or logo, they should immediately be reminded of what it is your organization does or intends to accomplish. In other words, get to a point where your brand can speak for itself.
A lot of organizations—both for-profits and nonprofits—let their marketing or PR team handle the entirety of their brand. It’s important to have a person or team spearheading the branding department, but let your brand be an organization-wide effort. Everyone on your staff needs to know the ins-and-outs of your brand—and not just the style guide, either. Hold regular meetings to keep everyone, including board members, up to speed on the newest branding developments. And remember: a strong, consistent brand should do just as much for your internal operations as your marketing pursuits.
It’s easier said than done, but staying patient during brand building is incredibly important. Once your organization’s brand gets off the ground, recognition only leads to more recognition. Donations only lead to more donations. Engagement only leads to more engagement. So be patient and be diligent. Among the worst things you can do while trying to build recognition is pump too many resources into a brand that no one knows about yet. Perhaps worse is completely ignoring your brand during its early stages. So, it’s a fine line you need to walk between giving too much attention to your brand and giving it no attention at all. But, if you’re able to walk that line, it will make a world of difference.
For many nonprofits, shoveling too many resources into branding leaves a sour taste in their mouths, and with good reason—sacrificing your mission to further your brand is never an option. However, during a time of brand overload, you need to set yourself apart from the pack. Trust me, it’s worth the investment.
Originally published 7.31.2017—Updated 6.26.2018
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