What kind of person would your group be?

What is the personality of your organization? Would you describe it as hip, trendy and creative? Polite, professional and well-educated? Nurturing and compassionate, yet also assertive?

Your group’s personality is your brand. And it should be consistent with what you are trying to accomplish!

Branding is important to non-profit success

Branding is often associated with selling products —something that can  help differentiate one cigarette or pop drink from another. There is often a negative association with the idea of branding as people see it as a superficial coating of logos, taglines and colours intended to hook consumers.

However, branding for non-profit organizations and other public services is all about how people perceive your group. And how people perceive you is important to the success of your programs and services, and to your fundraising. 

Whether you have consciously developed a brand or not, people will have a perception of your organization. Sometimes it might be consistent with how the people inside your group see things; and sometimes it is way off.

What matters most is what others think of your organization. If your group’s persona doesn’t appeal to them, or they just don’t get it, they aren’t going to be accessing your services, supporting your causes or donating funds. A research institution is probably better off being perceived as thoughtful and well-educated than hip and trendy; an art organization for youth will likely want to tilt the balance the other way.

So it is important to spend time thinking about how your group is perceived and what you might do to create a consistent and effective image to your community.

If there is a big gap between what your audiences think of you, and what you think of you, it is time for some branding work. If people within the group have very different perceptions of your group’s purpose and approach, and are conveying that to clients and supporters, it is time for some branding work.

The steps

Start with your values
Before you start talking about redesigning your logo, your look or your tagline, the first things to nail down are core values of your organization. Work with your group and others to identify the 3-5 values you want people to think of when they hear your group’s name. Dig deep to come up with a solid set you believe represents how your organization works.

Identify your “Everest”
The second thing is to focus on your group’s “Everest”. That is, what is THE big change you are trying to achieve?

This is the ultimate reason you exist and what solutions you are trying to create. Although you may have many programs and services, you need to define the one purpose you are working towards with your various initiatives.

Learn about audience perception
When you have explored these two things, you are going to need to find out what your key audiences think about you and then identify the gaps that need to be targeted in your branding work.

Create an identity statement
When you have this core work done, it is time to create a set of working principles and tools.  The first thing to do is create an “identity statement”.

This isn’t a mission or vision statement or a tagline. It is a clear sentence that captures your values and services, and how you’d like to be perceived. It is the statement that conveys your personality.

For example, in a re-branding effort a number of years ago, Oxfam International came up with the following statement: “Working with others to overcome poverty and suffering through the most effective, appropriate and enduring solutions.” It captures what they do, how they do it and why.

Work on the visuals and package.
When you have reached this point, then you can dive into the visuals, ideally with the help of a graphic designer! You need a visual identity that is consistent with your identity statement, and that can be used consistently across publications, media and outreach initiatives.

Do you need a new logo? Are the colours you use appropriate for your persona? Is there a tagline that captures your identity?

Manage the brand!
And then, once you have that brand all wrapped up, be sure to manage it! Everyone in your group needs to be clear on the identity (your values, and your Everest) that you want to consistently convey regardless of the type of interaction they are involved in.

Be sure to spend some time orienting people—new and old—to what you have come up with and why it is important to be true to the outcome.

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