In the for-profit world, a business’s branding is its foundation for everything else. It captures the attention of customers, gives them a clear understanding of what the business does, what it offers and who for it is for. It transmits a sense of the business’s personality, its values and how it will interact with its customers. Branding is the embodiment of all these things.

So what about nonprofits?

Nonprofits have target audiences and strategic goals just like any for-profit does. Audiences might range from the press… to donors… to the people served. Goals might include things like spreading awareness, increasing donations or recruiting members. To do any of these things, a nonprofit needs good branding.


Capturing attention and earning trust

If you want to be noticed then you have to stand out. Differentiating yourself from other entities is tricky because you have to do it within the very very minimal time your audience is going to be giving you their attention. There’s no luck involved in grabbing people’s attention, it’s all down to branding. You have to pique their interest visually. You might be an organization that does exactly what your particular audience is interested in, but since they are being inundated with streams of information, you’ll need a way for them to see you amongst the crowd.

Should you then have someone’s momentary attention, you’re given a short reprieve. You now have a few more seconds to state your case for their continued attention. Branding plays a part here too. This is where you’ll use your brand to confirm to them that the work you do matters to them, that your values match theirs and that you’re interesting enough to find out more about. These are things that your overall branding – your color scheme, use of fonts, image choices and writing style all play a big part in.

Branding should also build a sense of comradery. You should be able to create a connection with your audience. In theory this shouldn’t be too difficult since you’ve probably passed the previous tests. This would likely place you within their “tribe” – a lot like if you went to a meetup for a specific subject you’re interested in… you’ll fit in with others like you, people with the same interests. But bad branding, well that makes you forgettable at best. At worst it shows that you don’t represent specific values, when really you do, and so you fail at making a connection.


Becoming an authority

As you build a marketing plan for a nonprofit, you’ll establish a number of goals. As we’ve mentioned, these can range from generating revenue to growing a membership, but to do any of these things, you’ll need to position your organization as an authority in its field. Being recognized as experts takes time and effort. It involves creating the materials, presence and relationships for people to notice you.

But branding also plays an important part.

All people have a bias towards those in authority. If you look the part, people will assume you to be the part. Your organization’s visual identity is a big part of demonstrating who you are. If it’s highly professional, people will take notice, perceive there to be higher value in what you have to say and trust what you say.


Fundraising, donations and stability

Trust is a key factor in people’s decisions on whether to contribute to a nonprofit organization. They must believe you have the capability to do the work that you say you know how to do, and to do it well with no waste. This means the process of capturing attention, building authority and looking trustworthy are all key considerations when developing your branding.


Donation Strategy Guide for 2019. It’s free.

Increase online donations for your nonprofit with this donation strategy guide updated for 2019.

Diversify your funding sources with hundreds or thousands of small donors, Learn how to maximize the donations you receive, Generate a more stable month-to-month revenue stream, Learn how to tie in donation strategies to your brand and web strategies!

Stuart S.

Stuart is Technical Director and Managing Director at Waqa Studios.