HOW TO DEVELOP A SUCCESSFUL VISUAL BRAND FOR YOUR NONPROFIT

visual brand development

Your nonprofit organization needs to communicate its brand to raise money, recruit volunteers, reach the right audience for your programs, and establish your leadership position around your core issue. 

Your visual brand makes the first impression with supporters, volunteers, and donors. It should be cohesive, professional, and polished so it helps to establish credibility, and build trust and connections with your audience.  It’s not only about having a nice logo; your visual brand creates an experience so you’re easily recognizable in a positive way.   

All successful nonprofit organizations use impeccable branding techniques to help them grow revenue, outreach, and engagement. Although it can take years of steady, dedicated work, it’s worth the effort to procure results that are lasting and effective. 

WHAT IT IS TO “BRAND” SOMETHING

Branding comes from the cattle ranching term, meaning to leave a mark on something with a branding iron, separating and identifying a herd from others. Branding is how everyone perceives your business. When customers see your organization’s name or logo, they should instantly know what to expect, and the quality and nature of your services. 

BUILDING A BRAND STRATEGY

Define your brand so contributors and volunteers can recognize it. Your mission statement will help you out a lot with this. Refer back to it and answer questions like: 

What is your mission? What are the benefits and who or what are you helping? How are you helping them? What qualities do you want your supporters to associate with your nonprofit and how it’s run? What do your donors and supporters think of your brand already? 

These questions can help you find a profitable target audience. When you home in on your demographic, you can tweak your brand to make it appealing to them and encourage them to take action when they see it. 

THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR VISUAL BRAND

Your visual brand must include your logo, typography preferences, and a color palette. Photography, icons, illustrations and/or mood boards all help to create a strong visual brand. Ensure that each element is cohesive; use the same fonts and colors consistently and use photos similar in style and that convey the same emotions. 

YOUR MISSION SPEAKS VOLUMES

Start with your mission statement. It serves as a written manifesto for your company, employees, and customers. If you’re still not sure what yours is, or you’re having trouble nailing it down, we break down the process of how to create one here.

UNITE EVERYTHING WITH A TAGLINE

A tagline summarizes your mission statement and the values of your organization. For example, the American Heart Association’s mission is “To be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.” The organization’s tagline is “Life is why.” Use your tagline on your website, print collateral, and social media campaigns. If it’s short you can also create a hashtag with it for your social media posts. Your tagline will be an integral part of what your nonprofit represents and values. 

IT STARTS WITH A COMPELLING LOGO

Your logo should be distinguishable – colors, symbols and fonts are a great place to start for creating a cohesive look across your marketing materials, website, and social media pages.  

You’ll also want your logo to be simple enough in design that it won’t be difficult for your audience to figure out what it is. It should hold its shape whether it’s printed tiny on a postcard or blown up on a billboard.  

Example of a distinguishable logo: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) 

THE BRAND EXPERIENCE

No matter the size of your organization, you can have an enormous presence online, so investing in your website, social media networks, and email marketing to further establish and grow your brand is critical. These three components can catapult your organization’s growth, so it’s essential that all colors, patterns, themes, logos, and fonts are consistent throughout. 

The content you post on your social media platforms should be aesthetically and thematically consistent. Use your logo as your profile picture and put your tagline and a link to your website in the space for additional info. If you have images with words or phrases, the style should be similar to ones used on your website and other communication materials. It is also encouraged to post similar content and photos on multiple platforms at one time. 

Example of a visual brand experience that goes beyond the logo:  

Your company’s visuals and tagline will help your supporters identify your nonprofit and can help bring in new business. People like well-defined, well-established companies because it shows you’re professional with a lot of experience.

BUILDING TRUST AND SHARING FEELINGS

A visual brand helps people feel good about your company. For example, if your nonprofit helps install water filtration systems in rural areas, you can share photos of your volunteers doing the work and sharing water with the local community. This will spark joy and hope in your audience, because they’ll see what a powerful and wonderful difference your organization is making in someone’s life. These positive feelings encourage donors and volunteers to return to your nonprofit to offer support and help your cause once again, or better yet, recommend it to others and get more people involved. A strong visual brand summarizes feelings in a tangible way. Without evoking positive feelings, your audience has no reason to return or to recommend your organization.  Your brand and your logo are visual indicators of the trust and positive feelings you evoke and build in others. If you stick to your values and mission, you’ll easily build lasting relationships and establish yourself as a reliable source.  

Image example from Charity: Water that captures their impact: 

You’ll know your brand is effective if you’re able to increase donations and build successful relationships with individuals, corporations, and other foundations that support you financially. This is all able to happen when you’ve reached the right people, you’ve kept them engaged with your mission, and you become the number one source for information and leadership regarding your issue. All it takes is representing your organization in a thoughtful way that turns your mission statement and values into a physical representation of your nonprofit. 

Download our free branding workbook to help you build a cohesive brand for your nonprofit:

Insquired creates meaningful branding solutions for nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Our creative process and strategic thinking results in high-impact design with purpose, tailored with each client’s target audience in mind. If you’re ready to upgrade your branding and visual identity, please contact us for more information. We’ll customize a solution that embodies your core values and supports your mission. 

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