branding or brand voice development

There are two sides to the “branding” coin: written and visual. Your brand voice is how your nonprofit expresses its voice, language, and tone. Just like visual representation, such as a logo and color theme, can set a mood, the language and tone you use will also help to engage the right audience.

Our blog about visual branding defines how nonprofit organizations should use their logo, photos, colors, fonts, and visual aesthetic to identify themselves, tell a story, and evoke positive emotions that get supporters and donors to take action. However, visuals without a brand voice isn’t as powerful, which is why the written aspect of your brand is equally important.


Determine the groups of people that will be most critical to your organization. Who are you speaking to? Of course, you want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, but without a proper direction to guide you, your voice will be lost. To be the most effective, address the most profitable demographic for your organization. What type of person are they? What do they value? What are their interests? What motivates them? Determining these identifying factors will help you to write language that resonates and attracts them.  


If your organization was a person, how would you describe it? Personality attributes help your brand establish and cultivate a consistent tone and a consistent appeal. If your nonprofit pays for school lunches for teens in high school, your voice might be youthful and peppy. However, if your nonprofit helps arctic animals suffering from the impact of global warming, such as Polar Bears International, you’ll probably use more scientific jargon, have a tone of urgency, and address major players in the corporate world capable of making bigger changes and giving bigger donations. The tone and language you use should also be cohesive with your nonprofit’s visual identity. For example, if your written branding is going to be more youthful, you may want to incorporate brighter colors and lighter, whimsical images. You don’t want to use dark, moody colors or photos that contradict the written message.  


Strong brands create an experience through emotion for their supporters or customers. What does your audience get when they support your nonprofit? What is the emotional return they receive for investing in it? Children’s Wish is a charity that helps make the dreams of sick children come true. Their brand is friendly, with child-like elements and a little bit of whimsy. They show their donors the happiness they bring to the kids, and they in return get the loving, warm feelings of helping to create magic for a child. When someone donates to a charity, they do so to help someone else. However, donors and volunteers want to see proof that their donations and time are helping the cause. If they can’t see the difference being made, they may stop supporting your cause. The emotional return helps people to feel connected and like they’ve made a positive difference.  


The biggest branding challenge you’re likely to face is distinguishing your organization from other nonprofits. There are thousands of great organizations out there doing impressive work. Start by finding the ones your audience will probably compare you to. Then, look for the unclaimed ground and use that to your advantage. When you find what separates your organization, you’ll also find people who will back you because of that difference. For example, there are many organizations that help feed children such as No Kid Hungry and Feed the Children. Although their missions are very similar, their branding and messaging are different because they serve different communities and regions.  


Your written messages should be clear and describe exactly what you do. Create an attention-grabbing tagline and include it wherever you sign your name. This includes your website, letterheads, email signatures, and even voicemail greetings. 

Email will be the primary way you communicate with donors, volunteers and supporters because it’s more cost effective, and growing your audience via your email list should be easy. Make sure it builds on the brand foundations discussed, starting with your mission statement. Part of your brand strategy will include who you’re emailing, how often, about what, and what the call to action is. 

Keep your list segmented by type of supporter (donor, volunteer, program recipient, advocate) or by key demographics. Edit the content of your emails so it speaks directly to the segment’s experience of your organization. Your emails should inspire action and remain consistent with your written and visual brand.  


For effective social media management, pick two or three platforms where you will focus your efforts. Facebook is still a primary platform for most nonprofits. Facebook ads are great to promote action; use them to ask for donations, promote an event, grow your email list, recruit volunteers, and grow your program participants. Facebook also makes it easy to share donation links and collect donations without leaving the platform, using almost any form of payment. LinkedIn is a great platform to reach existing and potential business sponsors and partners, and recruit skilled staff. Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are additional social media platforms that are often used by nonprofits. Use Instagram to share stunning photos that share your stories and evoke emotion. Use Twitter to share quick news and headlines or link to your blog. YouTube is great for posting short informational videos about your work, latest accomplishments, or humanitarian efforts. 


Nonprofits should be experts; they see injustice, hardships, or problems in the community or around the globe that need to be healed, and they have the power to do so. It takes a dedicated person or organization to make that positive change happen, so obviously your supporters and audience will refer to you for guidance. Make sure you’re aware of current trends, industry news, and background data to back up the organization’s work and strategy. Reach out to experts who can provide additional information and further legitimize your cause. Proving that you have done your research and that you continue to stay abreast of all that’s happening in your industry, you become the go-to resource. Pepper this information in when you can, and update your channels immediately so your audience knows you’re working tirelessly to provide information and to make a difference.  


Make it a habit to give more than what is expected, not just to those that your organization helps, but to your donors, volunteers, supporters, and those who selflessly help you do the good work.  A brand promise isn’t just a catchy tagline, it’s an expectation set by your values and goals. Your brand strategy should include an internal map of how you can grow, build relationships, and engage on a genuine and personal level. Everyone that works or volunteers for your organization should uphold this promise, using your nonprofit’s mission statement as the foundation. 

As you define your written brand voice and make enhancements to your writing, remember the key to branding success is to have your clients feel a connection with you through the products and services you deliver. Use language and a tone that appeals to your largest audience. Build an emotional connection through storytelling and use positive emotional words. Don’t be afraid to tweak your messages when necessary, depending on the platform or audience they’re being delivered to, to make it more appealing without losing your brand identity.  

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. 

visual brand development