Written by Charlotte Davies
When you’re a not-for-profit trying to stand out from the crowd to win funding, advocacy opportunities or donations, investing in your brand and positioning might be the difference in a successful contract, a recurring donation or even a shout out from a local politician or government body.
We get it though – when you’re a small organisation with limited time and budget it’s difficult to justify space on any kind of branding exercise, let alone sitting down with the team to condense their big ideas on things like colours and imagery. Reviewing your brand can feel like a daunting task (unless of course, you thrive in the chaos of colour charts and big opinions like us!). What if we told you though, that a strong brand is actually one of the most important things for your organisation? In fact… it might be the most important thing you refine and define.
What actually IS branding?
Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organisation. It takes into consideration everything, not just your logo or your tagline. Your brand is the voice of your clients, and the conversations you have as a team each week. It’s the social media posts you create for Facebook, the crisis calls you take on the intake phone AND the service calls that come through to front office. It’s the business card you hand to a potential funding body or the celebration speech you make after a successful fundraising event. Branding brings the personality of your whole organisation together, allowing people to connect and to build trust with you. It might help secure resources or drive fundraising efforts, in fact 93% of nonprofits recognise that a strong brand identity has a positive impact on donor engagement, but ultimately it contributes to making a positive difference in your focus areas and for the communities you serve.
So how do we actually bring together everything your organisation does and make it one cohesive identity?
For me, the first step is to start thinking of your organisation as if it were an individual. What might this individual look like or sound like? How do they speak, how do they act, and what do they value? How can we define their their character? I think of an organisation as someone I’d like to get to know – learning their unique personality in order to highlight and celebrate them.
From here, we move through the five stages of our branding process:
Before diving into the brand development process it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and discovery to gain a deep understanding of the organisation, industry or sector and target audience. This includes assessing your current brand perception and reviewing existing brand assets. The insights gained from this discovery phase inform and shape your entire brand strategy, ensuring the process is based on a solid foundation of knowledge and allowing for a more informed and effective strategy.
2. Brand Strategy
The strategy process is a crucial phase in developing a brand as it sets the direction and defines the fundamental aspects of your brand. It includes clearly articulating your brand’s mission statement, brand values and brand promise – and not always under these titles or structure. Even the way you tell your brand story is a part of your brand story. Your defined strategy represents the core purpose for your organisation and your brand existing.
We worked closely with the Headstart team to define their Brand Values and their who, what, why – setting the foundation for their complete identity.
3. Brand Positioning
Here we build a clear and consistent brand message that communicates your established values, promise and positioning. This can be summarised as defining your brand personality, with specific inclusions being your messaging, tone of voice (or brand tone) and your tagline.
4. Brand Identity
Once everything has been established in the previous steps we’re ready to develop the visual and tangible elements that represent your brand. This includes producing a logo that is unique to your organisation and aligned with your brand’s personality and values. We incorporate a proposed colour palette, typography, imagery and other graphics that best reflect your brand’s essence.
I want to highlight the University of Sydney here and the work we did on their Mental Health Think Tank brand identity. The Think Tank was built on collaboration, ideas and hope – where a collective of very passionate and connected people challenged the idea of mental health as a negative. We introduced bold and bright colours to highlight this thinking, highlighting a personality that is also bold, forward-thinking and driven by ideas.
5. Brand System
Here we build a cohesive brand experience, taking your identity components and building a hierarchy that defines all assets and defines use, resulting in a brand Guidelines document. The guide serves as a reference for both internal and external use and ensures consistency across all brand materials. It includes specifications for logo usage, colour codes, typography guidelines, image examples, and any other relevant visual elements.
And so to finish..
We believe that your brand should appeal to, engage with, and inspire your audience. It is the foundation your marketing is built on; the cornerstone of how your organisation is experienced by the world. Your brand identity should set you apart and stake claim to your position in the sector. It should connect people to your service, inspiring emotional engagement and loyalty. It gives your donors, volunteers and your existing supporters a reason to continue their support and gives potential new supporters a reason to give.