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3 Key Lessons in Nonprofit Branding (With Examples!)

5 min read
February 05, 2021
Rachel Clepper headshot
Rachel Clepper
Senior Content Marketing Specialist, Neon One

Your nonprofit branding is a huge part of your overall success. And no, we don’t just mean your logo. 

Many nonprofits don’t think they can invest the time and resources needed for a rebrand. Regardless of resources, branding should not be ignored. This is especially true if it can solve a problem your nonprofit is facing.

Nonprofit branding doesn’t need to be a massive investment of time and money. You can take simple steps to build or update your brand. Because ultimately, your brand should support your mission and your organization’s growth.

Follow along as we provide more clarity into why branding matters. This blog will also include real examples and lessons from nonprofits that have recently gone through branding changes.

Why is Nonprofit Branding Important?

I’ve heard people ask, “Do nonprofits even have a brand?” Yes, they do, and your nonprofit branding is a huge part of your donor engagement strategy. Ultimately, the comes back to your long-term success. Why? Because your brand is determined by how others experience and perceive your nonprofit. 

When your audience automatically recognizes your name and logo and trusts your mission, your audience will come back again and again. That’s what a good brand is, recognizable and trustworthy. 

Still not convinced? Let’s break it down to three key reasons why you should care about nonprofit branding:

  • Creating Trust and Loyalty. A clear and recognizable brand fosters trust with your supporters. This effort supports any donor engagement strategy you may already have set in place.
  • Providing Clear Communication & Messaging. Rebranding doesn’t always mean changing just your visual brand. A clear mission with matching messaging guidelines helps your audience (and your internal team) better understand your mission. This clarity leads to more donations.
  • Increasing Your Revenue. If your rebrand speaks to your audience, they will respond positively. A study done with over 350 nonprofits showed that the majority receive an increase in donations followed by a recent rebrand.
better branding for nonprofits. "How to successfully launch a rebrand in 2021"
better branding for nonprofits. "How to successfully launch a rebrand in 2021"

3 Lessons in Nonprofit Branding

Whether you are just getting started with a rebrand or planning to launch your nonprofit for the first time, we’ve got you. We hope these lessons from real nonprofit organizations will inspire your process.

Lesson #1: Rebrand for a Reason

You may have heard advice like, “Nonprofits need a full rebrand every five years.” This statement could not be farther from the truth! The reasons for changing your nonprofit branding should be rooted in one of two things. The first is addressing a problem that your current brand does not solve. The second is addressing an opportunity on the nonprofit level. 

If nonprofits don’t need a full rebrand every five years, then how do nonprofits increase brand awareness? How do you make your nonprofit stand out? First, you need to recognize and be honest with problems that your brand may be causing.

The Ulman Foundation recognized a problem with their brand and used it as an opportunity to strengthen their mission.

When the Ulman Foundation was first created, they started with the name “The Ulman Cancer Fund For Young Adults.” In the last 20 years, they have grown to include various sub-brands for events and services. At some of these events, people who were heavily involved did not recognize the name “Ulman.” This was because of the variety of sub-brands they created.

Ulman Foundation Logo
Ulman Foundation Logo

The Ulman Foundation announced their name change in 2018. They used their rebrand as a chance to revisit the history of their organization. The rebrand focused on the work that they have done in the past to lead them to where they are now. What are they? The oldest and largest nonprofit organization in the country focused on young cancer patients and families. 

When people think of rebranding, they are often worried about losing the history of their organization. This is an excellent example of how you can highlight your history while still moving forward.

Lesson #2: Include Your Audience & Supporters

Your audience is a huge part of who you are as a nonprofit. When your brand is no longer connecting to and effectively reaching your audience, you have a problem.

This became a huge issue for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. They found that they were no longer effectively reaching one of their most important audiences — young prospective mentors. They started an extensive research process. The decision? They needed to revive their well-known brand.

Their research included over eighty interviews with Bigs, Littles, match support specialists, board members, donors, and guardians. The interviews helped them to understand better the changes to better engage with their desired audience. These interviews lead to changes to their logo, colors, and messaging to young mentors.

The input from their wide variety of stakeholders helped them create informed decisions around the logo and messaging. This helped them to create the impact they were hoping for, a great engagement with young prospective mentors.

Lesson #3: Match Your Website to Your Mission

Your website is often the first touch-point of your organization. This is now more important than ever in this increasingly digital time. A clear, consistent brand is a foundational element to establishing your nonprofit’s presence and amplifying your mission. 

The Todd & Stephanie Schnick Foundation is a great example of the importance of matching your website to your mission. 

Todd & Stephanie Schnick Foundation
Todd & Stephanie Schnick Foundation

The Todd & Stephanie Schnick Foundation used Neon Websites Branding Package to update their logo and color palette and create an authentic, unified message on their website with the skilled designers at Neon One.

Did you know that a simple nonprofit branding application can make a big impact? Even something as simple as using an online donation form that features your logo and colors. According to studies, online donation forms that feature branding receive 38% larger gifts.

Nonprofit Web Design Solutions That Drive Results

Create a website that does more with the Neon Websites Branding Package.

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