22 Aug Non-Profit Organizations: This Design Mindset Will Make You Completely Reconsider Your Logo and Branding Strategy
Is your non-profit organization really getting the most out of its branding strategy?
…Does it have a branding strategy?
Members of the non-profit community sometimes shy away from the same marketing practices that for-profit businesses employ. Often this is because of the general mindset of a non-profit organization. It’s right there in the name, “not for profit.”
You’re here to do some good, improve the lives of others, and maybe even change the world. You’ve worked hard to put yourself into a position where you can spend all (or at least a good portion) of your time on something you’re passionate about. Something that matters.
None of those things make you think, “Great, now let’s get some stone-cold demographics data analysis done and start a strategic advertising campaign with a killer ROI.”
This starting point is what results in so many non-profit organizations undervaluing—or eschewing completely—the many benefits of a strong logo and brand. After all, you’re here to help people (non-profits), not to make the biggest paycheck you can (for-profit). People should see how good you are, all the positive changes you can make, how important your mission is, and simply come flocking to your organization in droves… right?
Unfortunately, as you may already know, that’s not quite how it works. The problem with the “we’re the good guys so we don’t need a branding strategy” mindset is that it’s actually detrimental to your organization’s ability to do good in the world.The same branding strategies used by for-profits can extend the reach of non-profits. Click To Tweet
To put it simply, the more supporters a non-profit has, the more funds they accrue, and therefore the more good things they can do. No supporters = no funding = less good things.
One of the most effective ways a non-profit can garner more support is with a very strong, well-thought-out branding strategy. Here’s the good news: for-profit businesses have been figuring these things out for a very long time and there’s absolutely no reason why a non-profit shouldn’t learn from them, pick and choose the elements of for-profit branding and marketing strategies that work, and use them to further their goals.
In a nutshell, for-profit branding strategies work. Not using them may in fact mean that you’re doing your organization a disservice, because even though your organization is not-for-profit, using these strategies will help you grow your support base and thus improve your mission’s success.
Therefore, that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss here today: which logo and branding strategies do for-profit businesses utilize, and how do these concepts “translate” into the non-profit realm? How can you use these concepts to better your organization and do more good in the world?
Let’s dig in!
Understanding the Key Elements of a Successful Branding Strategy
First things first. What actually makes for a strong branding strategy, whether it’s for a traditional for-profit business or a non-profit organization?
While there’s a lot of subtleties and minutiae that need to be considered for the “final product,” most experts would likely agree that the following components are cornerstones of a strong brand:
- Comprehensive understanding of target audience. Knowing who your “target” audience is—the people most likely to be interested in your organization—is usually the first step to building a strong brand. Understanding their likes, dislikes, and what kind of person they’re most likely to be will give you insight into how to present your organization.
- Visually memorable. An unforgettable logo, color scheme, and overall visual appeal must be developed so that your target audience immediately recognizes your organization.
- Clarity of message. A clear and concise message must be defined while building your branding strategy. Pinpoint accuracy is usually preferred, even if it’s just a few words.
- Differentiation. What a traditional business might refer to as a USP (Unique Selling Point). This answers the question of, “Why is your non-profit worth my attention? Why should I choose to support your work?”
- Consistency. Both for-profit and non-profit entities will benefit greatly from consistency throughout all of their marketing materials. From your logo to the brochure you hand out, colors, fonts, and tone of copywriting should all flow in sync.
With these key elements in mind, let’s discuss them in a bit more detail as they relate to the non-profit sector.
Understanding Your Non-Profit Target Audience
A common technique used by for-profit businesses to better understand their target audience is called the “ideal customer profile.” In this exercise, the business attempts to build a fictitious persona most likely to represent, you guessed it, whoever their ideal customer would be.
Perhaps it’s a male in his late 40s, married and a parent, well-off but not rich, travels frequently, went to college, and secretly enjoys watching The Vampire Diaries on Netflix. The last bit there is a little joke, but make no mistake about it—ideal customer profiles can get very detailed.
A non-profit organization can take this same technique and replace “customer” with whatever noun they like. You might build out an ideal supporter profile. Think about who this imaginary person would be—their gender, age, marital status, education, and so on. Having an understanding of who your brand is supposed to be communicating with can make a huge impact on its effectiveness.
Building a Visually Memorable Non-Profit Brand
Part of any strong brand is a memorable logo. If you pause to think for a moment of the most recognizable logos in your experience, you’ll probably come up with a list of for-profit companies such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Ford, and so on—but you’ll likely think of a few non-profit organizations as well, such as Red Cross, Girl or Boy Scouts, PBS, or the World Wildlife Fund (that’s the one with the cute panda).
As you can see, it’s not just the for-profit businesses that can benefit from a great logo. Non-profit organizations like yours can use the same design strategies to create a memorable logo and brand, and indeed, they probably should.
Crystal Clear: How Well Defined is Your Message?
What is your mission? Why is it important? Why should your target audience be compelled to get involved with your organization? What do you do better than the “competition”?
These are all questions you should be able to answer. Most for-profit businesses have a mission statement that clearly defines who they are and what they’re all about.
An effective mission statement isn’t something you’ll likely piece together in a day or two—it’s something you want to think about carefully, and it’s all right if it changes over time to reflect your experiences and growth.
Be Unique to Stand Out From the Crowd
The non-profit sector is just as crowded as the for-profit arena. To thrive—and thus do as much good as possible—standing out from the “competition” is an absolute necessity. Strong branding can help you stand out and get noticed.
Getting noticed is important, but one could easily argue that the experience a potential supporter has after noticing you is more important. Think of smart, unique branding as a lure of sorts. It opens the door, but you have to provide the guest with something noteworthy. This is the other component of being unique. How does your organization challenge the status quo? What solutions are you presenting that haven’t been explored by anyone else?
Brand Consistency is for Non-Profits Too
The whole concept of strategic branding is based around consistency. It means that your website, social media profiles, marketing materials, and print handouts have a consistent look and feel. This has been employed by for-profit businesses for decades—because it works. In effect, consistency “pre-sells” the content, whatever it may be. Customers familiar with the brand feel at home, and new customers can see that the company isn’t floundering around in amateur hour.
It may be that brand consistency for non-profit organizations is even more important. Generally, a non-profit will benefit from giving the impression that they’re “solid.” Consistency among all of your marketing materials will show supporters that you’re here to stay. As you already know, building trust is key to a successful non-profit.
Don’t Be Afraid to Build Your Brand… The World Will Thank You
The major takeaway from this post should be that just because your organization is a non-profit, you definitely shouldn’t hesitate to use the same strategies that successful for-profit businesses use. Understand your target audience, clarify your mission statement, stand out from the crowd, and stay consistent. By doing so, you’ll improve your ability to do good in the world… because that’s why you got involved with a non-profit in the first place, right?
If you’d like to learn more about powerful branding strategies and how our team of Ninjaz can help you with everything from graphic design to high-powered copywriting, we’d like to encourage you to start a conversation with us today.
A California native, Elijah currently lives and works in Colorado. He enjoys writing killer copy, reading out of print fantasy novels, developing websites, and spending time with his family.