ASPCA; Habit for Humanity; World Wildlife Fund; American Heart Association; UNICEF; Doctors without Borders.

What do all of these have in common? In case you have not guessed, these are well-known brands of national and global nonprofit organizations. Much like their for-profit counterparts, these groups have worked ceaselessly to build, maintain, and protect their reputations and their brand equity.

But why is a brand so important? 

As we have discussed in blogs, articles and webinars over the years, your nonprofit’s brand name, whether it enjoys a local, regional, statewide, or larger footprint across the region you serve, is a powerful shortcut that enables you to generate awareness, loyalty, and engagement. Your brand represents you in the community.  When it is well recognized, and respected, you have the opportunity to differentiate your mission and create an immediate emotional bond with constituents, donors and volunteers. 

Exactly what is a brand?

While it is easy to say that the nonprofit’s brand is defined by its logo or its name, the actual explanation is much broader than this. (The logo and name are, to be sure, a part of the definition but there is more to it.)  Your staff, your events, your materials, your web site, your social media posts, your facilities, and even the advocates who support you – in fact, the sum total of all these - comprise your brand and contribute to the way you are perceived by others. 

How do you build and maintain a brand name?

It is important for every nonprofit of any size, to focus on cultivating a strong brand in the community it serves.  With so much intense competition for volunteers and financial resources, it is more important than ever for an organization to cultivate a positive reputation that distinguishes it, drives recognition, and compels action.

Start with a plan

Following a strategic branding plan can help to enhance and sustain the organization’s good name over time.  The plan should begin with a statement that spells out your organization’s unique selling proposition (USP). In other words, ask yourselves: what does the organization do differently than others; what is its mission; how great is its impact.  Answering these probing questions and having an agreed upon USP paves the way for success of the brand.

The next step in the process is to conduct a situational analysis. The organization needs to be transparent about discussing its strengths and weaknesses as well as identifying future opportunities and potential threats it may face.  This information is used to create a road map for strengthening the brand. Knowing the key characteristics of the group enables you to leverage your strengths and find ways to overcome or minimize your weaknesses going forward.

Armed with this knowledge, an organization can select multiple platforms to promote its brand and reinforce its mission and its reputation. Today’s technology gives us all many opportunities for connecting with our audience in a meaningful way. Whether through sharing relevant data on your website, maintaining Facebook and Instagram picture galleries, sending targeted email announcements and invitations, or tweeting news, you have an almost endless array of tools to help tell your story.     

Influencer marketing never goes out of style

Along with technology, there is one other critical ingredient needed for effective branding:  the voice of your supporerts. Loyal donors, volunteers, board members, and users of your services are among the most profound marketing and branding means you have at your disposal. It has been well documented that people want to support people they like and trust. So what better way to confirm your brand and your value than through the words of the people who are closest to you!  Their opinions, their commitment, their testimonials – all these are significant for brand building.

Protect the brand!

As every organization knows, building a brand and maintaining a highly regarded reputation is essential for success. To safeguard your brand, your organization must hold fast to high ethical standards, maintain core values, and demonstrate integrity in every situation.   It is all too easy in this day of immediate news circulation for one misstep or compromise in good judgement to cause an organization to flounder. News travels fast and bad news travels fastest of all. Be prepared to protect what the organization stands for - maintain vigilance regarding the processes, initiatives, staff, supporters, funders and mission. Your brand means everything!