Picture this. You’re at a fundraising dinner for your charity when Donor McMoneyBags comes up to you and says, “Funny story! I had a few million dollars left to donate this year and I was planning to give it to you guys. But my assistant accidentally gave the money to another charity because your websites looked exactly the same!”
Ouch! Talk about a financial blow that would be hard to recover from!
As painful as it might be to admit, it’s easy for a charitable organization to be so busy changing the world that its non-profit brand is an unfortunate combination of “Meh” and “Cookie-cutter copy of everything all the other non-profits are doing.”
Are you tired of people constantly mixing up your social media handles with those of other non-profits? Is using the same Canva templates and fonts as Charity #1000 starting to feel a little bit, well, embarrassing?
You’ve come to the right place!
We’re about to explain how you can craft a non-profit branding strategy that kicks ass, takes names, and attracts donors like a magnet. Sit down, get comfy, and be ready to take lots of notes.
Table of Contents
Brands that have the type of marketing stickiness that American Express — yes, the credit card company — talks about, aren’t made out of thin air. But fortunately, we’ve broken down the process of refining non-profit brand ideas into two steps:
1. Find and Identify Your Perfect-State USP
Let’s do a quick thought experiment.
If you could wave a magic wand and give every non-profit in the world equal funding and staffing, how would your organization differentiate itself from the rest?
In the business world, it seems like every entrepreneur and their executive board is talking about the value of having a unique sales proposition. And while your non-profit might not need to sell people on your latest widget, you do need to sell donors, volunteers, and stakeholders to you as an organization.
Are you the only charity that offers a particular service to your community? Is there an innovative method that you’re using to address problems? When you understand what makes your organization unique, it becomes a lot easier to create a brand that gets attention at the drop of a hat.
2. Really Understand Your Target Audience
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who didn’t quite “get you” on a personal level? If you’re like most people, chances are that those little miscommunications and personality clashes eventually made it impossible for you to establish a super-close connection with that person.
And in a situation like this, where your brand is your ticket to marketing your nonprofit on easy street, it pays to understand your target audience and what it is they’re looking for. Why? Because getting this wrong can cost you resources at the starting line.
If you’re a donor who’s interested in helping at-risk youth, for example, how would you respond to a landing page that spends more time introducing the team than explaining what the funds are being used for?
Exactly. Don’t turn your non-profit brand into the professional equivalent of talking to someone who makes you want to say, “Are you even listening to me?”.
Executing the Vision
Find the Stories You Want to Tell
According to Harvard, so you know it’s official, storytelling is an excellent way to encourage connection and trust. And while you might not think of your day-to-day life as a movie in the making, you’re just a compelling story or two away from creating a brand that makes people say, “I know those guys!”.
Has your organization been part of a major turnaround? Was your charity founded by someone who experienced a sense of deep personal loss? You just might have the kind of origin story that you could use to build a narrative around your brand.
Of course, you don’t want to be too one-note with your storytelling. If Batman 1 explores the tragic loss of his parents, we all say, “Man that added real depth to his character.”. But if the fifth sequel is still rehashing the same plot, most people’s response would be, “If I wanted to see the same plot over and over again, I’d be watching Jurassic Park!”.
But whether you’ve got one story to tell or six, you can’t underestimate the power of a strong narrative. Your brand will be better for it. And you’ll never run out of ideas for social media posts.
Create Your Marketing Assets
If there was ever a job that was the dictionary definition of “Easier said than done”, this step in your brand-building exercise would be it. At this point, you’re conducting an internal content audit and then making sure that your materials make sense within the larger framework of your soon-to-be brand.
We’ve all seen movies or read books that told us a character was rich or strong or smart only for the events of the plot to leave us saying things like, “For a so-called genius, this person can’t seem to think more than two steps ahead.”.
That’s annoying in your entertainment. And it raises questions about your organization’s authenticity if your brand and your website seem to be at odds.
During this part of the phase, you might be redesigning your website. You could be creating, rewriting, and deleting landing pages. You might even be creating a folder with an internal branding guide and a bunch of redesigned graphics.
As tempting as it might be to cut corners here, you don’t want to rush this. By taking the time to create high-quality marketing assets, your organization will stand out on the strength of its visuals alone.
Watch Your Language
Okay. So it’s a given that most charities aren’t dropping swear words all over the place on their websites. But, even so, your use of language still has the potential to make or break your entire brand.
Today, the whole idea of communicating love to people in a way that works for them is Relationships 101. But in 1992, when the Five Love Languages was published, the simple concept of speaking the same language as your loved ones legitimately transformed relationships for the better overnight.
While the relationship between your organization and its donors isn’t quite that personal, the larger point about communicating with your target audience still stands. If your donors are sticklers for results, a headline that says, “Our program skyrocketed literacy rates by 58 percent. Partner with us!” is going to do way better than a boring and cliche, “Let’s change the world together!”.
Marketing for nonprofits is hard. And fundraising for nonprofits is even harder. With the right linguistic adjustments, you could be a few well-written headlines away from a major funding and resource windfall!
Don't Forget About Your Overall Digital Marketing Strategy
This isn’t an issue per se if you’re Rambo. But when you’re trying to build a marketing strategy that promotes your organization, it’s important to make sure that you’re not making things harder than they need to be.
Some of this may involve the technical work of making sure that your graphics can be resized into Facebook-friendly proportions. And other times it might look like evaluating your content ideas by first asking the question, “How can we reinforce our narrative with this?”.
Building the type of brand that makes people stop dead in their tracks to visit your website goes hand in hand with your promotional efforts. If you can make your branding fit within the context of your overall marketing strategy, you’ll be surprised at how quickly people will take to your organization.
Want Your Organization to Stand Out? Create an Amazing Non-Profit Brand!
When you’re busy trying to be a force for good in the world, finding the time to build and create an incredible non-profit brand can be insanely difficult.
We can handle everything from web design to digital marketing strategy.
With our help, you can get more donors, more volunteers, and more interest in your cause in less time than you think!