Easy Ways to Improve Your Nonprofit Branding

When beginning your nonprofit marketing journey, it might not be the first instinct to consider branding as an essential item on the to-do list. Countless mission-driven goals likely come to mind first: mission statements, programming plans, fundraising goals, corporate partnerships, and more.

With all that on your plate, should investing in brand identity still be a priority? After all, you’re a nonprofit, not a traditional company. It might feel counterintuitive to put money into something as seemingly capitalistic as branding. And even still, our answer: a resounding yes!

While a nonprofit certainly has its differences from a traditional company, to the outside world, branding is everything. It’s how you tell who you are, what you do, and how you do it in an easy-to-understand, consistent way. You’ll recruit donors and supporters based on the stories you tell and how you tell them. This is the basis of branding for any organization. 

We’ve all heard that a picture says a thousand words, and it’s just as true for branding as it is for anything else. Your brand conveys tone, feeling, and emotion, which all drive brand loyalty. And yes, you’ll always have competitors — no matter how great your cause! You’re competing for limited donor dollars and limited attention spans, and brand loyalty is what cultivates continuous engagement with your organization over others.

So when we say branding, what specifically do we mean? There can be many tactics within branding, but two of the main ones we’ll focus on are design and copy. With cohesive brand guidelines and clear, compelling copy, your organization will be well on its way to telling its story, visually and narratively.

Nail Down the Design Aspects

While design may seem like a simple concept, it is a critical factor in brand identity for nonprofit marketing. The image you project visually is the first thing potential supporters see before they even learn about what you do. 

Color Palette

Before you design your logo or website, pick a color scheme for your brand. Colors are an important part of nonprofit development; numerous studies center on the psychology of colors and how different colors convey specific messages. 

According to ColorPsychology.org, “the color, make, look and feel of a product affects 93 percent of the buying decision.” Not only that — 62-90 percent of shoppers (or, in a nonprofit’s case — supporters and donors) make quick, almost subconscious judgments and decisions based on the influence of color. 

Check out some examples of the kinds of feelings and messages you convey by your brand identity’s color choice:

  • Red: passion, energy, action, ambition
  • Orange: energy and happiness, enthusiasm, success, encouragement
  • Yellow: intellect, optimism, cheer
  • Green: balance, growth, self-reliance, harmony
  • Blue: authenticity, trust, peace, loyalty, integrity
  • Purple: imagination, creativity, wisdom, extravagance, magic

And the psychology of colors means more than just an organization’s overall visual image. It can be part of strategic nonprofit marketing, too. For example, while you may want your logo to have a tranquil feel with a cooler color, using more attention-grabbing colors for details like buttons on your site could be a beneficial way to strategically incorporate additional colors to the overall logo look and feel.

Hubspot tested this theory by varying the CTA (call-to-action) buttons to see what performed best. Red outperformed green for a CTA button by 21 percent! 

Logo

After selecting key colors, the next step in forming visual identities for nonprofit development is to design your logo. There are a few elements to remember as you consider options to ensure your logo is: 

  • Memorable
  • Simple
  • Resizable
  • Timeless

What may look good on a computer screen may not look well in the corner of a stationary envelope. Create your logo to be used and applied across all mediums in a recognizable way — but not so detailed that shrinking it down makes it unrecognizable!

Fortunately, science has some recommendations on how to make an eye-catching, memorable logo that will positively speak to your potential supporters. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, a descriptive logo is a way to go instead of a nondescript logo. What’s the difference? An illustrative logo conveys what you’re actually “selling” and not just your name (for example, Burger King has a burger in the logo while McDonald’s, while successful with its nondescript golden arches, doesn’t convey what it offers). 

What does that look like in the nonprofit marketing world? Here are some nonprofit organization marketing examples:

  • Unicef: an adult holding a child in front of a globe
    UNICEF Logo, history, meaning, symbol, PNG
  • The World Wildlife Fund: image of a panda with the acronym of their organization underneath
World Wide Fund for Nature - Wikipedia
Peace Corps (@PeaceCorps) / Twitter
Prophet Refreshes Brand and Visual Identity for The Water Trust | Business  Wire

You don’t have to be entirely on the nose, but research suggests that conveying a clear and visual message about what you’re trying to accomplish can be more beneficial than trying to get abstract with your logo. 

Typography

Even the font you choose plays a vital role in nonprofit development. You want your typography to be easy to read but not so monotonous that it can’t catch your audience’s eye. 

One study tested multiple fonts and how they communicated a brand’s personality. The results demonstrated how important fonts were to convey the overall look and feel of a brand.

“Managers should choose type fonts that communicate desirable traits and augment the brand’s personality profile using other design elements (for example, color),” the researchers wrote in their conclusion report. 

Oftentimes, pairing different kinds of typography can be effective, too. What you’d use for a logo or even a headline in your newsletter or website may not be what you’d want to use to write the fundraiser pitch email. Layer your fonts with different kinds that work harmoniously together.

Here are some general types and what they’re most effective for in nonprofit marketing and brand identity:

  • Serif
    • Feels: traditional, sophisticated, reliable, practical, formal
    • Best used on: logo, body copy, web copy, titles, printed materials
    • Examples: Baskerville, Times, Georgia, Garamond
  • Sans Serif
    • Feels: modern, clean, geometric, universal, straightforward
    • Best used on: logo, body copy, titles, small text, great for emails
    • Examples: Verdana, Helvetica, Futura
  • Script
    • Feels: elegant, formal, classic, sophisticated
    • Best used on: logo, titles, invitations
    • Examples: Buttermilk, Zapfino, Edwardian 
  • Monospace
    • Feels: bold, contemporary, trendy
    • Best used on: logo, titles 
    • Examples: MonoLisa, Fira Code, Input Mono 

Keep the Language Consistent

Once you know how you want your nonprofit marketing to look, it’s time to focus on the actual messaging. The way you communicate with your donors and supporters is crucial for branding — and a large component of making your nonprofit marketing strategy soar is copy development. 

Tone & Voice

When starting your nonprofit development, consider your brand’s tone and voice. How do you want to sound to your audience? 

  • Are you the big brother/sister offering supportive, straightforward advice?
  • Are you an intellectual informing a peer in a respectful, formal way?
  • Are you the cool friend down the street chatting over a beverage?
  • Are you a comedian lightening up someone’s day?

Maybe you’d like to be a combination of these or something entirely different. The key is to be consistent and to figure out what your audience best responds to. Some tried and true tones many brands swear by are the following:

  • Simple
    • It’s straightforward to understand. Not a lot of fluff and minimal in length.
  • Friendly
    • It uses an informal tone that also projects warmth and comfort. It can be funny but mostly relaxed. It uses lighthearted language to bolster the overall copy.
  • Assured
    • It projects knowledgeable confidence. It can be straightforward while also airing on the side of authority.
  • Informative
    • It leans on statistics and facts to get the point across.

Usually, a brand can select a dominant voice from this list and layer it with the others to create a balanced, effective, and engaging communication style. 

A two-part experiment by the Nielson Norman Group found that “different tones of voice on a website have measurable impacts on users’ perceptions of a brand’s friendliness, trustworthiness, and desirability.” In the end, the result determined that casual, conversational, and enthusiastic tones were the top performers. 

Perhaps the most critical component that should be communicated via copy, though? Trustworthiness.

“Tone of voice is a powerful tool for influencing that perception of trustworthiness, and the right tone to evoke trust will differ based on your users and their concerns,” the report asserted.

Especially in the nonprofit world, it’s important to speak to potential volunteers, supporters, and staff with a tone that conveys the magnitude of your mission, and solidifies that you’re an organization that others can trust and get behind in bringing that mission to life.

UncommonGood Can Help You Establish Your Brand Identity

When you look at larger nonprofit organization marketing examples, it’s clear how large budgets and donor bases can fund elaborate and detailed brand development. But that doesn’t mean smaller organizations can’t build branding at a similar scale that conveys their unique message to the world to grow their following and further their mission for good.

That’s why UncommonGood is here to help. With our comprehensive suite of tools specifically designed to help smaller nonprofits, we offer an affordable and easy-to-use resource to gain the support you need during your nonprofit marketing endeavors.

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