Don't Rob Peter to Pay Paul
There are two core elements that create a successful nonprofit brand: visuals and messages. Visual elements include not just your logo, but also the colors, type, images and other graphics you use consistently with it. Messages include your mission statement, tag line, key messages, and the standard (or “boilerplate”) copy you use to articulate your work and its value.
“Because we have a very active, grass roots membership, our brand development process included getting input and buy-in from our members and volunteers,” says Ed Goodell, executive director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, a federation dedicated to building and maintaining marked hiking trails and protecting related open space in the bi-state region. “At times, what membership wanted differed from what the board and staff felt. The process, which was frustrating at times, forced us to have some serious conversations about what truly makes us unique and how we can communicate that more specifically. The goal was to differentiate ourselves from other organizations whose work may be related.”
Most successfully branded organizations develop a style guide, which defines the visuals and messages, and how they should be used. Many organizations also train their staffs on how to use the brand.
Please bore me
Once the brand is built, the goal is to use it as extensively as possible. That typically means using the same colors, logo, types of images, mission statement and tag line over and over and over again.
“Some of our staff may occasionally get bored with using the same elements all the time,” says Beth Walsh, communications director at AmeriCares, a nonprofit organization that provides domestic and international disaster and humanitarian relief, aid and assistance around the world, “but we know that’s what works. Our international partners recognize the brand, donors and supporters recognize it; it’s our face in the global community. Whether you visit our Web site, receive our newsletter or read our annual report, you’ll see and read the same messages.”