11 Steps to Rebranding an Annual Fund
Rebranding any type of product, service, company or school can be extremely challenging work, but one of the most difficult pieces to rebrand is an annual fund. Fundraising of any type can be very difficult to brand because there are so many working parts to consider as you piece together your graphic masterpiece. Not only do you have to consider your donors, but you also have to consider your alumni, other graphics being used by the university and the image you hope to encapsulate, as well as many other elements.
When beginning the process, so many questions encircle your mind: What should it look like? What about color scheme? Wording? Font? Layout? All of these elements are merely details. The three most important questions to ask yourself are as follows:
1. What do we want our brand to communicate to our constituents?
2. Does the design integrate well into the overall brand of the university and follow their graphics standards?
3. Do our major constituents like the design and messaging?
If you can successfully answer these three questions, I think you definitely have a chance to make your rebranding effort work. In my time with the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, I have been able to successfully rebrand our annual fund—and now that I have completed the process, I thought to myself, why not share my findings?
Here is my 11-step process to successfully rebrand any annual fund:
1. Who are you?
This phase is key to being able to successfully complete this process. As with any major changes, you need to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and figure out who you are as an institution and what you stand for. What are your values? What are your mission and vision? Without having an honest understanding of who you are, you will never be able to successfully rebrand.
Reality is made up of three parts: what you believe to be true, what others believe to be true and what is actually true. Apply this concept to your brand: What do you believe to be true of your brand, what do your constituents believe to be true of your brand and what does your brand actually stand for. Once you have those answers, it's time to go shopping.
2. Idea shopping
One of the most fun parts about rebranding and designing a new look for a fund is seeing what others are doing. Idea shopping refers to researching, benchmarking and shopping around to find what you really like in a brand.
I also refer to this stage as the "Pinterest" phase. This phase is just like a soon-to-be bride pinning what she wants her wedding dress to look like. You want to be able to see what is out there, what is currently trending, what is completely outdated, and pick out the pieces you like, as well as what you don’t like. You should try to keep everything you like in one place and should be able to clearly articulate what you are envisioning to the rest of your team.
3. Key Elements
After you know who you are and what you like, it's now time to choose the key elements of what your new brand needs to have in its design. Is there a famous landmark on campus that truly connects with your constituent base? Is there a new name you would like to call your fund? Is there a color scheme that you need to use as prescribed by your university's graphic standard handbook? Are there certain elements that are restricted by your university, as prescribed by your university's graphic standard handbook? These are all things you must be conscious of as you continue to work on your preliminary design.
Ryan K. Sowers is the Assistant Director for Annual Giving at The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Individualized Studies with a minor in Marketing at Bowling Green State University in 2015 and would like to pursue a Master's degree in Business Administration. Before joining the University of Pittsburgh in 2015, Ryan worked in Corporate and Foundational Relations with Bowling Green State University, and was the Chairman and Founder of BGSU's Undergraduate Capital Campaign from Spring 2012 to Summer 2014.