Solid branding is just as critical for nonprofits as it is in the corporate world. A brand that is not aligned with organizational goals, principles, and donor investments, is in serious trouble. And because a re-brand can take time and dollars away from key mission, it scares people . Nonprofits can also find re-branding daunting because it can be a deeply emotional process for donors, long-time volunteers and staff. Here are some reasons to do a re-brand and ways to make it a productive, even exciting process.
1. Your name/logo/tagline no longer reflect your true mission.
2. No one knows what your mission is when they hear your name.
3. You are expanding your mission and want to ensure all your external materials reflect this.
4. You have gone from being a collection of local or regional organizations to being a national one and need a new, unified identity.
Reasons NOT to Re-Brand a Nonprofit
1. You have multiple and divergent missions that not everyone can agree on (not a re-brand issue, but a good reason to embark on a strategic planning process).
2. You’ve really messed something up (you need crisis PR and brand attention, but not necessarily a re-brand).
3. Your logo style and color is dated (this may be true, but may not be reason enough to give up the brand capital associated with it).
Okay, let’s assume you’ve gone through all the due diligence and decided it’s really time for a change. What’s involved?
A Strategic Plan for Your Brand
Branding is always an act of imagination. The question to ask if you want to re-brand is “will this help propel our mission to where we envision ourselves 10-15 years from now?” Or, in the lingo of corporate brands, “does it help us deliver on our brand promise?” And just as you have a multi-year road map for your organizational work, you need a strategy for your re-brand. Here are three things to focus on in a re-brand and questions for your board and staff to consider.
1. Programs and Services. Are they consistent with our mission/vision?
2. Governance Structure. Do our bylaws, board governance, and staff-board and staff-volunteer relationships effectively support our programs and services? Do we offer a consistency of vision and goal-setting across all parts of the organization?
3. External Signifiers. Do our name/logo/tag line/communications channels help people understand our mission, vision and value to our community?
So many organizations start a re-branding with the externals and then fail at the re-brand because the internals are still not quite in sync.
Brand Identity Touchstones
Another element to success is checking in with key constituencies. I’m not recommending crowd-sourcing your new logo. But when considering changing any key aspect of your branding—colors, logo and/or tag line—consider these useful perspectives:
1. Current customers/clients/donors. Organizations that already have deep roots into social networks can use them for feedback. But it’s also good to use old-fashioned focus groups, with a trained professional to run them. However realize that all of these sources are subjective and subject to change from a variety of external pressures you can’t necessarily control.
2. Prospective customers/clients/donors. This one is always a bit harder to pinpoint, but a firm specializing in both quantitative and qualitative survey data can help you hone in on key sub-markets and assess the resonance of your new branding with them.
3. Vendors. I know, on first blush this seems odd. But as one of the people who often has to deal with people’s new logos (for multimedia/video production), I’m often struck by how they don’t work across multiple mediums. Check in with your essential communications vendors–from printers to video producers to webmasters–and be sure that you are considering the fonts and colors that work best in their media.
As you craft your new brand vision, always come back to mission. Consider how your donors, volunteers, policymakers and the public will remain confident that you will provide the value they expect and deserve.