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Branding for nonprofits

I spend at least part of my time working for a larger nonprofit organization – a church denomination to be exact.

Folks who hang around organizations like this can tell you that most of them have pretty much lost their identity. They are either trying to be all things to all people or wandering around lost in the desert reacting to whatever happens upon them.

I’ve been recommending that the denomination go through a branding exercise.

The roadblock I keep hitting? “Why?”

“Why should we do this, we know who we are. We know what we want people to believe.”

“We don’t have this much money.”

“That’s too corporate.”

Let me dispel a couple of myths:

1. Branding is not about projecting an image disconnected from reality. Branding is about finding that intersection between what your organization can offer and what your audience is looking for and then honing in on delivering exactly that in all things you say, do, and communicate.

2. Branding does not have to cost a lot. Nonprofits can struggle with spending money on branding and yet it can be the best couple of thousand dollars you spend. At the denomination, the bid for our entire branding exercise is $5,000. With that investment, you will gain far more than you spend. Getting precise about who you are and what you’re doing doesn’t just bring clarity. It brings members, because you’re effectively communicating your mission. It brings donors, because you have done the work to ensure your organization is relevant – and communicating that relevance.

3. You will not lose your nonprofit street cred by doing some good old fashioned branding. In fact, you’ll maybe gain some because you’ll come out of the other end of a branding process stronger, sleeker and more well designed for the current nonprofit world. Street cred doesn’t just happen; it’s earned.

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