Imagine you have a label maker. You’re going to town labeling everything you own: your favorite mug, your phone, your chair… everything. That label lets everyone know those things are yours. Now, imagine doing that with your nonprofit. Nonprofits have a tool at their disposal to “label” their mission and presence—both digital and physical. It’s called branding!

nonprofit branding

When you think of branding, I’m sure you think of having a color scheme and a logo—and that’s certainly part of it—but it’s so much more. Solid branding governs who you speak to and how you attract them; where you reach them and how you encourage them to remember that you’re someone who can help them solve their problems.

Nonprofits with killer branding stand out in the minds of their audiences and potential partners—even in a saturated market. They are distinctive, give value, build trust, and encourage loyalty. People are more likely to support and recommend nonprofits that they trust and feel connected to, so it can really hurt your cause if your branding is lacking.

Remember: Branding your nonprofit is important. Branding it well is VITAL.

Let’s look at 3 elements that contribute to the strength of your branding: logo and visual identity, brand messaging and tone, and customer experience. These are by no means all of the branding elements you may use in your nonprofit’s brand identity, but it’s pretty easy to determine overall branding health by checking on these factors.

Logo & Visual Brand Identity

In the nonprofit world, where first impressions matter most, having a well-crafted logo and visual identity is incredibly important. This visual identity is like the face of a brand, capturing its core in one memorable image. Think of the Nike swoosh or McDonald’s golden arches—they’re symbols that everyone recognizes, no matter the language or culture. A strong visual identity appears everywhere, from packages to ads, making sure people notice the brand. It’s a crucial part of brand recognition, creating a strong connection between the symbol and what the brand stands for.

busy female CEO

Gap’s original logo is simple and recognizable. This visual representation of the clothing brand did its job—and well—for 20 years before executives decided to make a change. This proved to be a massive mistake.

busy female CEO

The new branding and its rollout (practically overnight) proved to be a lesson in 1) how changing your visual identity can be bad branding, and 2) how a strong visual identity can connect with your audience and endear them to your brand. Luckily, the company listened to its audience, and the old logo was reestablished less than a week later.

Brand Messaging & Tone

It’s not just pretty pictures that make people fall in love with a brand. The real magic happens with the way a brand talks to its audience. Brands are like people. To make a connection, they share their values and story. Their tone can make them feel like a buddy, a nurturing grandmother, or a sassy best friend. Clear messaging shows what sets them apart. Good branding is storytelling, and it brings you along on a journey.

Customer Experience

The best visuals and messages stumble without great customer experiences. Imagine adoring a brand, only to be let down by its actual products or services. That’s where customer experience comes in, turning brand promises into real results. Consistently positive experiences build trust, loyalty, and a strong bond. A brand’s reputation hinges on customer interactions—each one shaping a lasting impression that spreads through word-of-mouth and online reviews. While visuals and messages attract, it’s the customer experience that decides if a relationship will last…

Let’s look at another example…

Back in ’85, Coke decided to switch up their recipe to be more like their top rival. The move caused collective outrage. Customers had become comfortable and familiar with a specific experience, which with this new recipe was taken away from them, and they were not happy about it. How do you think this affected their brand? Well, though later testing proved that consumers enjoyed the taste of the new formula and even preferred it over Pepsi and the old formula, Coca-Cola underestimated the consumers’ emotional connection to their brand.

When all was said and done, a small fraction of product testers expressed dissent, and the likelihood that they would not drink Coke—old or new formula—ever again. Their emotional state was that of someone who was grieving a loved one, a psychologist reported. Their outrage grew, and more and more voices joined the dissent. It didn’t matter that Coke had created a better-tasting product; the damage had been done to the emotional connection that consumers had with the brand.

In the end, just like Gap, they listened to their consumers and gave them what they wanted and returned to the old recipe and rebranded it as Coke Classic.

killmonger on branding

To channel Killmonger, when I say branding is more than your logo, I mean that sh*t! Do NOT underestimate the power of the customer’s experience with your brand and service.

So, What’s the Big Deal About Bad Branding?

Bad branding has significant consequences for your nonprofit.

It can affect your nonprofit’s reputation, supporter loyalty, and has the potential to block your bag. When a brand can’t fulfill promises or is unclear, it seems shady, and potential supporters will turn to more dependable options.

Branding is the ultimate label maker that marks everything a nonprofit represents. Effective branding distinguishes organizations in crowded markets, offering value, encouraging trust and loyalty, and influencing choices and recommendations. Bad branding can ultimately erode trust and loyalty, create confusion for your audience, and hide you in a sea of similar service providers in your sector.

As you saw, established brands can make mistakes when it comes to their branding. No one is exempt or immune or perfect. The trick is to know what and what NOT to do and to correct your mistakes when you make them.

Introducing the Vivid Flaunt Proof Package

If you suspect your nonprofit’s brand needs some TLC or CPR, my Vivid Flaunt Proof package specializes in enhancing nonprofit brand identities. We make sure your nonprofit shines and that the organizations and supporters you’re courting know, like, and trust you enough to write those checks!

Ready to flaunt your brand? Let’s connect and take your nonprofit to the next level!