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Nonprofit Brand Strategy: How to Build and Engage Supporters

Nonprofit Brand Strategy: How to Build and Engage Supporters

Nonprofit brand strategy is the intentional and strategic process of developing and managing the brand of a nonprofit organisation. It involves creating a unique identity, positioning the organisation in stakeholders' minds, and effectively communicating its mission, values, and goals. A strong brand strategy is vital to nonprofits because it differentiates them from competitors, attracts donations and talent, and generates trust and loyalty among supporters.

Nonprofits exist in a highly competitive environment where differentiation matters; they must stand out to make an impact. The brand strategy provides a solid foundation for building a reputation and establishing meaningful connections with target audiences. With a clear, well-defined brand strategy, nonprofits may communicate their mission effectively and engage supporters.

Consider Cancer Research UK as an example of why a nonprofit brand strategy is essential. It has built a strong brand that effectively communicates its ambition: finding cures for cancer sooner. Consistent branding materials and impactful campaigns have helped raise awareness of this ambition while attracting donations and mobilising many people who care about cancer research – all critical goals in Cancer Research UK's fight against cancer.

Brand strategies also help build trustworthiness – another critical factor for successful fundraising by charities.

A robust approach to branding can convey transparency and accountability – crucial factors when donors decide which charities deserve their support.

By repeatedly demonstrating that they deliver what they say they will (and more), nonprofit organisations can build up reputations that create long-term relationships with those who matter most to them.

How to Develop a Nonprofit Brand Strategy

Nonprofit Brand Strategy Cancer Research Uk

Becoming a solid brand is a complicated process that requires careful planning and execution. Nonprofits can follow several vital steps to build a robust brand strategy that aligns with their mission and connects with their target audience.

The first step in building a nonprofit's strong brand is thorough research. Having an in-depth knowledge of values, mission, core activities, and target audience helps identify unique aspects of the organisation that can be used to create its own distinctive branding identity. Understanding what supporters need, like and why they care about the issue area enables nonprofits to tailor their brand strategy so it resonates effectively.

Once the research is complete, nonprofits can focus on creating a consistent visual language that reflects mission impact and appeals to intended audiences. This includes selecting appropriate colours, fonts, logo designs – and any graphical elements that reflect the organisation's values and personality. Visual consistency across all branding materials (e.g. website, social media profiles, promo materials) supports building brand recognition and establishing a strong branded presence.

Another critical aspect of developing your brand identity is storytelling. By sharing compelling stories about your work, you can help engage potential supporters at an emotional level – helping them understand why it matters. Captivating stories bring the cause “to life” by making abstract issues concrete, e.g., telling us how climate change affects ordinary people we have met or could meet. Sharing what drives you/your staff provides insight into what makes you tick as an organisation. When told well, they help inspire action.

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An example of a nonprofit which uses storytelling powerfully in its branding is Camp Ooch. Camp Ooch is a Canadian charity running recreational programs/support for children affected by childhood cancer. It has created such powerful branding centred around children's personal stories. If would-be supporters read just one thing from its site, they will understand the importance/impact on the children's families. They know when/where, etc., but more importantly, why donate/get involved. They are also likely to share this story with others.

In summary, building a solid brand for a nonprofit requires thorough research, creating a consistent visual language that reflects mission impact and appeals to target audiences, and using storytelling effectively. By understanding your values/mission and target audience, you can build a brand that effectively communicates what you're about – which will help attract supporters.

The Brand Positioning Workbook: A Simple How-To Guide To More Compelling Brand Positionings, Faster
  • Appelbaum, Ulli (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 108 Pages – 02/02/2022 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)

Examples of Successful Nonprofit Brand Strategies

Nonprofit brand strategies that effectively communicate an organisation's mission, resonate with its target audience, and inspire support and action can help raise awareness for the cause, attract support, and make a lasting impact. Here are three nonprofits that have successfully implemented their brand strategies.

SickKids Foundation is the fundraising arm of The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. Its strong brand revolves around “SickKids VS” – positioning the nonprofit as a champion fighting childhood illness. It has inspired support and raised funds to provide exceptional care by showcasing patient stories, medical breakthroughs, and dedicated healthcare professionals.

Oxfam is an international confederation of charitable organisations working to alleviate poverty and promote social justice. It has built a strong brand focused on fairness, empowerment, and sustainability; sharing stories to show how individuals' lives or communities affected by poverty/injustice can be transformed by Oxfam programmes/advocacy work; communicating its mission so supporters know what they're supporting; making clear the difference its programmes/advocacy work makes (impact).

Oxfam Slogan Nonprofit Brand Strategy

Help Refugees is a grassroots organisation providing aid/support to refugees globally. Its slogan, Choose Love, emphasises compassion/solidarity as something people can actively choose/make happen. The brand strategy includes sharing compelling stories about survivors/those still experiencing life as refugees; engaging campaigns that use creativity/humour to make serious points powerfully; talking openly/honestly about challenges faced/campaign successes (no hype); creating ways people can get involved with/help out without just giving money (e.g. volunteering time). It's built a robust community of supporters who've helped it achieve significant things for refugees.

Nonprofit Brand Strategies Choose Love Campaign

These examples demonstrate how effective communication of an organisation's mission, engagement with target audiences and successful creation of an emotional connection through branding can inspire support/donations/action from those audiences – all vital elements in creating sustainable change or impact via your charity campaign or initiative.

How Can Nonprofits Create Brand Awareness?

Creating brand awareness is crucial for nonprofit organisations, as it helps them attract support and get their target audience involved. They can use several strategies to develop an understanding of their brand.

Using social media platforms is one of the most effective ways nonprofits achieve this goal: these channels allow them to reach a large audience without making too much effort or spending too much money. Posting helpful content regularly will help spread the word about the organisation among potential supporters while creating a supportive community.

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Social media makes it easy for organisations not only to talk but also to listen. By building relationships with followers, they can establish themselves within specific spheres and further raise their profile.

Nonprofit organisations can also create brand awareness through traditional marketing techniques – including print advertising, radio, and television. By combining all three – in what's known as ‘integrated marketing' -nonprofits can spread the word among people who may be less likely to stumble across information about them online.

Media coverage might be more complex than ever before, thanks to shrinking newsrooms; however, if an organisation has enough creative ideas or hard evidence, there are still journalists who will bite.

Those nonprofits that take time building relationships with reporters and editors find they make things easier for themselves when trying to earn column inches or airtime; those that prove helpful in terms of providing quick bits of information do well here, too. Only a few charities have specialists in media relations on their teams. However, making even just minor improvements here should bring significant gains later down the line.

For example, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) would like nothing but for everybody on earth to know about the importance of protecting endangered species habitats; creating such broad public understanding would give charity a far greater chance of achieving its aims.

The Role of Differentiation in Nonprofit Branding

Nonprofit Brand Logos

Differentiation is crucial in nonprofit branding as it helps organisations stand out from the competition and create a unique identity. In a crowded nonprofit landscape, where numerous organisations are working towards similar causes, differentiation is essential to capture the attention and support of potential donors, volunteers, and partners.

Differentiation in nonprofit branding goes beyond simply having a unique logo or tagline. It involves identifying and effectively communicating the distinct aspects of the organisation that set it apart from others. Nonprofits can differentiate themselves through their mission, programs, approach, impact, and values. Clearly defining what makes them unique allows nonprofits to attract supporters who resonate with their distinct approach and values.

Differentiation also helps nonprofits avoid being seen as another organisation working on the exact cause. It allows them to discover a niche and establish their expertise and credibility in a particular area. This focused positioning helps build trust and loyalty among supporters, who perceive the organisation as a specialist in addressing specific issues or serving distinct communities.

To illustrate the role of differentiation in nonprofit branding, let's consider the example of the nonprofit organisation DonorsChoose. DonorsChoose is a crowdfunding platform that connects teachers needing classroom resources with donors who want to support education. What sets DonorsChoose apart from other fundraising platforms is its focus on helping individual teachers and their specific needs. By differentiating itself as a platform that enables donors to impact classrooms and students directly, DonorsChoose has attracted a dedicated community of supporters and facilitated millions of dollars in donations.

Another example of differentiation in nonprofit branding is Charity: Water. Charity: Water is a nonprofit organisation that provides clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. They differentiate themselves by focusing on transparency and accountability. Charity: Water ensures that 100% of public donations directly fund clean water projects. By effectively communicating this unique aspect of their organisation, Charity: Water has been able to build trust and credibility among supporters and differentiate themselves from other charities.

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In summary, differentiation is critical in nonprofit branding by helping organisations stand out, establish their expertise, and attract supporters who resonate with their unique approach and values. By effectively communicating what sets them apart, nonprofits can create a strong brand that captures the attention and support of their target audience.

Belonging to the Brand: Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy
  • Schaefer, Mark W. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 273 Pages – 01/01/2023 (Publication Date) – Schaefer Marketing Solutions (Publisher)

How Nonprofits Can Engage Potential Supporters Through Branding

The primary objective for nonprofits is to engage potential supporters, and when it comes to achieving this goal, branding is the name of the game. By harnessing their brand power, nonprofit organisations can effectively connect with their target audience, inspire them to back a cause and cultivate long-term relationships. There are several strategies that nonprofits can employ to use branding as a way of actively engaging with potential supporters.

One effective strategy is creating compelling content that speaks directly to your target audience's interests or needs. Nonprofits can share stories of impact – such as testimonials from people who have used their services or those who have benefited from their work – bringing home how much your organisation makes. By putting real-life faces on what you're doing and showing how you change lives through your work, you create an emotional hook that will help attract potential supporters.

Another excellent way for nonprofits to engage with potential supporters using their brand is through social media platforms and websites. These digital channels provide a fantastic opportunity for sharing educational content about a particular problem that needs solving, success stories about previous projects, details of upcoming events or campaigns, and engaging updates on how money has been spent.

By being consistent in delivering high-value resources aligned with the user's interest area(s), these channels position not-for-profits as trusted sources of information – which may be crucial if they are asking somebody to part with money – while helping drive organic traffic towards their website via search engines (a technique known as SEO) by answering questions users might be typing into Google (e.g., “What does it mean when someone has no fixed address?”).

Engaging users directly via comments sections beneath blog posts, social media updates, private messages, and email responses helps foster a sense of community, which is crucial for building trust between an organisation and its fans/followers.

A good example here would be The American Red Cross: an organisation that, through its branding efforts, successfully communicates its mission to provide disaster relief, support military families and coordinate blood donations. The charity's website and social media channels are packed with engaging stories about individuals whose lives have been affected by emergencies, tapping into potential supporters' emotions to demonstrate the importance of what it does. Clear calls to action and various ways for users to get involved mean the American Red Cross has created a vast bank of active supporters.

In addition to content creation and digital engagement, nonprofits can engage potential supporters through events, volunteering opportunities or fundraising campaigns. By organising events where current or potential backers can actively participate – and see first-hand the difference you make from your work (e.g., planting new trees in a deforested area) – charities can deepen their involvement level while building a sense of community among attendees who might not have met otherwise.

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Similarly, getting people involved on the ground through volunteering opportunities provides them a way to help out and a tangible sense of achievement immediately.

Fundraising campaigns also allow potential supporters to contribute meaningfully towards something they care about, which is why so many charities run them regularly.

In summary, nonprofits can engage potential supporters through branding by creating compelling and relatable content, leveraging digital channels, organising events and volunteer opportunities, and facilitating fundraising campaigns. By effectively communicating their mission, impact, and opportunities for involvement, nonprofits can inspire support and foster lasting relationships with their target audience.

Tips for Creating Long-Term Relationships With Supporters

Humane Society Of The United States Brand Strategy

If nonprofit organisations want to take advantage of word-of-mouth referrals, secure recurring donations and increase their impact, they must build long-lasting relationships with their supporters.

To create close ties with supporters that will last a lifetime, nonprofits should consider the following tips regarding branding.

Transparency and communication are vital when it comes to developing lifelong relationships. A charity should concentrate on open, honest communication to foster trust among supporters. Keeping them updated is essential, whether through progress reports or success stories. Charities can also build trust by being transparent about how donations are used, and the difference made. It's not just about talking; charities must also listen actively for people to feel valued.

Consistency is another crucial factor: successful brand adoption requires consistency across all touchpoints – from messaging to visual identity – over time. This creates familiarity and helps strengthen the bond between the supporter and the organisation. Developing a comprehensive branding guide can be helpful here.

Offer opportunities for involvement if you're looking for ways of nurturing long-term relationships with your supporter base through branding: offer various ways that people can contribute, such as joining advocacy campaigns or volunteering at events.

By enabling them to become an active part of your work, you make potential advocates feel invested in your cause.

One nonprofit adept at creating lifelong relationships with its supporters through branding is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The US animal welfare organisation's strong brand effectively communicates its mission.

HSUS engages its fan base via several initiatives, including fundraising events, volunteer programs and advocacy campaigns – offering multiple avenues for getting involved

How Nonprofits Use Social Media to Connect With Their Target Audience

Nonprofit Brand Strategy Social Media Marketing

Nonprofits can use social media platforms to connect with their target audience and build awareness and support. By using social media effectively, nonprofits can communicate their mission, involve supporters and create a community of advocates. There are several strategies that nonprofits can implement to help them use social media to connect with target audiences.

Understanding the demographics and preferences of your target audience is one such strategy. Through audience research, you can determine which platforms your target audience uses most often and the sort of content they engage with. This knowledge helps you tailor your social media efforts, so you have more success in reaching members of this group.

Posting engaging, relevant content consistently is another critical strategy for connecting people through social media. Share stories, updates on impact or other compelling pictures or videos that resonate with your supporters – by offering valuable, sharable content like this, it's possible to make an impression on others, prompt action among them and extend reach through algorithms used by various platforms.

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Engage followers actively – it's crucial if you want to build relationships and develop a community feel. Responding quickly (and personally) to comments received, messages sent via private chat functions or mentions made publicly all matter enormously when showing audiences how much you value them. These simple gestures help generate loyalty from individuals who are interested in what you do.

Using interactive features offered by particular channels (such as live videos, stories or polls) also makes a difference – creating engaging content that gets people talking is vital in terms of making connections through outlets like these. Doing stuff like this allows organisations chances to provide real-time updates about subjects being discussed online widely at specific points occupied behind-the-scenes glimpses along similar lines – again helping ensure individuals have opportunities available for getting involved themselves quickly.

DoSomething is an example of a nonprofit organisation that has successfully connected its work with its desired demographic via its international presence on various social networking sites.

The global nonprofit supports young people to take action on social issues. It uses its profiles on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and TikTok to encourage others to sign up for campaigns, using hashtags this way, too, so that reach may be amplified.

Credit should go to its understanding that many younger people want an opportunity to make a difference but are uncertain where or how they can do so. Offering these individuals chances through social media channels has built quite a strong and proactive community of supporters over the years.

The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand
  • Leland, Karen Tiber (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 178 Pages – 06/14/2016 (Publication Date) – Entrepreneur Press (Publisher)

Key Elements to Include in a Nonprofit Branding Guide

A nonprofit branding guide is indispensable in maintaining a uniform and coherent image for all brand touchpoints. It offers guidelines and tips to both internal and external stakeholders on how they should represent the organisation. An excellent nonprofit branding guide must feature crucial elements that ensure a consistent brand experience.

The first thing that every nonprofit branding guide should have is a well-defined mission, vision, and values statement. This helps set up the foundation of your brand while providing a critical framework to follow for your branding efforts. By making it easy for people to articulate what you do – and why you do it – you can ensure that all communications around your brand fulfil their purpose.

Other elements that must be included in any great nonprofit branding guide are visual elements: logo use, colour palette, typography, and imagery.

Your logo usage guidelines may define anything from minimum size requirements to clear space around the logo mark or wordmark—your colour palette shows which are part of your primary or secondary hues. By defining which fonts are most closely aligned with your personality as a brand – not just in terms of style but also font sizes for different types of content – you'll add another layer of consistency.

By being very specific about the types of images or graphics that fit best with what you aim to communicate as a brand (as defined by tone), you'll help build recognition more quickly across multiple channels.

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As far as messaging goes, this is yet another critical component every worthwhile nonprofit branding guide should have: core messages/talking points.

This section might include information about how each message supports/represents one area/program/initiative related to mission/vision/values; language guidance (i.e., preferred; OK if…); tone-of-voice/style preferences (e.g., professional but not stuffy); etc.

I might even go so far as including examples here [with an explanation], too:

Children'S Defense Fund Logo

Children's Defense Fund

Many children in America are poor, hungry and homeless. They need your help. Our organisation will be there for them ‘until the work is done'.

When drafting up a great nonprofit branding guide, it's also a good idea to include some examples of other organisations that have done a great job with their brand strategy. This can be an essential source of inspiration and reference material when executing your strategy.

This section might even include information about ways similar organisations (or different ones) chose to communicate their mission or engage supporters:

Logo Design Charity Water

Charity: Water

The world water crisis isn't just about accessing clean water but providing sanitation solutions that help prevent deadly diseases from spreading through affected populations.

One way we address this issue – beyond building wells! – is by teaching people how basic hand-washing can save lives. We tell stories like this via blog posts that get published on…

Last but not least, any worthwhile nonprofit branding guide should cover usage/guidelines related to digital platforms/social media: profile images, cover photos, content creation (in general) on various social media platforms…

Additionally, best practices for engagement/response might be included here—encouraging folks who manage social media accounts for the org(s) associated with the brand being represented by the style guide in question to take time to think through things like what they want more of/what they don't in terms of engagement guidelines and making sure policies reflect beliefs/values/etc.

How Can Nonprofits Effectively Tell Their Story Through Branding?

International Rescue Committee Brand Strategy

Being able to tell an engaging story is crucial when promoting a nonprofit. By doing so, charities and other kinds of nonprofits can emotionally connect with their target market, draw them in and, ultimately, encourage them to back the cause. With that said, how can this be done effectively?

One way is by using testimonials and human stories from people who have benefited from what the organisation does. Sharing such stories makes individuals feel more emotionally connected to a cause. They also highlight the impact that getting involved could have on someone's life.

These anecdotes can be shared through various touchpoints – from a website or social media platform to newsletters or fundraising materials.

Another tactic organisations use to tell an engaging story is visual storytelling – sharing impactful images or videos or creating infographics that persuade people why they should care about something.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), which provides support worldwide for displaced populations and refugees, is one example of an organisation that uses powerful imagery, moving videos and narrative-driven text as part of its brand. Its focus is not just on ‘poverty porn’-style visuals; it often features positive narratives about resilience, community cohesion and hope – stories designed to galvanise support for its work.

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As well as telling stories via video content or personal testimonial copywriting pieces (as discussed earlier), many examples of branded campaigns share emotive data to engage audiences/achieve goals, etc.

Similarly, valuable thought leadership articles – those aimed at professionals working within a specific sector – are another way organisations might look like experts in their field, potentially drawing support based on perceived expertise alone. This can separate charities / good causes giving advice backed up with genuine expertise/generated by insight with those seemingly out-of-the-blue opinions/advice given due only to someone being vaguely associated with a relevant topic area.


Mastering nonprofit brand strategy is critical to shaping perception and driving impact for an organisation. Creating an influential brand positions nonprofits to stand out, attract support, and build long-term relationships with their stakeholders. By understanding how to use branding effectively, nonprofits can communicate their mission, engage potential supporters, and create lasting change in their communities.

Building a solid nonprofit brand requires careful research, consistent visual identity, and compelling storytelling. By getting clear on values, mission, and target audience, nonprofits can create a brand that conveys purpose in a way that resonates with supporters.

Successful nonprofit brand strategies communicate the organisation's mission in ways that resonate with its target audiences while inspiring people into action. Standout examples of this include Cancer Research UK (CRUK), SickKids Foundation (SKF) and Help Refugees.

Creating awareness around your brand is vital if you want nonprofits to attract support from like-minded individuals who might not yet know about them – or perhaps didn't realise how much they needed it until now! Nonprofits can raise visibility using various channels, including social media and traditional marketing such as PR or media outreach.

Differentiation is essential in nonprofit branding because it helps organisations stand out from their competitors by creating an identifiable difference between them. The more effectively this difference is communicated using words, symbols or other creative means – whether online or offline – the stronger any given nonprofit's brand will be, meaning greater attention/support from its chosen stakeholder groups, too!

Nonprofits can engage potential supporters through branding by creating content so compelling people cannot help but relate, leveraging digital channels where appropriate, and participating actively during events/volunteer opportunities which align closely enough with what matters most at hand so others feel moved to act themselves soon after exposure; facilitating fundraising campaigns built on authentic empathy and connection instead just asking someone randomly for money outright etc. – all these things allow cause champions inspire, feel part of something special and develop relationships over time.

Building long-term relationships with supporters requires transparency, communication, consistency and opportunities for involvement that meet their needs. By prioritising these elements in your nonprofit branding activities – and expressing them clearly through words/symbols/gestures wherever possible – you'll also foster absolute loyalty from people invested in your mission's success.

Social media platforms offer nonprofits a powerful tool to connect with their target audience, raise awareness about what they do and (more importantly) why it matters, and inspire support among those who might otherwise never have found out or become involved! By understanding who exactly you're trying to reach via SM channels like FB/Twitter, etc., posting engaging content consistently based on critical messages which resonate best, and actively engaging followers/using interactive features when appropriate, – nonprofits can leverage this medium effectively build relationships make genuine impact together.

A comprehensive nonprofit branding guide should include things such as the organisation's mission statement visual guidelines, which are easy to understand but also flexible enough to adapt across different touchpoints over time without losing meaning entirely, e.g., logo design rules/colours/fonts, etc.; examples successful past initiatives (both own industry peers') so others can learn what works already undertake similar projects themselves if desired/appropriate; digital platform/social media guidelines setting out how any given brand wants present itself online cohesively while still maintaining authenticity where needed most etc. – all these things help ensure clarity.

Last update on 2024-05-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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