What is a brand?
Since branding is a reflection – it extends beyond a logo unit or colour scheme. Your brand is your mission, your activities, the way you communicate, the way people feel about you. More than just maintaining your organisation’s reputation, branding develops its equity and loyalty. Your brand is the overall perception of your organisation in the world of non-profits; and building your brand is about shaping these perceptions. It is an ongoing process.
Steps to developing your brand strategy
Brand strategy is the ways and means of developing a successful brand.
Gaining insights is the best place to start. It aims at understanding existing perceptions about your organisation amongst stakeholders. By conducting interviews, surveys, panel discussions, polls and more, amongst donors, volunteers, staff members, partners, trustees, activists and all others that have any relations with your organisation, you will be able to understand what people think of you. It will help you understand where you are and where you need to go in the journey towards your goals.
Finding the differentiator
Identify what sets you apart from other organisations. This will give people a reason to be associated with your organisation rather than another. Some of the differences to consider include:
- Unique objectives – Working for an end result that’s different from others
- Unique region – Being the only non profit operating in your region
- Unique techniques – Methods of operation that are unlike others. For example, APOPO is different from other international organisations solving humanitarian problems because it works with rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis infections.
Developing a personalityYour brand’s personality is the mix of human traits assigned to it; it is the way it behaves and speaks. The way to achieve this is to describe your brand as if it were a person. How would you describe your brand be then? It could be fun, serious, credible or authoritative. Some non profits are friendly and personable and speak in an easy-going tone, while others are more serious.
Developing a visual identity
Your visual identity makes your brand instantly recognizable and distinguishable from its competitors. It consists of all visual elements and can broadly be broken down into the typeface, colours and images as well as qualities of lines, shapes and textures.
Defining brand experiences
A brand experience is the results of an interaction with the brand. More than its design, identity, packaging or advertising, brand experiences are about the sensation, feelings and other behavioral responses to a brand. Brand experiences are about getting people to ‘live the brand’, whether outsiders or insiders.
Maintaining brand consistency
Make different impressions at different times is confusing to the receiver, and should be avoided.
With the above in place, making a similar impression every time, pushing perceptions of your brand in a defined direction will become easy. Consistency will become visible not in the things you say and do, but how your brand looks and feels and the experiences it creates. All your activities and communication will flow from a singular vision and going forward, should build upon what came before it.
What are the benefits
Creating an effective brand strategy for non profits has been shown to deliver multiple benefits.
Aligned action towards goals
Since a good brand establishes clear goals, all stakeholders understand the belief system that drives its initiatives. This helps everyone to come together, rally around common goals and perform better.
Increased participation from members of the public
When you differentiate your non profit brand from competition you break through the clutter. Also, since donors are more likely to contribute to an organization they’ve heard of, it makes sense to be out there and be seen in consistent ways.
Branding not only increases the number of donors, but also contributions from donors as well as retention of contributors. It increases contributions from corporates and also from foundation and government grants.
As a brand you would consistently use the same design and messages, and display a set of values and choices that have been defined by your strategy. By maintaining consistency, your brand sets certain expectations and when these expectations are repeatedly met, people start to trust your brand.
This leads to the building of strong, long term relationships and becomes especially important if and when your mission has any detractors.
To reap the above benefits and number of other benefits, consider investing in building your non profit’s brand. Bring visibility and following to your organisation and its work by changing perceptions using the steps illustrated above. It doesn’t require a very large budget or extensive planning, but it does require a start.