Nonprofit Re-branding: To Brand or Not to Brand

By Rob Monroe, Oct 03, 2016
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One of the questions we’re asked frequently by non-profits is whether or not they should re-brand. At a certain point in the life of many organizations, growth stagnates, audiences change and a need for re-positioning arises. Internally, they take a look in the mirror and ask: Do people know who we really are? Is our vision clear to them? How can we explain what we do more effectively? Have we communicated why we do what we do? Do the folks we’re trying to reach truly understand our impact?

Naturally, the decision to re-brand isn’t easy and there is no default answer. However, there are several factors you can consider that’ll help guide you to the best course of action:

 

Find out if your audience clearly understands who you are and what you do.

Many non-profits deal with the irony of being very effective at their work but not being particularly well known for it. There may be a need to connect the dots for folks. When we re-branded New Brunswick Tomorrow, we were working with an organization that led the revitalization an entire city, but whose citizens weren’t fully aware that NBT created many of the programs they benefit from. Does this sound familiar? If you’re having a transformative impact on a specific group of people or geographic area but that message isn’t getting out, then it’s time to re-think your positioning. Is your mission statement clear? Have you told people how your work affects them directly or indirectly? Can your audience relate to the people you help? Take a deep look at your messaging… Make sure you’re reaching the right audience the right way.

Determine if the presentation of your organization is outdated.

Digital technology and the Internet have given us an unprecedented means to reach and engage people all over the world. With an understanding of your audience and how they prefer to be connected, check to see if you’re reaching them where they live. Do they desire to interact with you more on social media? Would they like to start donating to your organization from their mobile devices? Does the content you utilize in your communications speak with the right voice? Is it fresh and inspiring or heavy with “organization speak”?

From a visual design perspective, is your brand modern or outdated? As a communications language, visual design is constantly evolving. Are you using the same logo, color palette and typography that you had 7 or more years ago? Times change. Your audience is being influenced by the larger world around them today. You also have to operate in a competitive landscape where more and more non-profits are leveraging good design to present themselves persuasively.

Take a look at where your short and long-term growth is coming from.

You may be in a business situation where your support base needs to be broadened. Perhaps you’ve relied on a specific demographic of supporters for a long time and now as you look at the road ahead, the need to diversify your support has emerged. You may also realize that you’re not currently receiving the depth of support and engagement you’d like. In either case, if there is a risk of decline, then those vital relationships need to be reinvigorated. A re-branding initiative can serve as the springboard for fresh conversations and deeper engagement with your supporters. Re-branding provides a wonderful opportunity that doesn’t come along often in the life of an organization.

See if you have the resources and capacity to engage in a re-branding initiative.

This is the million dollar question, so to speak. It is perhaps the most difficult question because to re-brand means to re-brand everything – your website, business stationery, key forms, signage, merchandise, office environment, etc. The re-branding initiatives that 3rd Edge has engaged in have taken place over the course of 1-3 years. We re-brand organizations in phases over time. This approach enables non-profits to leverage a longer period to allocate the investment needed. It has also given our clients the opportunity to launch an initial phase, energize their community and build support for future phases.

This isn’t just a question of financial resources but also of internal human resource capacity. Needless to say, re-branding an entire organization is quite an endeavor. If you’re in a development or communications role, this won’t be the only work on your plate. By taking a phased approach, teams can manage these initiatives without becoming overwhelmed.

Don’t forget about your people and culture.

Re-branding your organization can be super exciting! It can inject much-needed life into your culture. Some of the biggest beneficiaries of a non-profit’s re-branding efforts will be you and your colleagues. Impacting lives is very hard work. Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of making things happen, you don’t have time to fully appreciate the difference you’re making. Re-branding can help give your team inspiration and fresh energy!

With an effective approach, a re-branding initiative can re-position your organization for lasting impact and future growth. If you’d like to talk more about re-branding, please get in touch with us.