Branding Your Nonprofit: Part 1 of 2

Kelley Jarrett 09.10.09

Your brand is much more than a logo or symbol used on a website or stationery, it is the representation of your entire organization to the public…how you are representing yourself. 

This two part series is designed to help you evaluate and analyze your brand (following) as well as help you determine the best way to control your brand using multiple mediums, including managing the impact of social media on your organization’s image. To understand the way you’re being viewed by the public, start by asking yourself two questions:

1. What brand are you TRYING to portray? 

2. What brand are you ACTUALLY portraying?


These answers are not easily found, and discovering the answers takes time, resources and research. However, I’ve included a few tips to help facilitate this process and take ownership of your brand.

What brand are you trying to portray? 

To answer this question, it’s important to first look at your bandwidth – do you have staff, expertise to evaluate your organization objectively? If not, you may want to consider hiring a marketing firm to do the strategic direction portion for you.

Once the route is established, take the following steps to help you understand what your brand is portraying:

1.       Set Goals

2.       Determine strengths and weaknesses

3.       Create a plan – both online and offline mediums reaching for the same goals

4.       Research and Define Target constituent groups

5.       Create Written Guidelines

6.       Rollout and Educate – internal audiences, stakeholders, other constituent groups. 


Every touchpoint in your organization should be well-versed on your brand and the image you hope to portray. Word of Mouth will do more for you in a single day than weeks of direct mailers, web content pages and emails.

So, now that you know how you aspire to be viewed in the marketplace, it’s time to determine if that vision matches reality:

What brand are you ACTUALLY portraying?

In reviewing your brand, it’s important to stay focused and open-minded. Tunnel vision can occur when you make assumptions, so it’s best to avoid filling in the gaps of knowledge with your own opinions and interpretations. Take raw feedback from the source and analyze the information gathered as objectively as you can.

Brand reviewers are unbiased volunteers whose job is to monitor your presence in the market – what are people saying on social media sites, PR, etc?  What is the word on the street – via word of mouth or formal survey methods?

Understanding that change is inevitable and being flexible is key during this process. Remember, your brand is the entire face of your organization, being objective and making decisions based on facts vs. feelings will only help you build a stronger brand.

What is the impact of your actions?

While all mediums are important to share your story and build your image, the internet is the primary vehicle for marketing your brand, ahead of word-of-mouth (2008 State of Nonprofit Survey).


Satisfaction is predictive of future behaviors important to nonprofits.  How well the website reflects the organization’s image and brand is one of the two most important satisfaction drivers…more impactful than content, navigation options, or look and feel.


A highly satisfied visitor to a nonprofit website is:

49% more likely to donate

38% more likely to volunteer

57% more likely to have a favorable overall impression of the organization

65% more likely to recommend the site to others

55% more likely to return to the site

So, your assessment is now complete, and you understand the impact of a strong, well laid-out, well communicated brand. 


To Control or Not to Control your brand…that is the question. 

How does social media’s impact on today’s marketplace help make or break your brand? Tune in for part two later this month to find out…and to learn tips on how you can best manage your image in this unpredictable and ever-changing online environment.



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