3 Smart Branding Strategies for Nonprofits

May 13, 2021 | Beth Singer, Principal


As passionate as we all are about our causes and their corresponding missions, from the inside looking out we sometimes lose sight of the actual goal of our communications. As we develop branded products, we may find ourselves bending to internal politics or the influence of a board member, or maybe we strive too hard be diplomatic. And often we over explain!


Since we all spend a lot of effort creating emails, posting on social media, blogging, and producing printed content, don’t we want to make sure our communications are highly functioning and credible? If so, we must be disciplined about WHY we are generating all this content and going through the gyrations of pushing it out to constituents. What, exactly, are we trying to get them to do, think, or feel?


A good place to start is by making sure that our communications and branding fulfill one or more of the following goals:

• Move people to a specific action

• Motivate people to donate

• Educate


So, what’s the secret sauce?


Demonstrate that your values are their values. Create an emotional connection with your target audience to bring them closer to your cause.


Here are three strategic practices that we’ve deployed for our clients who wish to connect more deeply with their constituents. These practices are quintessential ways to turn interested parties into devoted advocates, action-oriented followers, and committed donors.



1. Stay on point. Clearly and simply define the purpose of the communication.

Do you want them to become a member? Know more about the issues so that they become advocates for your mission? Feel connected to your organization through financial commitment or volunteering their time? Every decision should distinctly support the goal, which can mean being ruthless as you decide what to keep and what to let go.


EXAMPLES

Jewish Federations of North America — Make a Blessing/Be a Blessing Campaign


We designed this laser-focused fundraising appeal that centers on the blessings of Hanukkah and a shared belief that deep down each of us can provide comfort to someone else. We created social media graphics, print ads, and emails for the regional offices of the Jewish Federations of North America. Nationwide, 56 Federation offices downloaded the outreach materials and templates 467 times.



2. Use your brand smartly and consistently.

Look at your brand attributes without bias. Do they convey the values and messages that reflect your organization and its mission? Think of your logo, tagline, typefaces, and design treatments as the “uniform” your organization always wears. By appearing in uniform, your communications become part of a team that stands out from a crowd. If your social media, email, website, and print collateral are consistent, they add up to a whole, rather than remaining isolated and lost as opportunities to communicate your core messages. And equally important, consistent and smart use of your brand reflects the organization’s efficiency, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail — something your supporters will care about.


Expressing that your values are their values spotlights the ideas and beliefs you have in common.


EXAMPLES

Congregation Beth Sholom — Branding


This established congregation in northern New Jersey came to us knowing that they were unique in their offerings — a vibrant and relevant form of traditional Judaism, a lifestyle of learning and holiday observance, and a warm and inclusive community. So we built those key messages into the tagline — Jewish Life, Inspired. Shown here are the logo, social media “story” posts, and postcards, which originally introduced the brand. All of the communications we provided consistently centered on the inspirational nature of the community. See more at www.cbsteaneck.org and on Instagram @cbsteaneck. Since its inception, the new brand has attracted 30 new families to the synagogue and coalesced the existing members around the clearly articulated, distinguishing features of the community.



ALYN Hospital — Wheels of Love Branding and Recruitment


ALYN is a world-class hospital located in Israel and dedicated to the rehabilitation of permanently and temporarily disabled children. We provided branded recruitment social media posts and email for this inaugural U.S.-based charity bike ride. We focused on the main value the riders and hospital have in common — “doing good” is a top priority for them. The ride quickly smashed its registration goal in the first six weeks of the campaign and ultimately exceeded it by more than 50%. See more of our work here.



3. Speak the language of your community. Remember the people you are speaking to are far beyond the room.

Do your homework and learn what keeps them up at night. Through personal interviews, surveys, and observing your supporters and community, you will have concrete data about their mindset and motivations for feeling — and acting — the way they do. No guesswork required! Make every effort to connect with those important feelings and belief systems you’ve observed. Lay out a vision, both in words and in visuals, that speaks to the essence of the world they’d like to see.


EXAMPLES

New Israel Fund — Planned-Giving Campaign


This planned giving campaign for our longtime client, the New Israel Fund, lays out a future that potential donors yearn to see — equal rights for all Israeli citizens. Infused with powerful words and provocative photos, readers understand that they can support NIF’s important work that is consistent with their ideals, well beyond their lifetimes. We designed two brochures — one for mailing and the other for in-person meetings. The campaign met its initial target of $40M and has extended its goal to $50M.



Health in Harmony — Digital Donor Presentation for Small Gatherings


Health in Harmony’s digital presentation focuses on environmental concerns and affordable healthcare — two important priorities for nearly everyone. We designed this presentation to educate and build a case for supporting HIH’s work to restore the rainforests by helping the adjacent and indigenous populations with their reasons for cutting down the trees in the first place — access to affordable and quality healthcare.


In short, your brand is an important and strategic tool to bring people closer to your organization. Applied simply and consistently — and with discipline — your brand will create that critical connection to your audience by promising them that your organization can be trusted with their attention, their time, and their financial support.



Beth Singer is Principal at Beth Singer Design, LLC – a design and communications firm specializing in nonprofit organizations to help them fundraise, educate, and promote membership and events though design solutions.


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