Building Your Brand

Corporations build strong brand identities to sell merchandise. Successful brand associations lead satisfied customers to buy the company’s next new product.

Nonprofits build brand identities to engender trust in their good work. Successful brand associations lead to media attention, respect, and funders.

There are steps that you can take to establish a brand, no matter how small or large your organization:

• Identify your constituency

The first, and most important, step in branding is to define whom you are serving. Defining your target audience gives you a “client-centered” approach to your project rather than a “program-centered” approach.

Be aware that you have multiple stakeholders to serve. These include your donors, your volunteers, your community leaders, and anyone else who may take an interest in the work you are performing.

Once you know your target audience, you can then focus on how you will respond to their needs.

• Define your distinct “core identity”

Your core identity is built on the relationship between you and your target audience. Keep in mind the needs of all of your stakeholders as you develop materials to brand your organization. Consider what you do to provide services to your clients and the manner in which you provide them. Are you hospitable and compassionate? How do you treat your donors? How do you want to be portrayed by the media? All of your interactions and the interactions of your staff will create a core identity that will distinguish your organization from others.

Keep in mind the nature of the relationship you want to build with those you serve or are asking for funding.

• Craft your message

Your client centered message should highlight the needs you are meeting, and the way you are distinct from other organizations. Emphasize the value or benefit you are bringing to your target audience.

• Select a memorable image

Images create emotional connections between a viewer and your organization. Photos, graphic designs, color, type style all create emotional responses. A memorable image can consist of a logo and a tag line. Think of the logo as your flag and the tag line as your motto.

More than one million nonprofit organizations across the United States compete every day for resources to keep their services available. A successful brand identity is key for any nonprofit, regardless of size. When creating a brand, keep in mind your audience, your core identity, your messages and your public images…just corporations do.

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Sharon Rabb has more than 25 years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit management for both large and small organizations. She currently serves as Project Specialist for tCampaign Consultation, Inc . Rabb holds a Master Degree in nonprofit management from Notre Dame of Maryland University and wrote her thesis on Women and Philanthropy: a design for approaching female donor prospects. Read more.

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