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Sarah Durham’s Tips on Nonprofit Branding

Recently, we had a chat with Sarah Durham, founder of Big Duck, a marketing consulting firm that focuses exclusively on nonprofits.  Sarah is also the author of Brandraising:  How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications.

Suffice it to say, she knows her stuff when it comes to nonprofit branding.  Here are four tips to help you kick start branding:

  • Branding happens whether you like it or not.  The first time your nonprofit communicates with the world, whether by flyer, email, webcam video, or impassioned plea to your parents, the branding process has begun.  The goal then becomes to ensure that the brand is carefully monitored, thoughtfully crafted, and deliberately leveraged to meet the goals of your organization.  Therefore, be purposeful in the brand you create with your communications.  Don’t let branding be something that “happens” to you.
  • Each project is an opportunity for branding.  Have you ever supported a friend that was doing a run/walk/ride for charity, but had no clue what the charity was about?  That organization likely missed a chance to connect with you.  The lesson here is to avoid brand fractures across multiple projects and campaigns.  Make sure that each one ties back to the main brand, so that your organization isn’t doing “catch and release” fundraising.  It’s fine to build and rally mini-communities for different projects, but provide an opportunity for supporters to become more broadly engaged with your organization at the same time.
  • Don’t re-brand when major foundational issues are unsolved.  If your organization is still figuring out exactly what it’s mission is, or what major areas of strategic focus should be, now is not the time for a re-brand.  The tail would be wagging the dog.  First, get your core strategies nailed down, then take on the task of re-branding.  Periods of leadership change are also bad for re-branding.  Save it for a time when you can confidently state which direction your organization is moving in.
  • Take your time with branding.  This process is too important to rush.  Moreover, your brand will be with you for decades (if you’re lucky) – do it right and do it once.  Time is needed not just to brainstorm, select, and refine ideas, but to get key constituencies involved and supportive as well.  Leadership, staff, partners, volunteers, donors, and others must all be considered.  This being Earth, not everyone will be 100% satisfied with the final result, but the importance of making authentic, long-lasting brand connections with these groups is key to the success of your mission.

To learn more about branding, check out the Big Duck Blog, or attend a Big Duck Workshop to give your branding a boost.

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