What makes a strong brand for a charity or non for profit?

What makes a strong brand for a charity or non for profit?

In last week’s post we stressed the importance of having a brand that stands out from the crowd. Knowing you need a strong brand for your charity and having one are two very different things – so what is it that makes a strong brand? This post looks at some of the key ways this can be achieved.

Outlining your vision, mission and values

Research has shown that a key factor in people deciding which charity they want to support includes the emotional stimulation that charity can provide. Supporters expect a charity to have certain core values; that they are compassionate, caring and ethical. If you think of a charity that has a strong brand, at the heart of it you’ll find they are exceptionally good at expressing what their core values are. Oxfam for example use powerful and emotive language to convey their values yet their message is very simple. It’s so clear that anyone can understand what it is they do in a matter of seconds:

You’ll find both in the voluntary sector and the private sector that people manage to get this part very wrong. How many websites have you looked at that outline an organisation’s vision yet you have no idea what they actually mean? A charity that manages to clearly outline what their long term goals are, why they exist and what they believe in is much more likely to have a strong brand than one that fails to do this. Charities that can clearly communicate their values are much more likely to be actively living by those values every day meaning it’s a fundamental part of everything they do.

A great example of a charity who clearly outlines their values is Samaritans:

“Samaritans vision is that fewer people die by suicide.”

Samaritans outline:

  • What they want to do (their vision) – stop people dying from suicide
  • How they plan to do it (their mission) – alleviating emotional distress that in turn reduce the feelings of suicide
  • Their key values – the 5 key values that the organisation lives by

The key to developing your vision, mission and values is to identify what it is about your organisation that differentiates you from other charities. They need to inspire and motivate people to want to take action but are realistic and achievable.

Having a clear and compelling message

As we highlighted in our last post, messaging is the most important part of having a strong brand. Even if your cause is compelling in itself, your message needs to be really clear. What is it you are trying to do? Why should your supporters donate or help you raise awareness? Parkinson’s UK took this into consideration when going through a rebrand in 2010. The research they conducted discovered that everyone described the organisation in a different way and as a result they weren’t delivered a clear message or vision. They moved towards a clearer focus on finding a cure for Parkinson’s as research has shown this was what supporters wanted.

By having this message at the core of everything they do – it made their brand much stronger and the results speak for themselves:

  • 96% of employees felt the charity had a clear vision
  • 11% increase in donations
  • 32% increase in direct mail response
  • 5% of fundraising targets

Having a strong visual identity

This is often the first thing people think of when they hear the word ‘brand’ but it is only powerful if the underlying messages are clear and communicated effectively.

Your visual identity is made up of many components; your logo, the colour palette, images, fonts, typography, illustration and much more. All of these components when put together help to convey the personality of your charity and most importantly allow your supporters to instantly recognise you.

Colour for instance has a big impact and can help a charity really stand out from the crowd if used successfully. Dogs Trust makes colour a really big part of their brand and as a result are instantly recognisable:

Font and typography can also be used to help create a strong identity. Shelter for example incorporate the shape of a house into their logo:

Whereas Action Aid stress the importance of action by adding an exclamation mark into the logo instead of the i.

Many charities also use illustration to help them stand out. Cats Protection include a picture of a cat in the logo and WWF would be recognisable by the image of the panda alone!

Being consistent

Consistency is key for your supporters to recognise who you are.

Take a look at the marketing literature for Parkinson’s Disease Society before they rebranded:

Now take a look after their rebrand:

It’s safe to say that before the rebrand there was no consistency and as a result the charity could easily get overlooked. After the rebrand their visual identity has become incredibly strong.

Consistency isn’t just about visual identity however. Charities with strong brands are consistent with everything they do: the messages they communicate, their values and their beliefs.

Greenpeace for example are consistently battling to protect our environment and the natural world. They may do this through different campaigns – saving the rainforest or protesting against the development of new runways at airports, but there underlying message is always the same.

Next week:

In next week’s post we’ll be looking at brand consistency; why it’s important, how to maintain it and some great best practice examples.

More on branding:

This blog post is part of a series all about branding, please follow the below links to read the previous posts.

What it branding?

Why is branding so important for charities and non for profits?