How a Brand Guide Can Transform Your Nonprofit

Whether you’ve invested the time and energy into creating a brand guide, you have a brand. According to Jeff Bezos, it’s “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Yes, even those using pixelated logos, every font available, or watermarked images are making a name for themselves…it just might not be a good one.

More Guidelines?

Between audits, donation receipting, and volunteer protocols, it seems like nonprofits specialize in parameters and rules. Do we really need one more set of guidelines? Yes, we do. Your brand is the front door of your organization! It encompasses everything from the entry point of someone’s interaction with your work to their memories of it after. Brand guidelines help you make sure what your audience is experiencing is consistent, authentic, and true to your mission.

Think about your daily work and the many hands, words, and voices that take part in it. Wouldn’t it be lovely if all of it shared the same great story? That is what a good set of brand guidelines can provide.

We Know our Font and Colors…

And that is a great start, but a brand guide is more than a font type and color scheme. It’s your voice, style, and substance. A great set of brand guidelines will govern more than which logo you use in your marketing materials. It will help define four key areas of your organization’s identity:

  • Who You Are

Your mission, vision, core values, and scope of work are detailed in this section. This can help your team navigate decisions about partnerships, programs, and positions your organization may take on. If it doesn’t align with who you are, it doesn’t belong in your organization. 

  • Your Audience

When you’ve identified your audience(s) you can develop communications that they will be more likely to engage with and respond to. Thinks beyond demographics and consider what they enjoy, why they patronize or support your organization, and what their aspirations are. 

  • What You Look Like

This is where those oh-so-important logos and colors come into play, but also what type of imagery and graphics you use. Be sure to consider #2 when developing your image and style because it should appeal to your audience and not just your team. 

  • What You Sound Like

Your brand voice is a hallmark of your organization’s personality. Are you playful and fun, or professional and serious? Is your style conversational and engaging or direct and to the point? 

Cut to the Front of the Communications Line

When your organization is consistently represented to the world, you eventually will gain a reputation and an awareness that will help you build efficiency in your communications. Well-established brands don’t need to lead with their background or basic information about their services because their audience knows who they are and what they do. Not only can this create efficiency for the team, but it saves money, permits more creativity, and often leads to more effective communication. 

Want to have your social post, email, or mailer stand out? Build brand recognition so that you can cut to the front of the communications line.

Protect Your Most Valuable Asset

Assets aren’t limited to buildings or cash on hand. Your organization’s identity and reputation are two of your most important assets. Just as you budget for your financial assets and ensure your physical ones, a brand guide can protect and steward your organization’s identity.

For more information on this topic, download our free how-to on How to Create a Brand Guide.

brand guide
how to create a brand guide

Katie Appold

Katie’s nonprofit career includes a variety of leadership roles for human service, foundation, and publishing-related nonprofits as well as many volunteer roles. Under Katie’s leadership, nonprofit organizations have developed new programs related to free healthcare, affordable and accessible housing and literacy programs for K-12 students. In her first Executive Director role, Katie increased the annual revenue of the organization she led by 300% and received the top grant prize in the nation for affordable housing through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis. Today, she leads Nonprofit Hub and Cause Camp, which collectively serve more than 50,000 nonprofits throughout North America. Her educational background includes an undergraduate degree in business administration and a masters degree in nonprofit leadership. Katie serves as the board president of Gracious Grounds, a housing organization serving individuals with disabilities. She is an active member of the Grand Rapids Young Nonprofit Professionals, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Cause Network, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

April 15, 2021

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