The Dos and Don’ts of Rebranding Your Nonprofit (From an Org Who Has)

25 years is one heck of a milestone.

But after 25 years of no logo change and a much needed rebrand, the Community Services Fund (CSF) of Nebraska wasn’t celebrating.

Instead, they were hard at work figuring out how to tackle the huge (and often dreaded) task of rebranding their organization. Executive Director Kiersten Hill said that the existing brand was outdated and had a complicated logo.

“We wanted something that would modernize the brand,” she said.

It can be easy for nonprofit organizations to get caught up in putting their mission over everything else. But sometimes, a periodic rebrand is necessary for an organization to appeal to potential volunteers and donors. Don’t take it from us. Take it from an organization who has been there and done that. Here are the dos and don’ts of re-branding your organization.

Starting the Process

It’s never easy to get the ball rolling. There isn’t enough time, you’re taxed with more important projects or there isn’t enough money for a rebrand. We get it. But your rebranding process doesn’t have to be ridiculously difficult.

If you continue to sit and wait for the right time, you’ll never jump in. So why not now?

For Hill, the time corresponded with other planning projects happening in the organization.

“We were also going through other strategic planning and organizational development at the time,” Hill said.

DO Detach Yourself from the Old Design.

Changing a brand in any aspect is a touchy subject—especially when people feel an emotional attachment to the brand. Maybe they were instrumental in picking the design or they don’t feel like a change is necessary.

Remind your board members, volunteers and staff that the rebrand is necessary to help achieve your mission in an easier way. Hill said one of the easiest parts of the process was getting everybody on board with the rebrand since nobody was attached to the current brand.

“We were being very introspective about who we were and what we wanted to convey,” Hill said. So they asked, “How do we do this in a cost effective way?”

Get the Logo Right

DON’T Spend a Huge Amount of Money on Your Logo.

Like many nonprofits, the CSF didn’t want to spend a huge amount of money, but depended on a great outcome to convey their mission.

So the CSF looked toward a crowdsourcing platform. They entered the lowest amount of money they wanted to pay, added some direction and set a deadline for when they wanted the logos back. Then the logo went off to a pool of designers who sent back options.

But you can also find cheap designers to help with your logo. Even big brands don’t necessarily need to spend big bucks for a lasting logo. Nike, for example, paid a college student $2 an hour to design the notorious swoosh. Check out this article for more design tips when searching for the right logo to fit your brand.

DO Put Maximum Effort into Your Logo.

Just because you’re rebranding on a budget doesn’t mean you should skimp on the effort you put into picking a logo, design and color scheme.

“By the time we were done, we probably had 120 different (logo) options,” she said.

Hill also enlisted a committee to help rate the logos and consult during the rebranding process. Don’t feel like you have enough staff members on hand to be in a committee? Even if your organization is small, you can enlist the advice of other nonprofit organizations in your area, a trusted design-savvy friend or even some of the people who would be interacting with the website.

Now What?

DON’T Rebrand and Forget About it.

Although the Community Services Fund didn’t do a name change, they rebranded by changing the logo and updating their website and materials to match.

“It’s something we talk about every year as a part of our overall marketing plans,” Hill said.

The CSF makes sure to talk about any necessary steps to update their brand on a yearly basis, and you should too. It’s easy to push it aside and forget after you’ve gone through a rebranding. But if you push it aside, you’ll end up continuing to put it on the backburner.

DO Consider All Aspects of Your Brand.

It could be just a new logo, or it could be rebranding your entire mission. But whatever you do, make sure you’re consistent. Use the same voice, same colors and same logo on your brochures, website and marketing materials. A properly branded donor page could be the difference between a huge donation and a fleeing donor.

Overall, Hill said the process was relatively painless. From design to implementation, she estimated a 4 month process. And by taking the right steps, your rebrand can be painless too. In the next branding article, we’ll discuss ways to rebrand your nonprofit organization’s voice.


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

June 7, 2013

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