Branding Basics for New Non-Profits

You hear all the time about how important branding is and how you need to build a great brand if you want your non-profit to succeed. The problem is that few people give you the blueprint for building a successful brand.

Luckily, it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

A great brand is built on three pillars:

  • Visual
  • Tonal
  • Experiential

When you have those three elements together you have the necessary tools to build an amazing non-profit brand.


The visual element of your brand is the most obvious, and the one people easily recognize. Whether it’s your logo, your website, or marketing collateral, every visual element is a representation of your non-profit.

Here’s a quick list of some visual elements your brand will most likely have:

  • Logo
  • Business Card
  • Letterhead
  • Website
  • Marketing Collateral
  • Signage
  • Apparel

The goal is to make sure all these visual elements are in sync with each other. That means using the same color palette, typography, and overall visual style.

Read this before you get your logo or build your website

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The tonal element of your brand is a blend of design, psychology, and societal conditioning. The challenging part is that it’s all communicated on a subconscious level.

When your brand uses a particular color or font, it is communicating information to the viewer. In the end, that information needs to align with the values of your non-profit. Achieving this is essential if you want your brand to compelling people to become advocates for the brand.


The visual and tonal aspects of your brand may be what attracts someone to you, but the experiences you provide them is what they remember. Think about it. When was the last time someone told you they loved a brand because of the brand’s logo or colors? 

The answer is probably, never, right? Instead, when people talk about brands, they talk about the experiences they had with that brand’s product or service. 

As a non-profit, your business has two key areas for experiential branding: 

  • Experiencing the purpose/cause of your non-profit
  • Experiencing what it?s like to be a donor

Experiencing the purpose/cause of your non-profit

You started your non-profit because you felt compelled to make a difference in the world. It’s now your job to help others feel the same way. Some of the best ways to accomplish this are through videos and storytelling. In the end, you want your donors to experience what it is like to make a difference in the area or community you’re serving.

Experiencing what it’s like to be a donor

When a donor either makes a donation or volunteers their time, what type of experience are they getting? Do you let them know how much you appreciate them? How easy is it to make a donation or volunteer?

Those are all questions you need to have answers to if you want to create a memorable experience for donors. The more enjoyable you can make the process of donating or volunteering, the more people will be willing to do those for you.


Wait why is there a fourth element? I thought you said there were only three?

The truth is consistency is not an element of a brand, it’s an action you take every day to keep the elements of your brand strong. As your brand grows, it’s imperative you maintain consistency. That means using the same visuals, speaking to your donors the same way every time, and making sure you’re giving them the same great experience day in and day out.

Consistency is the glue that holds your brand together. When your brand is consistent it builds trust and brand recognition. It is also a reflection of your professionalism as a business. 

Need pro bono help with your non-profit's marketing? Reach out to set up an Introductory Call.

Justin Lynch
Justin Lynch

Justin is a Brand Strategist at Avlier, a brand consulting company.