How to Choose the Right Colors for Your Non-Profit

If there was a way to increase the recognition of your non-profit’s brand by up to 80% you would take the time to invest in learning more about that method, correct?

Then why do most businesses, for-profit and non-profits alike, tend to overlook this opportunity?

The most likely reason is that when you hear the method it sounds too simple and too unbelievable. So, what is this secret, and can something so simple actually increase your brand recognition that much?

The answer is color. And yes, it will have that much of an impact on your brand.

The reasons why are deeply rooted in human psychology and there are many scientific studies that back up this data. 

However, the important thing you need to understand is how to choose the right colors to increase your brand’s recognition.

What is the tone of your non-profit?

The reason why color has such a large impact on your brand is that we associate emotions with colors. This means the colors in your brand will subconsciously communicate emotions to the viewer.

The best way to ensure you’re communicating the appropriate emotions is to establish the tone of your brand. Your tone will be most effective when it is intertwined with your non-profit’s mission.

Here is a quick overview of the emotional association’s people have with colors:

Red = Aggressive, Urgent, Needs attention

Orange = Creative, Energy

Yellow = Optimistic, Youthful

Green = Relaxing, Wealthy

Blue = Trusting, Secure

Purple = Beautiful, Royalty

Black = Powerful, Luxury

Note, this list is not comprehensive and there are always exceptions. However, this will provide you with guidance as you explore which colors to use.

Established colors

The associations we have with colors can extend beyond emotions as well. Many times colors tend to be associated with industries or elements in our lives.

Think about the first color that comes to mind if I mention the word heart. You probably thought of the color red or pink.

There are many of these powerful associations so it’s important to take a few minutes to think if there are already established colors for your cause.

To help you out, here are some typical associations we see with colors.

Nature = Green, Brown

Health = Red, Purple

Spiritual = Blue

Food = Orange, Green

Children = Red, Blue, Yellow

One additional thing to consider is cultural relationships with color. If your non-profit operates in multiple countries you need to be considerate of the associations each culture has with a particular color in your brand.

Building your color palette

Once you’ve chosen a color or two, it’s time to build out your full-color palette. It may seem daunting to come up with your palette, but luckily there are proven methods to create great-looking palettes.


Complementary palettes use opposite colors to create visually striking designs. You may consider using a complementary palette if your brand needs to be visually striking and elicit strong emotions.

Common complementary palettes are:

  • Red & Green
  • Blue & Orange
  • Yellow & Purple


Monochromatic palettes use very similar colors to create a subtle, yet cohesive tone. The best time to use a monochromatic palette is if your brand is about building cohesion around an issue.


Analogous palettes use the colors on a color wheel that are next to your primary color. These types of palettes provide flexibility at the cost of cohesion. You may consider this palette when you want your brand to have flexibility in how it presents itself.

Common analogous palettes are:

  • Red, Purple, Orange
  • Blue, Green, Purple
  • Yellow, Green, Orange


Triadic palettes use three evenly spaced colors on the color wheel. These palettes are the hardest to do, but when done correctly they create some of the most memorable visuals. If your brand needs to be unique and stand out from the crowd you may consider using a triadic palette.

Common triadic palettes are:

  • Yellow, Red, Blue
  • Orange, Green, Purple
  • Pink, Teal, Yellow-orange

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.