Why Branding Is Important for Your Non-Profit

A few years back I was meeting with a friend at a local coffee shop, which is a normal occurrence in my life.  However, this meeting still stands out in my mind because I had a revelation that day.

As we talked, our conversation shifted to discussing the coffee shop itself. My friend had never been there before — I was the one who suggested the location. As he looked around he started reading the infographic-styled designs on the wall. 

After a few minutes, he asked,  “What is this place?”

I explained to him that the coffee shop was a non-profit where all the proceeds go to fight human trafficking. I then went on to tell him how it’s always my first recommendation whenever someone wants to meet for coffee.

Get donors to Know, Like, and Trust you

So, how did I become such a big fan of this little coffee shop? It wasn’t the coffee, the location itself, or even the internet connection. While all those are great, they don’t really offer anything unique compared to other coffee shops.

Instead, the answer is simple. They built a wonderful brand that invites people to know, like, and trust them.

This is the power of branding, and why it’s important for your non-profit. So, how do you get people to know, like, and trust you?

Know: Inform donors of who you are

Before someone can become an advocate for your cause, they first have to know who you are. This is done in a variety of ways:

Visual brand elements

The visual elements of your brand (logo, colors, typography, etc) are the most obvious element of your brand. In the end, your visuals must be appealing and match the tone of your overall brand. 

NOTE: If you need help choosing your brand colors, read our in-depth post about how to choose the right colors.

Brand marketing

Brand marketing is similar to traditional marketing, but there’s a difference — it’s all about the end goal of the marketing. The goal of traditional marketing is to drive revenue (or in the case of a non-profit you’re looking for donations). However, the goal of brand marketing is to generate awareness of your non-profit’s brand. This means your brand marketing is less “sales-y” and more focused on telling others about your mission and values.

Example

In the case of the coffee shop, they have a great logo and a visual style that is carried through their entire shop.

Like: Align your values with your donors

Once someone knows about you, they have to then like you. Luckily, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

The best way for someone to like your brand is to have it resonate with them. Simply put, your brand needs to share the same values as the donors you’re looking to attract.

Brand value locations

The following locations are areas your brand is portraying your values:

  • Visual Elements (logo, colors, typography)
  • Marketing Copy
  • Experiences
  • Customer Service

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list, but it does cover the most viewed areas of your brand.

Understanding donors values

To ensure your brand’s values align with your donor’s you need to figure out what your donors care about. Here are a few ways you can find that information.

Ask Them
This is the most obvious answer but it’s also one of the hardest. This can be done a variety of ways, but most of them time it’s done through conversations or a survey.

The challenge with asking them is it’s time intensive and many people may be hesitant to share that information with you.

See what others are saying
This is a great way to gain insights without having to spend a lot of time or money (but remember the information may not be as accurate). You’ll want to look in the following locations to see what people are saying:

  • Reviews/Testimonials from other, very similar non-profits
  • Comments donors leave on your social posts
  • News articles about people dealing with problems your non-profit is solving

Trust : Build long-term relationships

Finally, you have to build trust with your donors. Just like personal relationships, trust with donors is built up over time.

Consistency

The strongest way for you to build that trust is to be consistent in everything you do…

  • Consistent messaging
  • Consistent experiences
  • Consistent values

When you’re consistent donors know what to expect when they interact with your brand. This consistency is what allows someone to have confidence in recommending you to others.

Testimonials

Another way to quickly build trust and credibility is to showcase testimonials from those your non-profit has impacted. You want to show potential donors the impact you’re making in the community.

P.S. If you’re in Houston and want to check out the coffee shop I mentioned, it’s called A 2nd Cup (4928 Fulton St Suite A, Houston, TX 77009).

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.