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6 Critical Signs It’s Time to Rebrand Your Nonprofit Organization

Feeling like it’s time to rebrand? Before investing time, effort, resources, and money, triple-check that you meet this litmus test first.

Your organization's branding often represents your corporate image and core values to potential customers. Strong branding helps you differentiate your program or services from those of a similar nature and helps the whole organization grow towards its goals.

Over time, as your nonprofit evolves, you may feel like you’ve outgrown the brand you started with. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be a stressful realization. Rebranding is the natural cycle of every strong business.

But if you’re wondering if you’re ready for a rebrand and the work involved, we have six telltale signs you can verify on your own.

How to Tell if It’s Time to Rebrand

Rebranding can be significantly beneficial, but you can expect to devote several weeks or months to those efforts. Check out these reasons to rebrand and carefully evaluate how your organization stacks up.

Computer and tablet screens showing different colors pairings

Reason 1: You're Launching a New Program or Refining Your Mission

A new program launch or deviation into a new business model indicates that your organization has grown quickly and needs a facelift.

When market opportunities change, strategic objectives shift, or you've developed several diverse offerings and need one unifying narrative, rebranding can give your nonprofit a fresh and cohesive identity to keep up in a competitive market.

For instance, for over 160 years, the YMCA found its roots as the “Young Men’s Christian Association.” Starting in 2010, the organization rebranded to “The Y,” marking an inclusive shift in its diverse community programs, services, and team members. The rebranding was a multi-year effort to reestablish the importance of the Y’s services and to highlight its place in modern American culture.

So, if you're launching a new program, workshop, or business model, now is a great time to evaluate whether your branding accurately describes your direction. 

Reason 2: You're Targeting a New Demographic

An effective brand is one that's created specifically for one target audience; this is what makes a brand relevant and relatable to its most valuable customers and clients.

During your company's growth path, you may have noticed a new or different demographic showing interest in your programs or services. This is a good sign (for booming nonprofits), and it presents a perfect opportunity to reevaluate your current branding and how it may or may not be serving that new audience segment.

If you decide your nonprofit will target a new demographic, your brand will have to evolve along those lines as well. A brand that appeals to middle-aged women won't appeal to teenage boys; you'll need to revise your image to stay alive and reach your target audience.

Reason 3: You've Recently Undergone a Merger or Acquisition

If your organization has been acquired or has merged with another nonprofit group, it's clear that you've outgrown your initial branding concept. Rebranding can help you build merged organizations that thrive as one cohesive business entity.

This type of rebrand requires more heavy lifting than most, because the process involves blending two organizational structures and identifying a new hierarchy. If you find yourself in this boat, you may even have to collaborate with others who share similar roles and responsibilities and come to the table with proven ideas in mind.

You will need to determine, for instance, whether your brand will nest within the brand you've acquired or whether you'll form a dual-brand with the second company.

In some cases, multiple brands fuse to create something entirely new. This was the case when Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Chicago (BBBS-MC) geographically merged with several other local chapters. The brand went from struggling financially to being one of the most financially sound, engaged nonprofit brands in the metropolitan Chicago area.

Reason 4: Your Logo and Website Looks Outdated

In the face of new design trends, many websites have become gradually outdated. An antiquated look can reduce a nonprofit’s value, which slowly renders the organization obsolete. Nobody wants to become “old news” simply because of poor design and lackluster visual vibes.

When your organization outgrows your current brand, you may notice that the company's logo or website doesn't reflect current industry standards or user expectations. Think about the HTML websites of the 1990s and flash-based websites of the early 2000s, which ushered in minimalistic design trends.

If your organization is growing consistently, you may notice that a logo or website requires rebranding to capture your new market venture.

Logos can be resilient (such as the symbolic American Red Cross logo that has been used for decades). However, your nonprofit's logo might require a refresh as time goes on. A successful logo differentiates your brand properly and avoids stereotyping your company as one without room to grow and evolve.

Five logos for WWF over the years

Reason 5: Your Company's Vision Has Changed

Has your nonprofit's vision changed from its original mission? This is one of the most significant signs it’s time to rebrand.

Don’t forget—your branding should reflect all that your nonprofit encompasses internally and externally. If your company has shifted focus or expanded, your branding must follow suit.

With ever-changing markets, new beneficiaries, new donors, new sponsors, and new directives, it's important to remain relevant. New paths should be exciting, and if your branding falls behind these highly anticipated changes, it's time to solidify your brand's new purpose, mission, vision, and values. This better reflects and communicates what you do and why you serve.

Locking in your new purpose sets you up for success and helps bring your nonprofit's future into focus. Failure to rethink your purpose despite growth is a dangerous trap.

Reason 6: Employees are Asking for Change

The honest voices of your employees or internal team are critical indicators that your organization has outgrown its brand; it’s your responsibility to acknowledge that tension. Employees and staff members feeling overworked or undervalued can negatively affect company culture and your overall brand image.

If your best-performing employees start showing signs of disengagement during the growth phase, it will be risky to move ahead without bringing them on board. If they are to be as productive as possible, your team must collectively be excited about the new opportunities and growth—this includes your branding.

You Decided it’s Time to Rebrand… Now What?

If you’ve gone through the reasons above and are confident it’s time to rebrand, you’ll need some practical and strategic steps to move forward. The more organization you have up front, the better your entire rebranding process will be. Our guide to helping you build a consistent brand can help you achieve clarity and cohesiveness at every stage.

Get the Brand Building Guide

Here are a few critical steps to ensure your brand’s enduring success.

  • Maintain consistency – Keeping your organization’s look and feel consistent across all channels or mediums (including social media) is important for recognition and public image. For future marketing campaigns, ensure that the images and messages you release are consistent.
  • Be transparent – Communicate to your internal team, vendors, partners, and stakeholders about the upcoming changes. If anyone has a direct say in the process, allow them to verbalize requests or questions.
  • Align separate pieces – Branding is all-encompassing, which means that your visuals, web elements, printed elements, and messaging need to feel streamlined and cohesive. It’s also important that your visuals align with your organization’s mission and values.

The Takeaway

Don’t forget, rebranding is a natural and even expected process. Plus, you know your nonprofit or your organization better than anyone else. This means that you can trust your gut about this transformation and have confidence that the benefits of a rebranding initiative will bring a positive impact for many years to come.

October 19, 2022

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About Acton Circle

We’re Acton Circle, a boutique design agency helping purpose-driven organizations increase their impact. Led by Founder and CEO, Olivia Wheeler, Acton Circle has helped countless change-makers leverage the power of design for social good.

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