Branding

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6 Signs Your Nonprofit Has Outgrown Your Current Brand (And Why You Might Need a Rebrand)

Does your company need a rebrand? Discover six important reasons why you should consider a rebranded mission, vision, and design at your nonprofit.

Your organization's branding often represents your corporate image and core values to potential customers. Strong branding helps you to 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, your foundational processes can become more complex. At some point, this may mean that your organization outgrows its existing brand. When that happens, you can plan an official rebrand to maintain growth and productivity.

A rebrand is part of the natural cycle of every strong business. But how do you know when your business has outgrown your current brand? Here are six critical signs that indicate that your nonprofit has outgrown its brand.

Brand Refreshing vs. Rebranding

First, let’s start with a discussion on rebranding versus brand refreshing. While both have their advantages, certain stages of company growth may necessitate one or the other.

A brand refresh is common when you’re making the following small-scale changes:

  • Changing a few simple color variations
  • Making small adjustments to a logo
  • Refreshing and updating content to make them more evergreen
  • Re-releasing your marketing materials as part of a special promo

On the other hand, a full-scale rebrand is based on the following characteristics:

  • Overhauling your brand’s personality or voice
  • Releasing designs with new color palettes or entirely unseen logo variations
  • Establishing yourself in a new, untapped market
  • Launching a new program or service that changes your business direction
Computer and tablet screens showing different colors pairings

Why Should You Rebrand?

What is the real reason for rebranding your nonprofit? Before you begin to create a comprehensive strategy, roadmap, or plan, it’s important to articulate your “why.”

The reasons for this initial step are quite simple—a rebranding process can be a significant investment in time, effort, resources, and money. You don’t want to make such changes (or allocate a large portion of your budget) without carefully considering your goals and the intended results.

The six reasons below can help you answer the following important questions prior to getting started on any new rebranding initiatives.

  • Is this rebrand urgent (or a matter of absolute necessity)?
  • Do we have the resources in place to handle such an investment?
  • Will our target market or audience be primed and open to a rebrand?

Now, let’s review the telltale signs that you’re due for a rebrand.

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

A new program launch or deviation towards a new business model is an indicator 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 the fresh and cohesive identity it needs to keep up in a competitive market.

For instance, for over 160 years, 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 shifting business models, it's a great time to evaluate whether your nonprofit requires some changes as well.

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.

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 is going to 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 acquired another nonprofit or merged with another nonprofit, 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 it involves blending two organizational structures and identifying a new hierarchy. You may even have to collaborate with others who share similar roles and responsibilities but come to the table with former or proven ideas in mind.

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

In some cases, multiple brands fuse together 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 become gradually outdated. An antiquated look can reduce the nonprofits’ value, which slowly renders the organization obsolete. Nobody wants to become “old news” simply because of poor design and lackluster visual elements.

When your organization outgrows your current brand, you may start to notice that the company's logo or website doesn't reflect current industry standards or customer 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’ll likely notice that the logo or website requires rebranding to capture your new market venture.

Logos can indeed 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.

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 biggest signs it might be time for a rebrand.
Don’t forget—your branding should reflect all that your nonprofit encompasses internally and externally. If your company has shifted focus and expanded, your branding should 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 the new purpose, mission, vision, and values of your brand. This better reflects and communicates what you do and who you do it for.

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

Reason 6: Employees are Asking for Change

Your team is a critical indicator that your organization has outgrown its brand, and it’s up to you to acknowledge that tension. When employees and staff members feel overworked or undervalued, this can negatively affect company culture and the 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 optimally productive, your team must collectively be excited about the new opportunities and growth.

Examples of Strong Rebranding

Keep in mind that strong, positive rebranding can take place regardless of whether your organization offers a program, service, or fundraising initiative. While your strategy might be different depending on what exactly you’re trying to rebrand, the overall focus of your efforts should remain the same.

Nonprofit brands and programming undergo rebrands frequently. Consider Oxfam, an international organization that seeks to end poverty and inequality. Oxfam’s rebrand efforts were focused on establishing an international presence and making all parts of its mission easy to understand and participate in.

When you visit the Oxfam website, you’ll find:

  • Location-specific information
  • Clear and concise programming language
  • Colors and photography that complement the brand mission
  • Specific CTAs that invite immediate action
Screenshot of Oxfam’s home page

Entrust Your Rebrand to the Experts

At Acton Circle, we can help your company create a brand that reflects your mission, vision, and values. When it comes to winning over customers and increasing revenue, partnering with a brand strategist and creative designer can make all the difference. Let's create a brand that reflects your mission.

Published
December 16, 2021

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About Olivia Wheeler

With nearly 10 years of design experience, Olivia has learned about the importance of storytelling in the world of design. She believes that well-crafted stories paired with captivating design have the power to impact people in a positive way—every piece of content your business produces is telling a story.

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