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The Essential Non-Profit Branding Guide

Want your non-profit to truly stand out? Dive into our essential branding guide and find out how to elevate your brand and captivate supporters.

Building a Non-profit Brand that Lasts

Communicating with your audience about your non-profit starts with your branding.

Not sure what we mean? Think about it this way…

Before a potential sponsor reads a line of your copy—like your mission statement, your donor letter, or even your slogan—they will most likely encounter your non-profit brand, including your logo, brand colors, and font choices, first.

As inconsequential as those branding assets may seem, they hold the key to building brand awareness, trust with your audience, and will help you establish yourself as an authority in your line of work.  

It’s your brand identity and personality that allow your audience to connect with the mission and message at the core of your organization.

That said, you’re in the right place if you’re looking for ways to craft a non-profit brand with lasting impact.

Ready to dive into nitty gritty details of brand building?

Let’s get into it! 👇

Close-up of a woman holding her credit card while in sitting in front of her laptop.

What is Non-Profit Branding?

Non-profit branding is how you present your story, mission, message, and values to the world. 

It boils down to the visual components of your brand and the way you write (also known as your brand voice or personality) to communicate what you do and the cause you are working towards.

The way your brand visuals and writing come together will determine how your non-profit brand and non-profit as a whole are perceived.

Your logo, brand colors, brand fonts, and brand patterns will reveal if your non-profit is contemporary or classic, serious or fun-loving, hands-on or research-based.

Your branding shows your audience what to expect from you, how to communicate with you, and will set you apart from your competitors in a major way.

In short, branding is the foundation of the relationships you’re able to create with your loyal donors, first time sponsors, and curious onlookers. It is absolutely essential that your branding is strong, consistent, and cohesive everywhere your non-profit shows up—online or in print.

Woman has her feet kicked up on her desk, holding up and viewing color swatches.

Why is Non-profit Branding Vital?

Branding is vital because it serves as the foundation of your non-profit's marketing efforts.

It determines how your organization is marketed, perceived, and responded to. When your branding is on point, everything else will fall into place, down to how you to reply to sponsor emails and how you interact with your audience online. 

There are 3 key roles that branding plays in your organization:

1. It helps amplify your mission.

Consistency is key! When your non-profit brand visuals and brand voice are consistent, your message can spread with more clarity and less confusion. Everything about your branding, from your logo to your printed materials, should work in tandem to deliver the same message to whoever happens to be looking.

2. It builds trust, loyalty, and credibility.

When you establish your brand identity(and stick to it!), people take notice. People learn what you stand for and what you’re working towards, which is how you can start building the relationship you have with your audience. Not to mention that strong branding does wonders for building credibility as an authority!

3. It increases the amount of funds you can raise.

If your branding is done right, your message can be heard loud and clear, which can translate into more financial support. Branding legitimizes your organization as a leader in your field of non-profit work and can propel sponsors to give more because they see your non-profit as a trustworthy partner.

Close-up of a handshake.

How to Build a Strong Non-Profit Brand

Now that you know what branding is and what it can do for your non-profit brand, we can talk about how to start building  a strong brand for your organization so you can enjoy the benefits we just discussed.

To build a non-profit brand that lasts, follow these steps!

1. Know your audience and the story you want to tell them.

For instance, if your non-profit deals with raising funds for children’s causes, you may want to appeal to the members of your audience that are parents. You should know exactly who you’re talking to, what they care about, and how to present your case in a way that motivates them to make a move. 

If you aren’t sure about this first step, take a look at the most common demographic among your current sponsors. Think about what inspired them to partner with you and how they relate to the mission at the heart of your organization.

2. Decide how you want people to feel.

A lot of branding decisions come down to emotions. What feelings do you want your brand to evoke in your sponsors? Which feelings drive decision-making? Which feelings inspire change?

Another thing to think about is the impression you want to leave. Do you want onlookers to think your brand is authoritative or relaxed? Approachable or exclusive? Whimsical or orderly?

Consider these questions carefully and you will make better branding choices based on what you want your audience to think about you!

3. Decide on brand colors and fonts that match your desired impression.

Now that you’ve settled on the impression (or, as the kids say, “vibe”) you want your non-profit organization to leave on your audience, you can start putting together assets to support your vision.

Different colors evoke different feelings so you’ll want to brush up on some basic color psychology before making any final decisions.

For example, red can create a sense of urgency, desire, and passion in your audience.

Blue evokes feelings of calm, stability, and safety.

And yellow is usually associated with happiness, hope, and positivity. 

On a similar note, your font choice can have just as much of an emotional effect. 

Serif fonts (the ones with “feet” at the end of their longer strokes) come across as more traditional, classic, and practical.

Sans serif fonts (the ones without “feet”) on the other hand, appear more modern, easy-going, and can feel more neutral in some situations.

Whatever your color and font choices end up being, make sure that they make sense when they are used together. Every piece of your brand should be in alignment and should support the values at the core of your non-profit organization!

4. Create a brand guide.

As we talked about before, consistency is an important part of non-profit brand recognition. The next step is to create a brand guide to help you stay consistent across your social media platforms, in emails, and everywhere else you appear on the web.

Your guide should include standards for brand color usage, logo usage, and typography. It should lay out what is and is not allowed concerning the visual assets of your brand so you never have to worry about formatting again.

5. Design a logo.

Once your colors, fonts, and guidelines are in place, you’re set to create a logo to represent your organization. We don’t have to explain why this step is so important. Instead, we’ll just reiterate that your logo is typically the first thing a new audience member sees when they first make contact with your brand.

So make sure it’s simple, memorable, and easy to read so you make a rave-worthy first impression every single time!

6. Make every interaction memorable—seriously, use your branding everywhere!

Once you’ve nailed down your branding, don’t be afraid to push it.

From this point forward, your branding marks whatever content you put out as YOURS. Elements of your brand design should appear in whatever you post on the internet because it will build brand awareness and credibility over time. Everything you share should look like you and feel like you, so don’t shy away from using the assets that convey what your non-profit stands for and seeks to accomplish.

Three people sitting around a desk, where one woman is standing doing a presentation.

If you take anything away from this post, let it be this:  Branding is the avenue through which your future sponsors will recognize you, relate to you, and take action to support you.

Strong brand design paves the way for connection which is how lasting relationships are formed.

Need a pro to brand your non-profit organization for you?

Get with us and consider it handled.

At Acton Circle, designing is our bread and butter. Nothing lights us up more than setting up organizations like yours for success. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help!


March 15, 2023