Five Obstacles that Hurt Nonprofit Branding

five obstacles

During my time in college and then throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with some great nonprofits. I also saw firsthand that they faced some of the same challenges when it came to their branding, marketing and communications.

Now, after almost ten years of helping nonprofits build and maintain their brands, I decided to take a closer look at these issues so I can use Gerald & Joan to help nonprofits with their branding. Here's my take:

1. ExpenseMost nonprofits can’t afford marketing or advertising agencies unless the agencies are donating their time. Agencies in the post-recession world often can’t afford to donate their services, and most nonprofits can’t afford to pay agency sticker price. Nonprofits are left with a few options – hiring a full or part-time marketing person, recruiting a marketing intern or hiring a brand consultant who specializes in nonprofit marketing.

I’ve worked at agencies and been the full-time staff person, the part-time staff person and the intern, and I’ve realized that a brand consultant might be the best way to go for many nonprofits. They work with someone who has great experience and contacts, and they hire them on either a project or retainer basis. By using a brand consultant who specializes in nonprofit work, a nonprofit is hiring someone who knows the nonprofit world’s unique needs and respects the nonprofit’s budget.

2. Perspective Humans have a tendency to get caught in the daily grind of life, and nonprofit employees are no different. When they are buried in the day-to-day program work, they lose sight of what their donors, volunteers and the greater community see.

For this reason, it’s great to hire a brand consultant who can bring an outside perspective to the organization. This person works closely with the leadership of a nonprofit as well as key volunteers and donors to ensure the organization’s mission, values and culture and social impact are clearly defined, and each point matches the actual work being produced by the nonprofit. The brand consultant presents a report detailing their findings, and then works with the organization to develop a strategy to ensure the nonprofit’s voice is shared in a strategic manner.

3. FocusWhen nonprofit program staff members produce logos and materials without an overarching branding and marketing plan, the materials often lack a cohesive focus with differing colors, looks and voices. The result looks messy and unprofessional.

Even if a nonprofit can’t afford to hire someone to handle all of their branding and marketing needs, they might consider working with a brand consultant to create a strategic branding guide, host a brand training session and create sample templates for them. The branding guide will establish the focus of the organization – a cohesive look and feel with a set of logos, colors, fonts and the overall essence of the brand. Brand training helps staff understand the nonprofit’s official brand, and sample templates ensure all future materials share a common focus.

4. QualityMany nonprofit logos tend to be low resolution, materials tend to be created in Microsoft Word and printed in-house on computer paper, and websites and social media tend to be outdated - if they exist at all.

A brand consultant creates and shares high-resolution logos to ensure a nonprofit’s logos look professional when placed beside the logos of their partners and funders. They also work with the nonprofit’s budget to ensure materials are always prepared by a professional (but affordable) print company. Finally, they develop a plan to ensure social media and the organization’s website are updated as needed –weekly, monthly or quarterly – and they maintain both if necessary!

5. TimeNonprofit staff burn the candle from both ends. That’s what makes their work so admirable – they have been bitten by the nonprofit bug and wouldn’t have it any other way. Still, when time is in high demand, it’s important to delegate. Branding and marketing can be easily delegated when the right person and plan is in place.

A brand consultant works with a nonprofit to put together a strategic branding guide that serves as the baseline for all of their future projects. They work with nonprofit staff to put together an approval process and meeting schedule that works for everyone, and they help implement the strategic marketing plan in a way that is as streamlined as possible to ensure everyone is making the best use of their time and skills. They also oversee as many branding and marketing elements of the nonprofit as needed including logo creation, print marketing design, social media, email marketing and website creation/maintenance.

As you can probably guess, these obstacles can hinder even the greatest nonprofits. By offering my brand consulting expertise, I hope to help nonprofits eliminate these obstacles so they can give 110 percent to their missions. If you know a nonprofit that could benefit from my services, please send them my way! I would love to help them improve their branding and marketing efforts.