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Branding for the little guy

Organisations can no longer just do good work; they must resonate with people, connect with their donors – mean something to them. Organisations must stand out. And to do this, organisations – even the small ones – need to be good at branding.

The term branding comes from the viking age ‘brandr’ which means ‘to burn’, referring to the practice of producers burning their mark onto their product. In its earliest form, the term branding was used in the livestock world when farmers would mark their cattle with a hot iron so they could tell them apart.

Branding in the 21st century is not all that different. Various products, services and goods are labelled with details of the manufacturer or provider.

A collection of Australia's bigger charity brands

A strong brand is as important for charities hoping to grow their donor base and funding revenue, as it is for commercial companies battling for marketshare. And while most charities, especially the smaller ones, don’t have the resources for a Branding Manager, or anything that comes close, it is still an area that needs priority.

The good news is, creating a successful brand doesn’t have to be difficult and here are a few key elements to help you:

  • Visual identity: How your organisation looks to people is important. From your logo and brochures to advertising and website, colours, style and fonts need to be consistent. Make sure everything looks like it comes from the same place.
  • Personality: Just like people, brands have traits too. Think about what your organisation’s brand is known for. How would you want your donors and other stakeholders to describe it. Try and narrow these traits down to 4-5 words.
  • Position: This is about having clarity around what your organisation does. Your vision. Your mission. And more. It’s about the service you provide and who you help in the provision of it. It’s about what makes you unique and, ultimately, why people should invest in what you do. Develop a paragraph around this.
  • Emotional connection: The way your donors and beneficiaries relate to your organisation is all about trust. It’s about doing the right thing, over and over, and instilling a sense of loyalty in people. For businesses, this is one area of branding they really strive for, and for charities, I believe it’s where they have an advantage. But that does not mean you can get lazy about it. Continually making emotional connections with your supporters through story telling, imagery and what you do will ensure your donors become passionate advocates for your cause.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help you ensure you build your organisation’s brand to create donor loyalty and a strong reason for people to connect with you.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

P.S To read more about the importance of branding for the non profit sector have a look at this article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.


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