Written by: Ryan Felix
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Your nonprofit’s brand is your organization’s way of defining who you are and what makes your organization unique. Generally, when your nonprofit designs your website, you need to start by establishing what you want your brand to look like.

However, this brand needs to be applied across more than just your website. You need to maintain consistency in your marketing materials, ensuring everything your nonprofit creates reflects the brand you’ve chosen. This creates visual recognition with your audience and helps your nonprofit become more recognizable.

In this guide, we’ll cover the tips your nonprofit can leverage to make sure your brand is immediately recognizable on any channel you choose, from your website to social media to printed flyers. The tips we’ll discuss include:

  1. Set branding guidelines.
  2. Establish a marketing calendar.
  3. Create templates when possible.
  4. Pay particular attention to your tone.

Brand recognition induces trust in your supporters and your brand should reflect your identity as an organization. Therefore, we’ll get started by exploring the first best practice and the accompanying strategies offer by Loop’s guide to website best practices: define your branding guidelines.

1. Set branding guidelines.

Define the elements of your brand in a document so that it’s clearly spelled out for anyone who represents your organization. This means it becomes a living document that can be used across your entire nonprofit marketing strategy by everyone on your marketing or development teams. 

Some of the items you should include in this brand guide include: 

  • Colours. In your guide, be sure to define the RGB and HTML code for the colours you choose to represent your cause, in addition to showing the specific hue. This allows others to replicate them exactly. 
  • Typography. Include information about the font, style, and weight of the text you use to write your message. Be sure it’s easy to read and understand for any and all readers. 
  • Positioning. Your nonprofit’s positioning is comprised of what makes your organization unique in the field. What sets you apart from other organizations? Why should donors give to you specifically rather than another organization with a similar mission? This should be highlighted in your messaging to help your nonprofit stand out. 
  • Logo. Your nonprofit’s logo is like the visual summary of your organization. Your brand guide should include your standard logo along with any colour variations and versions with and without your tagline. 

By defining each of these elements up front, your nonprofit can ensure every relevant team member on your staff uses the correct information when creating new marketing materials. 

For example, when a supporter receives a piece of direct mail from your organization and first opens the envelope, it should be immediately apparent that the letter came from your organization based on their previous interactions with your website. The two resources should share the same logo, colours, typography, and discuss your mission in similar ways. This all becomes possible with a living brand guide.

2. Establish a marketing calendar.

To ensure your nonprofit branding is consistent across a number of channels requires your organization to prepare your resources adequately and ahead of time. Therefore, create a marketing calendar to define the different marketing messages, channels, and campaigns you’ll have for a set period of time. 

Consider how each of these messages and channels will draw in your audience, playing into the donor journey, leading them back to your various opportunities, and encouraging them to get involved. For example, you might put the following communications on your calendar: 

  • Blog posts for your website. Blog posts may be used to target SEO keywords, explain various aspects of your mission, or announce initiatives at your organization.
  • Emails and campaigns. When planning your email campaigns ahead of time, consider how you’ll also leverage segments in your system to best determine the audience of your email marketing campaigns. 
  • Social media posts. You may have several social media accounts, so be sure to adjust your messages according to the platform you’re using and the type of media best displayed on that platform. 

If you’re not sure how these different materials each work with one another or how best to leverage your branding to encourage supporters to review the various materials, that’s alright! Try reaching out to a nonprofit web designer to discuss how you can better match other items with your website. After all, your website is the centerpiece of your marketing strategy, so other resources should point supporters back to it. 

When you have plenty of time to work with, you can be sure to double (or triple) check your brand guidelines, ensuring each resource on your calendar is designed with your brand in mind.

3. Create templates when possible.

Creating templates for your various communications is a helpful step when you’re using specific visuals for your branding. Instead of configuring each and every email you send with the proper logo, colours, and font, you can edit an existing template that already uses all of these elements. 

If you have a number of templates, you can also use them to outline the general message you’ll send to supporters during certain times. Some templates you might create may be for: 

  • Donation solicitations. You solicit donations several times throughout the year. In your template, you can include a couple ideas for how you might solicit gifts to make the writing process easier and faster. 
  • Event invitations. Similar to donations, your organization likely hosts a number of events that you’ll send invitations to your supporters to attend. Outline your event invitations or write an example in your template. 
  • Appreciation messages. Thank your donors for their support and your volunteers for the hours they spend working with your cause. Use a template to be sure you include the most important details in each message. 

Templates can save you a lot of time not only in visually branding your messages, but also in crafting the right message for your audience. However, it’s important not to rely too heavily on templates you create. Simply updating the recipient and sending templates as they are isn’t enough. 

Remember to further personalize every message you send to your supporters by using your donor segments and the other information saved in your organization’s donor management software. Bloomerang’s donor database guide explains that two core features of effective software include robust supporter profiles and segmentation, which allow your organization to write messages tailored to specific groups of supporters and containing individual details.

4. Pay particular attention to your tone.

One important aspect of your organization’s brand is your tone of voice with which you express your ideas and opinions. However, this is also one of the most challenging aspects of your brand as different people working on your marketing team will speak and write in a slightly different voice. 

To resolve this issue, you can start by defining your organization’s tone in your branding guidelines. Be sure it accurately reflects your organization’s mission and cause. You might decide to use words like the following to describe your general tone: 

  • Formal or casual. More formal tones will likely use fewer contractions, more technical vocabulary, and third-person pronouns. Meanwhile, casual tones will likely use more active tense, contractions, and generally sound like a one-on-one discussion. 
  • Comic or serious. Will you be making puns or jokes in your emails? Or perhaps directing supporters to the most recent academic study regarding your cause? Consider how funny, amusing, and entertaining your organization is compared to how serious you may be. 
  • Enthusiastic or calm. Are you bringing a lot of energy to the table in your organization’s communications, or taking a more level-headed approach? This can impact the descriptors you choose, the number of exclamation points, and more. 

Once you’ve defined your tone, start implementing it across your website on different pages. If you have difficulty with this, you might look at other top nonprofit websites to see how they convey tone. Then, branch out, ensuring each of your other communications also use that same tone.

It might be helpful to ask the same skilled communications employee to review your various communications to be sure they all use the correct language and tone.

Consistent branding encourages trust among your supporters. When they see your official logo, they will not only be able to easily identify your organization’s campaigns, but they will also feel that they’re in safe and professional hands when providing their personal information. Plus, branding solidifies your cause’s position in the industry and helps others recognize your organization as an authority on your cause’s topic.

About the Author:

Ryan Felix Headshot

Ryan is a co-founder of Loop: Design for Social Good who brings a strong intuition and insight to create bold, creative & impactful websites. Ryan has led design studios in Toronto and New York using his knowledge of Human Centred Design to increase meaningful conversions and design enjoyable web experiences.