We tend to think of branding as so much window dressing: nice to have, but not really essential. We think of a brand as something the big players spend money on, but for a small organization it feels like a luxury add-on. Maybe even the concept of having a brand makes you a little uncomfortable, because it feels inauthentic.
Like it or not, however, your brand is already out there, and potential donors and clients are forming expectations and making decisions based on their perceptions–positive or negative, deserved or undeserved–of that brand.
A brand is much more than a nice logo and some letterhead; it is a series of psychological constructs based on how you show up in the world:
Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic). Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it. It’s fixed. But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.– Jeremy McLaughlin, Forbes Magazine
Your organization’s brand is a vital part of an overall strategy. It declares who and what your organization stands for, and must be consistently expressed through:
- What you say (both in-person and online)
- What you create and do
- What others are saying
- What others expect
Consistent branding promises that your actions are aligned with your values. The trust you build and the reputation you have is based on how well you keep this promise, and directly impacts the success of your organization:
- Funders, potential partners, or customers will have a clear understanding of your work, and therefore be more willing to engage your services or support your cause.
- Greater brand awareness will help your organization reach more potential clients.
- For nonprofits, your brand will help in recruiting volunteers and board members.
If your brand is unreliable – e.g., your messaging is inconsistent or unclear – or if your brand doesn’t appear to uphold your values, that’s when it starts to feel inauthentic, or even deceptive. And it’s hard to recover from that loss of trust.
To fulfill your mission and remain sustainable, a well-designed brand is critical. You want to be known, not invisible. Top of mind, not forgotten. Living in the hearts and minds of your community so that funding flows, and partners and talented people want to work with you.
If you want to explore how to build a brand and create consistent messaging, sign up for a free consultation so that we can talk through where you are and how I might be able to help.