Properly executed, branding is one of the most powerful tools your organization possesses. But you must first understand what a brand is.

What is a brand?

A brand is more than a logo or tagline – it’s the essence of your organization. It is the relationship you have with your customers. Your brand should elicit an opinion or an emotion – some kind of psychological response – in your customer.

“A brand isn’t a brand to you until it develops an emotional connection with you.”

– Daryl Travis, author of Emotional Branding

Companies with successful brands have something in common—they are defined by their messages as much as by their behavior and actions. In today’s fast changing, information-charged market, the primary value of an organization is no longer its physical assets alone – it is its brand. A good brand will achieve the following:

  1. Deliver your message clearly.
  2. Confirm your credibility.
  3. Connect with your target audience emotionally.
  4. Build loyalty.

When someone sees your logo or website, what’s their reaction? When they read your tagline or copy, how do they feel? Answering these questions is the beginning of building and evaluating your brand.

But before brand development or training ever begins, you must understand why branding is so vital to your organization. Effective branding communicates your organization’s mission and opens doors for more engaged board members, staff, donors and volunteers. Most importantly, it ignites grassroots conversations that build and maintain trust in your community. The long-term success of your organization depends on the strength of your brand.

To begin developing, growing or evaluating your brand, take a closer look at your organization. Think about its heritage, values and institutional strengths. As a nonprofit, you should not create a brand around what you think might please your audience. You should implement it as the sincere voice of your mission. When doing so, be sure to keep authenticity in mind. If your organization clearly lives and breathes its mission, and that is conveyed through your branding, your audience will be much more inclined to support your identity and cause.


What’s next?

Branding 101: Design a Distinctive Logo to Represent Your Brand