Navigating Non-Profit Branding: Essential Dos and Don’ts

Written by Marin Hudson

May 10, 2024

Marin is a community-minded designer who finds joy in all things creative, and in connecting and supporting others. From designing an annual report to crafting the perfect pizza, she thrives in collaborating with a team to make ideas come to life.

Establishing a strong brand identity is not only essential for standing out in a competitive landscape, but also for effectively communicating your mission and engaging donors. 

Many non-profits struggle to navigate the complexity of branding — leading to missed opportunities and diluted messaging. So, we’re exploring the essential elements of branding to empower your non-profit in driving change.

The Do’s of Non-Profiting Branding

1. Do Design a Memorable Logo

Your non-profit’s logo is the cornerstone of your visual identity. Invest in a professionally designed logo that encapsulates your mission, vision, values, and brand personality. Keep your logo simple, versatile, and as timeless as possible. You need your non-profit’s logo to be recognizable across various mediums. 

2. Do Establish a Distinctive Colour Palette

Colour is super powerful — it evokes emotion and shapes perception. You want to choose a colour palette that reflects your organization’s values and resonates with your target audience. Using the same colours consistently also reinforces brand recognition.

3. Do Define Your Branding Guidelines

When we create a brand, we always include brand guidelines. These are a set of standards for the usage of your logo, colour palette, typography, imagery, and other visual elements. By having brand guidelines to follow, you’ll guarantee your brand will feel consistent no matter who is creating materials for you or which trend you’re participating in.  

4. Do Use Compelling Images

Humans like pictures. That is true for the people who will benefit from your service, for your donors, and for your community members. Invest in high-quality, authentic imagery that tells your non-profit’s story. Whether you’re showcasing the people you serve, the impact of your work, the values you uphold, or your work, choose imagery that tells that story. Recently, we’ve seen a trend towards lo-fi visuals. You don’t have to always rely on professional photography — ask your team to snap pictures throughout their day to demonstrate the reality of your work. Be sure to share user-generated content created by your donors or the people you serve, when possible!

5. Do Optimize Your Digital Presence

Apply your brand guidelines to your digital presence to maintain visual consistency. Pay attention to responsive design and ensure that your visuals look compelling and cohesive across digital devices and screen sizes.

The Don’ts of Non-Profiting Branding

1. Don’t Overcomplicate Your Visual Identity

Make sure your non-profit’s brand identity is simple enough to recognize on sight. You don’t want to make it hard for people to recognize your brand with just a glance. Keep your visuals clean, simple, and focused to ensure your brand stands out amongst the noise. White space is your friend.

2. Don’t Forget Accessibility

Accessibility should be a priority when designing materials for your non-profit’s brand. Include alt-text for visuals, use high-contrast colours, and prioritize legible fonts, to ensure that everyone can engage with your content effectively.  

3. Don’t Ignore Feedback

While your brand should be consistent, it’s OK to accept feedback and make changes if something just isn’t working anymore (or maybe never did). Collect feedback from your target audience, stakeholders, donors, and staff. Change can be hard — especially if you haven’t changed your non-profit’s brand in a significant amount of time — but brand refinement can be a powerful way to evolve your identity to support long-term strategy and new growth.

4. Don’t Stay Generic Over Creative

Because non-profit organizations need to appeal to a wide swath of people and many different audiences, we’ve seen many fall into the trap of wanting to stay overly generic in their branding. Unfortunately, this will not lead to getting noticed by more people…it’s actually the path to being ignored. Avoid vague messages and generic visuals that fail to differentiate you. Embrace your unique perspective and celebrate what sets your non-profit organization apart. 

5. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Mission

Your brand should be a reflection of your mission, not the other way around. Keep your mission top of mind when you’re designing your organization’s brand, when you’re refining it, and when you’re representing your organization.

Establishing and maintaining a strong brand identity requires intentionality, authenticity, and consistency. By adhering to these branding do’s and don’ts, you’ll amplify your non-profit organization’s impact. Want to know if you’re in need of a new brand, rebrand, or a bit of brand refinement for your non-profit? Let’s talk!

Kitestring is a Hamilton-based design and marketing agency specializing in branding, marketing and campaign strategy, and annual report design. Whether you’re a socially-conscious organization, non-profit, or community-led business, we’ll take on your marketing so you can focus on your top priorities.

Written by Marin Hudson

May 10, 2024

Marin is a community-minded designer who finds joy in all things creative, and in connecting and supporting others. From designing an annual report to crafting the perfect pizza, she thrives in collaborating with a team to make ideas come to life.

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