Executive directors at small nonprofit organizations have said to me in the past that branding is for the ‘big organizations.’ For example, the Red Cross is one of the top three recognized brands in the world. Obviously they have the resources to invest in brand awareness and they understand the benefits. Many leaders of small organizations see it as something of dubious value and they often do not allocate the time or resources. They believe they have much bigger things to do-like raise money. What I try to get them to understand is that branding will help make it easier for them to raise that needed money. In order for people to give to an organization, they need to understand what the agency does. They need to recognize the organization when they see it out in the community. This is where branding becomes important.
In my current role at Weld food Bank in Greeley, one of the first things I recognized when I was hired is that we were in dire need of branding. Although we were doing great work as an organization, our revenue generation was being inhibited by the fact that people were unable to see us clearly. There are a lot of organizations in Greeley doing good work. We needed a better strategy to build awareness. So, I worked with our Executive Director to allocate a budget, then worked with a consultant and our staff to develop a plan (including Style Guide), and we started a two-year branding project. Here are some before and after slides that one of our staff members developed that will give you an idea of what we did.
Keep in mind that some things had a monetary cost, and other things were of no real financial impact.
To develop a good branding strategy in a small organization you will need to first assess your current situation. Then based on your gaps, you need to figure out what elements you need and add them to your plan. For example, you may not need a sign for your building. Or, you may not have trucks that require wrapping. The important thing is that you have to be able to have the community recognize you when they see you. This is going to lead to greater awareness, greater visibility, and ultimately more dollars.
Going back to our Red Cross example, what happens when a disaster strikes? The American Red Cross is on the scene providing services. But have you also noticed that they are also there telling people what they are doing? They even have teams whose job it is to place their logos out in the community so that people are aware that the Red Cross is present. They have placed a great emphasis on not only providing services but also on letting people know that they are providing services. Regardless of how you feel about their approach, there’s no denying that it has been successful. In the small nonprofit, we don’t have the same resources but we can implement branding in our own way. We can do it on a scale that is reasonable for each of our organizations. All we need to do is develop and execute a strategy.
This is a great role for a consultant. Your average small nonprofit may not have the capacity to handle a project like this in-house but an outside expert working with staff and/or volunteers can help tremendously. If you need a referral to a good consultant just let me know.