Becky Still

Do nonprofits have a brand?

“Why is branding important for nonprofits?”

Radish Lab’s Becky Still, Design Director gives 5 reasons.

There’s a lingering skepticism in the nonprofit sector when it comes to spending money to elevate your brand. However, a well-crafted brand can help nonprofits build credibility, attract supporters, amplify your impact, and achieve your goals.

A brand isn’t just about having a logo, it's about how you present yourself as a whole. From your color palette to your social media captions, and look and feel, branding helps you connect with people in a way that feels true to who you are: whether that’s approachable and conversational, or refined and scientific. Here are five reasons it’s important for nonprofits to invest in branding:

1. Build trust with your audience.

We’re such a digital culture that if your brand and your web presence look outdated or poorly maintained, your audiences might not realize how legitimate and reputable your work actually is, and potential donors may question whether their money will be safe with you. On the other hand, a consistent and transparent brand presence fosters trust and accountability, reassuring donors that their contributions will be put to good use.

An effective brand reflects the values, mission, and goals of the organization. When people trust a nonprofit's brand, they are more likely to engage with and support your cause, increasing your capacity to make a difference. By investing in branding, you can build trust and show people that you're serious about your mission.

A split-screen image showing OPC's website before and after a Radish redesigns
Olmsted Parks Conservancy builds trust with website visitors by leveraging a dynamic, engaging visual identity executed for an easy to use experience.

2. Create a consistent, memorable identity.

Clear guidelines for visual elements, tone of voice, and messaging help to create a brand identity that people recognize and remember. However, if your brand is too limited (e.g. not enough color choices, or typography options), there are two major problems you could encounter:

There’s a risk that all of your assets will look so similar that they’ll blend into each other. This could mean that when you release a new report, or ad, or are trying to build awareness about a crisis that needs attention, your audience might accidentally scroll past, thinking that they’re seeing something that they’ve already seen before. Or, your staff could take the absence of guidance as a signal that your brand is open to interpretation. This could lead to a lack of cohesion, and make it harder for your audiences to understand how all of your outputs are connected to your organization. A robust, sustainable design system can help make sure you have a strong identity, with room to flex.

Several pages from the Wings Foundation brand guide on a yellow background
The Wings Foundation's visual brand provides guidelines for color and logo usage, photography, illustrative elements, and more.

3. Become the go-to organization in your sector.

Branding is a powerful tool to help you stand out in a crowded space as the go-to organization for what you do. We follow a “same but different” approach with clients. First, we assess the brands of organizations with similar missions, so that we can work within the general look and feel. Then, we work to bring out the organization’s unique perspective: distinct strengths, values, and solutions. A strong, strategically unique brand can differentiate a nonprofit, enhancing your visibility and recognition.

A collage of visual elements from Equimundo's brand
Equimundo's bold, versatile visual brand reflects their status as a global leader in promoting nurturing, equitable, non-violent masculinity.

4. Tell your story.

Your nonprofit's story is what sets you apart and helps people understand why they should choose your organization over others. For most nonprofits, your narrative is everything of who you are: why the organization exists, why your team works there, why you believe in the mission. 

Visual branding plays a crucial role in telling that story. Bringing this conviction and strength to your visual identity can draw your audiences in. If you’re a community organization all about activations and petitions for change, and your brand feels stuffy instead of grassroots, you could be diluting or confusing your narrative, and alienating your audiences. When you are in touch with  your core values, purpose, and use that to inform what you look like, everything will click into place.

Three iPhone screens showing graphics on the IHRA's Instagram page.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's brand prioritizes clear communication to make an impact on social media.

5. Make a real-world impact.

A thoughtful and intentional visual identity can help you to raise awareness about critical issues, mobilize public support, and drive positive change. A strong visual brand paired with impactful work can attract media attention, secure partnerships, and engage with policymakers more effectively. By leveraging your brand, nonprofits can extend your reach and have a more sustainable impact.

By investing in branding, nonprofits can establish a strong foundation for long-term success, ensuring that your mission and message resonate and create lasting change.

Want to get in touch? We’d love to hear from you