How to implement your nonprofit branding plan

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There you are. After months of hard work, focus groups, and interviews with key stakeholders and your branding agency, the work is finally completed. The executive team of your nonprofit organization is excited. You hold your new brand strategy in your hand. Core values? Check. Vision and Mission Statement? Check. Key Messages? Check. Shiny new logo? You bet! Finally, you are done! Right? Well, almost. The best and most meaningful strategy in the world can only make positive impact on your nonprofit organization if it’s implemented effectively and thoughtfully. That’s why it is important to also have a strategy for your implementation in the final plan.

Here are 3 steps that will help you to ensure your new brand is understood and implemented across all departments of your organization and the community.

Step 1: Solidify your plan

Start with identifying all your external and internal audience members, including the media, clients, employees, board members or volunteers. Think about how and when you’re going to introduce each member in your “need-to-know” sequence about your new brand.

Create touchpoints: A touchpoint is any contact between your organization, clients and donors. If a logo change is part of your branding you need a clear plan on how to update your identity across all your brand touch-points such as website, signage, marketing collateral, business cards, merchandise etc. Think about what experiences you want to deliver when your client connects with you online but also when he visits your office or is greeted by your receptionist.

Realistic budget and scope: Setting a budget is obvious but in order for it to be realistic, it’s important to think through each touchpoint, and create a detailed scope. This is critical. Don’t take a shortcut. It will cost you money. Working with a branding expert that can ask you the right questions brings clarity and will save you money. Your website, for example, will most likely be a big part of your investment. It is important to identify your main goal, as this also defines what tools will be used. Is it fundraising? Providing information? Do you want to grow your email list? Ask yourself about your desired audience journey and how you want your audience to experience your organization. Set priorities. What touchpoints must you have and what would be just nice to have in place.

Set a timeline: As your nonprofit lives on more than just one platform it is important to create a timeline for the different tactics. A website might take 4-6 months to develop, depending on the size of your organization. And while changing the logo and banner on your social media accounts might just take a couple minutes, all of it needs to be consistent and done within a short time frame to avoid confusing your audience by using multiple versions of your brand.

Branding style guide: Your language, tone and feel need to align with your values. Creating a style guide helps to share all aspects of your brand with your partners. Your values aren’t just expressed through your language. They are also represented in your imagery and tone and include definition of color, fonts, creative elements, logo.

Step 2: Understand and build your brand internally

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from well-known management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. And with that, he didn’t mean that strategy was unimportant – rather that a powerful and empowering culture was a route to organizational success. In my previous article how to create an epic brand for your nonprofit I shared that a brand is built by your tribe. A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. This tribe starts within your organization. With your employees. With your volunteers. Your board members. Your internal tribe is the smallest unit and it needs to be solid.

For that to happen, everyone from the receptionist to the executive director needs to understand what it means to “be” that brand that you strive to be.

Create actionable behaviors: Let your staff know what your organization stands for, what your values are and how they translate into behaviour and actions. If one of your values is “Welcoming” for example, how can this be translated to the different areas of your organization? What does that mean for the program manager when he or she leads a meeting? What does that look like for the receptionist?

Develop KPI’s: Work with your HR department and build KPI’s and scorecard that will help guide employee behaviour. An incorporated brand strategy will help you to recruit the right people and engage them right from the beginning.

Be visible: Making your brand visible is not restricted to brochures and your website. How can you continue that look and feel in your office as well? Imagine you could walk into your website - what would that look like? How would it feel? Accent walls in your brand colors, your value statement as wall decor and branded t-shirts for your employees are some good examples.

Facilitate value bootcamps: Explain the why of your values to your staff, so that everyone understands the bigger picture. What is the story behind your cause, how did you come up with the values and what is the impact for employees, clients and donors. What does “being your brand” look like. Think outside the box. Invite client ambassadors that can share stories on how your services have impacted their life. Create a video that emphasizes your brand values and can be used for onboarding purposes. Get them excited.

Train on key messages: Imagine you are at a networking event and someone asks you what your nonprofit organization does? What do you say? Now, imagine the same person asking someone else in your organization the same question. Is the answer the same? Training your staff, volunteers and board members on key messages is important. Imagine that these people are your tribe and they will build your brand. The more focused your messaging is the better is the result.

Step 3: Prepare for external launch

After socializing the brand strategy internally, it needs to be rolled out externally. Your touchpoint menu is a good start to create a cohesive plan for your brand launch. It is a great opportunity to spread the word about your organization.

Engaging your supporters: Give your donors and the other external audiences who are important to your brand a front-row seat. Invite them to a brand kick-off event and let them personally know what this new strategy means and why you’re excited about it. With their donations they have contributed to your organization’s success story. They deserve the recognition for the roles they have played (and will play) in the process of building the right strategy for your nonprofit.

Inform media: Your brand launch is a great opportunity to connect with the media and send out a press release. But what is a big milestone for your organization, might not be relevant for the media. Ask yourself, why is it important for the public to know that you have a new brand? Has your vision and mission changed and you offer different services and you will serve more clients in the community? What is the impact that the new brand will have on the community? Think like a publisher. Ask yourself, what’s the hook?

Update your digital presence: Website, social media accounts, email signature, e-newsletter, or online listings, chances are, your brand is present on several online platforms. All those profiles need to be updated with your new logo and design but also with your new messaging. In case you do a re-brand and have changed your name, make sure to also update your URL and bio in your profile descriptions.

Marketing collateral: Finally, your print material, such as brochures, business cards, signage or banners need to be updated with the new branding. It’s a good opportunity to also review overall messaging. Is the tone and feel aligned with your new brand? Does it reflect the brand promise? If you offer more than one program and need to update several brochures, I always find it helpful to create a content template that defines what goes in each brochure.

Consistency is key: Last but not least, be consistent. Have a stack of old business cards or brochures left? Throw them away. There is nothing more confusing than using up what you have because you want to save money. Use your brand guidelines and make sure that partners as well as staff know how to use them as well.

As Seth Godin says, “People do not buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories and magic.” Investing in your nonprofit brand strategy takes a lot of thought, time and careful planning – well after your actual strategy is formulated. Nonprofit leaders who invest in the right ways and move through all the steps with purpose and diligence will create nonprofit brands that thrive.

Kerstin Heuer is a marketing consultant and founder of Non Profit Today. Since 2008 she has used the trifecta of branding, marketing, and design to help nonprofits communicate the heart of their organization, connect with their audiences, and achieve their missions. With over 25 years of industry experience and lessons learned from work on 500+ non-profit projects, Kerstin is skilled in collaborating with NPOs to make sure they have a clear message and the traction they need to spread it. Connect with her on Linkedin or email her at: kerstin@non-profit.today.

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