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Muse is a brand first marketing agency. What does that mean? Before we spend a dollar on marketing your cause, product, or service we help you to develop your brand strategy. 

A typical response from a client or prospective client is, “I have a logo, I just need to get more customers.” The conversation that follows is an explanation of branding: what it is, why it’s important, and why it needs to be in place before going to market to “get more customers”. A brand – your brand – is so much more than a logo. 


What is branding? 

Your brand is more than a logo or how an organization looks. That’s your visual brand. A brand is actually a combination of everything an organization says, does, and communicates to the world. It’s your organization’s values, voice, promise, manifesto, story, persona and position and includes everything that everyone else says and feels about the organization. When you think of branding from a marketing perspective, it becomes more powerful and also more complicated. 


Does your Not-for-Profit (NFP) have a brand?

The answer is yes. But is it aligned with your mission and vision? Is it consistently communicated visually and in writing? Can you, your staff, volunteers and clients articulate it? Does everyone receive consistent communications in the same brand voice? Would they recognize your communications materials wherever they view them: on social media, a poster, a postcard or the Annual Report?


What can branding do for NFP organizations? 

It’s hard work and requires constant and consistent time and attention. It’s not a “set it and forget it” thing. When branding is taken seriously by all people and departments of your organization great things happen. An effective brand strategy can support an organization’s social impact. It can help to improve organizational cohesion. A shared understanding of the brand across all departments and stakeholder groups can increase the speed and breadth of consensus decision-making. An authentically articulated brand will make it easier for everyone to clearly understand your organization, internally and externally. Your brand articulates your difference, and in turn, the difference you are making in the world.


Can branding impact your fundraising efforts? 

You bet it can! While large charitable organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society and World Wildlife Fund have strong, memorable brands that enhance their recognition and fundraising success, small NFPs can achieve the same thing over time. According to Bennett and Sargeant, NFP organizations that rely on external funding need to maintain a high-quality, well-known brand for four main reasons:

  1. Donors expect a professional approach to brand management throughout fundraising nonprofit organizations. That level of professionalism displayed through brand assets and channels is a demonstration of the organization’s financial competency to affect change on the cause and mission.
  2. Exceptional nonprofit brand and image is a predictor of donated revenue. The more polished and cohesive your brand is across your organization, the more likely people are going to trust the organization, understand what you do and want to contribute to your efforts and operations. 
  3. Distinguished branding influences consumer preference for nonprofit-branded products and services. While there may be multiple organizations out there that support the work that you do, you want to be able to stand out from the rest to help prospective donors who resonate with your cause, to fund your work. 
  4. Brands with esteemed reputations can rapidly produce a response for donation requests. In the event where donations or funding is needed immediately, having a trustworthy and intuitive brand means people will be much quicker to donate knowing that their funds are going to a much needed solution.  


How to manage your NFP brand.

See your organization as a catalyst for change. Work towards aligning your brand with your Mission, Vision and Strategy. 

Work together as a team to build your brand. Instead of “policing” the brand for absolute conformity, facilitate participation across departments to manage the brand.

Provide useful assets for all departments to use, such as sample messaging, templates, toolkits and resources. Then empower your teams by encouraging the use of personal statements instead of uniform corporate slogans. 

By working within “Brand Parameters” — the boundaries of the brand — organizations can provide flexibility to meet the specific needs of all their stakeholder groups. It is possible to maintain a unified visual brand and brand voice, and adhere to branding guidelines, without feeling restricted.


Useful questions to ask yourself.

Not-for-profit organizations can ask themselves targeted questions to help expand the potential their branding can provide:

  1. How is our brand supporting the social impact we are striving to accomplish?
  2. How can our brand enhance our operational capacity?
  3. How is our brand supporting commitment among our staff, management, volunteers and directors?

Muse seeks opportunities to apply our skills to important causes. We are constantly being inspired by the NFP organizations we work with.

Read the Case Study for our rebranding of Sensity. They are the Deafblind and Sensory Support Network of Canada. This project included naming, branding and website development. Our Uncover Your Greatness brand discovery process engaged stakeholders at all levels of the organization.