Essential Elements of Your Nonprofit’s Brand and Visual Identity

3 min read

What is a nonprofit brand? It can be difficult to define because a brand means different things to different people. Your brand includes how your nonprofit is known and recognized, as well as how you communicate about who you are, what you do, and why it matters. The expression of your brand takes place in the form of your logo, visual identity, fonts, color scheme and messaging. 

While the definition of a nonprofit brand can be hard to wrap your arms around, the elements of your brand and visual identity are not. Nonprofits with established brands have the following elements in place.  

Name and Tagline

There are four types of nonprofit names. There are descriptive names, like Feeding America, that describe exactly what your organization aims to do. There are invented names, like Oxfam (these often combine two words to make one). There are experiential names, like Stand Up to Cancer, that speak more to the experience your organization aims to create. And there are evocative names, like Ignite, which aim to evoke your nonprofit’s positioning. A strong name helps your nonprofit stand out from others that are similar and creates a connection between your organization and its stakeholders.

There are four types of nonprofit names: Descriptive, Invented, Experiential and Evocative. Which one is yours? Click To Tweet

Logo, Fonts and Color Scheme

When most people think about a brand, they think about a logo, or the visual representation of a nonprofit’s brand. The key to a good logo is memorability. But your visual identity also includes your brand fonts and your color scheme.

Your brand fonts are the typefaces your organization will use for things like headlines, body copy and hyperlinks. Selecting fonts is often an overlooked but very important part of the branding process because the fonts your organization chooses to use can create a feeling about your brand. For example, a serif font might convey professionalism, while a sans serif font might convey modernity. Either way, font consistency helps you create brand consistency across all of your materials. 

Your color scheme is made up of the colors you’ll use to represent your brand. This includes the colors in your logo, but it can also include complimentary colors that can be used in your brand materials and on your website.

Key Messages

Your key messages are the words you use to describe how your day-to day work serves your mission, why it matters and what impact you hope to make in the world. Many nonprofits also include an elevator pitch as part of their key messages, which is generally a 30-second description of your nonprofit, or something you could say during a short elevator ride. Additionally, it can be helpful to adapt key messages by each one of your stakeholder groups, taking into account, for example, that what you emphasize to a community partner may be different from what you emphasize to a funder. 

Brand Style Guide

A brand style guide is the document your entire team can reference to learn about how to apply your logo, fonts, colors and key messages in their day-to-day work. A style guide is essential for maintaining consistent usage of your brand elements, described above, across departments and materials.

A brand is so much more than a name and logo, and these elements are essential for capturing the essence of your brand and communicating your mission effectively.

Does your team have all the tools they need to communicate your brand consistently?

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With an internal brand portal or intranet, your team will be able to easily maintain your brand’s image and voice, no matter how long they’ve worked with your organization or how well they understand marketing.

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