Are You Considering a Rebrand in the Year Ahead? Weighing the Risks and Rewards

4 min read

For most nonprofits, the risks and rewards of rebranding are two sides of the same coin. As you’re thinking through the pros, cons, opportunities and challenges that come along with changing your organization’s name or identity, think about three areas that will be impacted most by a nonprofit rebrand: your organization’s brand equity, your revenue and fundraising and the perspectives of your staff, volunteers, clients and the community. 

Here are the risks and rewards of nonprofit rebranding and some tactics for evaluating whether or not your organization should rename.

Risk/Reward One: Brand Equity

Simply put, brand equity is how well-known your organization is and how it is perceived by those outside of your nonprofit. While your brand equity doesn’t all come down to your organization’s name, in most cases your name and identity play a significant role in shaping how you are viewed by external audiences. 

The number one reason organizations approach Prosper Strategies about a nonprofit rebrand is because something about their current name is causing confusion among the audiences they would like to reach. Most of them have a functional name that signifies:

  • the nonprofit’s expertise or area of service; 
  • geographic or physical location; 
  • client demographics; or
  • the type of work the organization does. 

And for these nonprofits considering a rebrand, some component of this name is too broad, too limiting, inaccurate or outdated. On its face, renaming for these organizations seems like a no brainer…except for their brand equity. Despite their name no longer representing their work or their mission, people know who they are.

While there are risks associated with losing brand equity, there are rewards that come along with a nonprofit rebrand as well. A new name and identity is the opportunity to reintroduce your organization to existing stakeholders, expand your reach to new audiences and take control of the future positioning of your nonprofit.

A new name and identity is the opportunity to reintroduce your organization to existing stakeholders, expand your reach to new audiences and take control of the future positioning of your nonprofit. Click To Tweet

Risk/Reward Two: Revenue and Fundraising

This risk/reward dovetails off of brand equity. Every nonprofit organization considering a rebrand is thinking about implications — positive or negative — it will have on revenue and fundraising. Is your nonprofit’s current brand so well-known that changing it will alienate donors and funders? Is the brand confusion your organization is experiencing actually a good thing when it comes to raising funds? If you rebrand your nonprofit, will it make it harder for existing donors to find you?

On the flip side, does a rebrand open up new opportunities for revenue at your nonprofit? We’ve had nonprofit clients rebrand and increase their ability to forge new corporate partnerships or apply for grants where they had been overlooked in the past because their name limited the way funders thought about their work.

Risk/Reward Three: Community Perspectives

People from within and outside your organization will have perspectives about what a rebrand means for your nonprofit. Your organization’s name and identity can also impact your ability to hire staff, recruit volunteers or increase your reach among the people you serve. As with donors and funders, you could run the risk of people feeling left behind or alienated by a rebrand, either because they weren’t involved in the process to the extent they felt they should have been or they don’t feel the nonprofit’s new brand is representative of the organization’s work.

Just as with revenue and fundraising, the opposite side of the coin here affords you the ability to more accurately represent your work, programs and services, so that hopefully more people, not less, see alignment with your nonprofit’s work. This is particularly true if the former name was limiting in scope or marginalizing of a certain group.

Weighing the Risks and Rewards

Choosing to rebrand your nonprofit is an important decision, even if it does seem like the only way to go. If it’s something your organization is considering in 2020, carefully weigh the pros and cons for your nonprofit. 

Start by creating a list of perceived risks and rewards associated with a rename and then conduct a brand perception study. This typically involves a combination of research, surveys, focus groups and interviews designed to gather important insights from outside audiences about what a new brand and identity could mean for your nonprofit. You can couple this with internal conversations, surveys and even formal interviews to gather perspectives from your board, staff and partners. 

These insights will go a long way in helping you determine whether to move forward with a rebrand or not.

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