I recently wrote a post about the ingredients of a successful nonprofit marketing initiative. In it, I discussed ways to ensure communications projects stay on track and achieve maximum impact, which included:
- Establishing a communications committee, made up of individuals who can champion the work and provide diverse perspectives;
- Considering the time you’ll need to dedicate, including your own and the time of others within your organization;
- Setting milestones and checkpoints to keep project momentum;
- Developing a plan and goals for the work; and
- Measuring success.
All of the ingredients of a successful nonprofit marketing initiative apply to a rebrand, however, there are several other things to consider before thinking about refreshing or reimagining your nonprofit organization’s messaging or visual identity. Therefore, I wanted to revisit the concepts through the lens of a rebranding project, and point to a few of our previous insights that can help you along the way.
Over the last 10 years, there have been a record number of nonprofits that have renamed or rebranded. Why? Funding streams are changing, the way donors give is changing, organizations are becoming more inclusive or their work is fundamentally changing based on the evolving needs of the communities they serve. All of these instances require nonprofits to take a hard look at their messaging, name and visual identity to ensure all are reflective of the organization they are today.
That being said, rebranding is not a decision that should be taken lightly. If your organization is considering a brand refresh or a full rebrand, the following are a few things you should do during this process.
Start With a Brand Perception Study
Before embarking on a rebrand, ensure it’s actually going to solve the challenges your nonprofit organization is facing. Some nonprofits make the mistake of thinking a new image will inherently raise their visibility, increase fundraising dollars or solve issues of strategy misalignment. However, a rebrand or rename itself will do none of these things.
When can a new name, identity or messaging help your organization? When your nonprofit has sound strategies in place but your current brand is misaligned, when your image is outdated or when your brand is unintentionally stereotyping or disempowering your stakeholders are all good times to rebrand.
If you’re not sure whether or not to rebrand or rename your organization, don’t take the plunge. Instead, conduct a brand perception study to understand external perspectives. Then align internally on a decision about whether or not to move forward with the larger initiative.
Use Research to Inform Your Nonprofit Rebrand
There are two main reasons research is critical to a nonprofit rebranding or renaming process. The first is that it provides an opportunity to engage your organization’s various stakeholders in the process. The second reason is because research should inform the elements of your rebrand that will define your organization going forward.
Conduct interviews, surveys and focus groups to gather the unique perspectives of those who will be impacted by the new brand. This gives everyone the opportunity to have a voice in the process and also ensures you’re taking into account the diverse perspectives of your staff, board members, partners and those you exist to serve. Their insights will be hugely valuable as you think about developing a name or new messaging that will be resonant with those who need to know about your organization most.
Ultimately, research informs your organization’s unique positioning and lends insights into your messaging point of view and perspective. Research can also serve as inspiration for the development of your organization’s new name and messaging. For example, when Prosper Strategies worked with Resilience, formerly Rape Victims Advocates, during our research, we heard time and time again about the organization’s need to be both empathetic and empowering in its work, and so we knew the new name needed to embody both.
Engage Your Stakeholders Throughout the Nonprofit Rebranding Process
We’ve talked about the right (and wrong) way to engage your organization’s staff and board in the rebranding process. Engaging those outside your organization, and most importantly those you serve, is equally as important. As discussed above, there are a number of ways to get input throughout the branding process in the form of surveys, interviews, focus groups and listening sessions. You can also form a committee of individuals who are involved in the process from start to finish, to ensure you’re gathering diverse perspectives that inform your rebrand.
Plan for the Rollout
Introducing your new brand or messaging should be an exciting time for your organization. While many folks at your nonprofit will be involved in the process, others who have a less hands-on role will still need to understand what is changing, why and how it will impact them and their work. Consider town hall meetings to share the process with everyone and trainings that provide guidance on using your new brand and messaging in practice.
Also think about how you’ll share your rebrand or refresh with donors, supporters and those you serve. Will you share information through your email list? Do some people need individual outreach? Will you let members of the media know? Having a buttoned up rollout plan ensures you make the most of this important announcement.
Evaluate Your Success
When you begin the rebranding or renaming process, you should clearly identify what you are aiming to achieve with a new brand and messaging. Is it clarity about how you communicate your purpose? Is it the ability to raise more funds? Your brand perception study is a good place to gauge how people think or feel about your brand at the outset. Then, you can use the information gathered at that time to determine benchmarks and measure against them when everything is complete.
With a rebrand comes a lot to think about and a lot to do. If it’s something your organization is considering, download our Nonprofit Rebranding Needs Assessment to determine if it’s really time for a rename.