Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 2.57.23 PM(Don't ditch out on branding.)

Nobody wants to be the "bad" brand. Bad brands end up at the bottom of life's laundry bin. Just like that t-shirt you only wear to bed because it's too embarassing for daylight. If you don't give branding the TLC it deserves, you'll never blossom into the next nonprofit trend. #NoOneCares how great you are, if you can't communicate your purpose properly.

A strong brand builds credibility, which is a catalyst for bringing more donors to the table. But nonprofit branding is about more than increased fundraising. Strong branding can be an integral stategy in driving broad, long-term social goals, strengthening identity and increasing capacity.

Thankfully, we came up with a branding basics checklist to help you take your branding out of the laundry bin. 

Before you print 1000 custom t-shirts take a moment to review the integrity of your branding. One of the biggest marketing mistakes you can make is spend a fortune on promoting a poorly put together brand.

Think about branding in terms that go beyond the logo. Branding is a psychological construct. It's not just about what you see, it's about how and what you feel. In the for-profit realm we build strong associations and loyalties with our favorite brands. We know that the Starbucks mermaid stands for powerfully caffeinated coffee that makes us feel AWAKE and ALIVE. Some dissenters might call it dirty overpriced water, but we feel confident in our support of Starbucks. The company rewards us for purchases, and we're proud of their stance on social issues. Starbucks and I are totally aligned. This alignment is what makes a brand strong. The 5 questions below will help you create a foundation for aligning your nonprofit's branding efforts.

1. Do you have an elevator pitch?

Do the members of your organization (you included) know how to sum up the mission statement of your organization in a quick, concise pitch? In a world of sound-bytes, everyone from staff to volunteers to board members, should know exactly how to describe your organization when asked.

Create an elevator pitch to describe your nonprofit and share it with everyone.  Use it as your tagline on social media, put it on your website and add it to every single email you send out. Don’t be shy, this is your pitch, own it.

Do it right and there won’t be a conflicting message when people ask, “oh, __________. I’ve heard a lot about you lately… now, what is it that you do?”

Just remember: keep it clear, concise and catchy.

2. Do you have visual recognition?

We are all slaves to the power of split second visual recognition. It’s what makes us exit at one rest stop over another or helps us quickly grab the right container when we’re in a rush at the grocery store.

The best logos are simple and memorable: the Nike swoosh and the McDonalds arches are instantly recognizable across the globe. If your organization does not have a logo, or if your logo steers toward “it’s complicated” it might be time to talk a graphic designer. Think logically and think strategically (fewer colors means less printing costs and visual cues that align with your causes are more memorable). Good design is deeper than “hey, that looks nice”.

Once you have a memorable logo for your organization, get it out there. Just remember to use the same variation for all of your branding efforts. Consistency with logo use is crucial. If you want to create familiarity and breed trust, make sure to outline a set of guidelines for how your logo should be presented.

Don’t cut corners with visual branding. Consider your logo to be a tool on a Swiss army knife of marketing strategies. You can’t even begin to imagine how many times it’s going to swoop and save your butt.

3. Are you properly using social media?

You should exist AND interact on several social media channels. First off, social media humanizes you. It’s a realm where organizations can act like people do, and this is important because people like interacting with other people. They’re not that into nebulous nonprofits that just ask for cash.

Which platforms are best for you? Do the research. What networks are the top nonprofits in your industry utilizing most? When you don’t have a professional team of social media strategists working 24/7 to keep your campaign “fresh” you have to find out where your efforts are going to really count. Facebook for starters, is a no brainer for all nonprofits.

Likes and follows are currency. You’re building community capital with social media. If you build a strong social network, your nonprofit will have a built-in forum to get the word out when you need it. Today’s market is greatly shaped by social influencers. Think about that special follower that you have who loves what you do and has 25,000 followers of his or her own. When they “share” your cause, that “share”, is hands down worth more than most Advertising you'd probaby consider paying for.

To build a positive social media presence share information, not spam. If you’re still working on building up your own content, take the time to find the best content that is relevant to your cause and be a positive aggregator.

4. Do you have analytics tools in place?

If you want to build buzz how are you going to measure that “buzz” growth? Analytics are key to seeing whether or not your efforts are effective. They also help you set realistic goals for online marketing.

For example, Facebook allows you to see your “reach” on each post. Set a goal to out-perform your highest reach post, but really think about it before you dive right in. What time of day and week did you post? What kind of content did you post? What do most of your Facebook followers have in common? Good content marketing has little to do with luck or chance.

Make sure that you have a system in place to analyze all of your marketing efforts. Does your website have analytics? Do you know how many people opened your last email blast? Are you able to pinpoint your biggest strengths on Twitter?

Don’t let analytics fall to the wayside. They’re frighteningly powerful at helping reveal your greatest marketing strengths and weaknesses. Best of all, many of the best tools for analytics tracking are totally free.

5. Do you have checks and balances for content?

Have you ever seen an advertisement that is so painfully bad it breaks your heart? It just stings to see that an organization paid hard earned money for poor publicity. You know what’s even more heart wrenching? The fact that nobody stopped them from doing it.

Before you dive into paid marketing territory, make sure that all content goes through a system of checks and balances. Believe me, while not everybody on staff may be a copy writer or graphic designer, soliciting a second (third, fourth and so on) opinion is key. You want to make sure that the message in your mind aligns with the message you’re about to broadcast en masse.

Put down the megaphone, turn on spell check and remember that people appreciate well thought out and well executed campaigns. Remember, never publish daily content without checking over it several times and always thinking twice. We live in a day and age where one 140 characters can ruin everything you’ve ever worked for. Take your content seriously. It may seem like you have to do everything in a rush but quality stands out, even in this oversaturated information age.

Looking ahead at the future, nonprofits should view branding as an ongoing task and crucial part of their organization. Building better branding is about letting the world know that you're primed to evolve with the times, that you're relevant and that your nonprofit and cause counts. It's about aligning your purpose with the people.

Need a little help getting your marketing off the ground? You've come to the right place. Check out our comprehensive marketing services.

Let's connect: @WhatDoUEnvision

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