Nonprofit Rebranding: 4 Steps to Update Your Brand

Nonprofit Rebranding: 4 Steps to Update Your Brand

For your nonprofit to further its mission, it’s important to effectively communicate who you are and what you stand for to your supporters. An essential tool for doing this is your organization’s brand. Branding helps differentiate your nonprofit from other similar organizations and allows your audience to form meaningful connections with you, which can inspire them to get involved with your cause.

However, there may be times when your nonprofit needs to update its brand. Whether you’re undergoing an internal transition, your values have changed over time, or you just want to stay on top of current trends in graphic design, rebranding ensures that your external messaging and visuals accurately reflect your organization.

To get started with your rebrand, follow these four steps:

  1. Define Your Nonprofit’s Brand Identity
  2. Develop a Rebranding Strategy
  3. Design New Brand Elements
  4. Implement the Rebrand Across All Communication Channels

Rebranding your organization might seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. As you follow the steps in this guide, consider working with a nonprofit branding agency that can ensure your rebrand goes as smoothly as possible. Let’s dive in!

1. Define Your Nonprofit’s Brand Identity

Because your nonprofit’s brand represents who you are and what you stand for, the first step in rebranding is to solidify those concepts. To define your brand identity, consider your organization’s:

  • Mission statement. Your mission statement clarifies your nonprofit’s purpose and creates a foundation for a consistent brand. Most nonprofit logos and taglines are based on the organization’s mission statement, and other brand elements such as color schemes often reflect it as well.
  • Values. Your values provide guidance for decision-making and communication, influencing the way your audience perceives your organization. Aligning your branding with your values makes your organization feel authentic, which builds trust with supporters.
  • Positioning. Positioning is what makes your nonprofit different from other similar organizations and can serve as a “selling point” for gaining support. For example, if there are multiple animal rescues in a particular city, supporters may wonder why they should engage with one over another. To differentiate itself, one of these organizations might position itself as the largest no-kill shelter in the city to show potential donors that it has the broadest impact in comparison to the other rescues.

These concepts influence the way your organization tells its story, which in turn should inform your branding strategy. Your rebrand should reflect your current stance on these concepts to form a cohesive brand identity.

2. Develop a Rebranding Strategy

Rebranding doesn’t always require a complete overhaul of your previous brand. You can save your organization time, energy, and resources by first assessing your current brand rather than starting from scratch. To determine the scope of your rebrand, decide which brand elements still reflect your nonprofit’s identity and which aspects need to be changed.

Then, research your target audience. Because your brand affects how you communicate with supporters, you want to make sure they’ll be receptive to your updates. Consider your audience’s demographics, interests, and motivations for supporting your organization by examining your donor data and conducting surveys on their perceptions of your nonprofit.

Once you understand the scope of your rebranding efforts, you can set your overarching goals and begin drafting creative concepts for your rebrand before updating specific brand elements.

3. Design New Brand Elements

While it can be tempting to start creating new visuals and content guidelines as soon as you decide to rebrand your nonprofit, going through the process of defining your brand identity and strategy first allows you to focus your efforts. Consulting with a branding agency is especially helpful at this stage to ensure the new aspects of your brand align with your goals.

That being said, some brand elements that you might consider updating include:

  • Color scheme. People naturally associate colors with certain ideas and feelings, and your brand colors should speak to your nonprofit’s values. For example, if your main brand color used to be red, but your organization values trust and peace more than the passion and strength that red represents, blue might be better suited to your brand.
  • Typography. You can update your typography in several ways, such as adding a second font for visual variety or choosing entirely new fonts to keep up with design trends. However, you should always balance personality with readability.
  • Logo. Because your logo is critical for brand recognition, it’s often better to make smaller changes to it rather than completely overhauling it during your rebrand. For example, WWF has one of the best-known nonprofit logos because the design has always featured a panda despite going through several iterations. Determine what aspects of your old logo design you want to keep, then use those as a foundation for an updated logo with new colors, fonts, or graphic styles.
  • Messaging. How you write your communications is just as important as the way they look. Consider whether you need to implement new guidelines for word choice, tone, or other stylistic elements of your writing for your rebrand.

When changing your brand, ensure you record these updates for your marketing team and graphic designers to use. Loop’s guide to best practices in nonprofit design recommends creating a style guide detailing all of your brand elements. Treat this guide as a living document—as your brand evolves, revise your style guide to ensure it’s always up to date.

4. Implement the Rebrand Across All Communication Channels

When the time comes to roll out your rebrand, consistency is key. To introduce supporters to your new brand elements, incorporate them into the following nonprofit marketing materials:

  • Your website. Incorporate your colors and fonts throughout your website, and place your new logo in the top corner of your navigation bar so it appears on every page.
  • Email marketing. In addition to adjusting the way you write your emails to reflect your current messaging standards, consider using branded templates that include your logo to highlight the visual aspects of your brand.
  • Social media. The way your rebrand affects your organization’s social media content will vary by platform. For example, you’ll use your new brand colors and fonts when designing graphics for Instagram, while your messaging guidelines will affect text-heavy posts on platforms like Facebook. To make your updated logo more recognizable, set it as the profile picture on all of your nonprofit’s social media accounts.
  • Direct mail. Your nonprofit’s rebrand should apply to both digital content and print marketing! According to Fundraising Letters, using a branded letterhead and graphics in direct mail outreach makes your solicitations look more professional and helps convince supporters to donate.

Before your full rollout, create samples of each of these types of content and make last-minute adjustments based on how your new brand elements look in context. It’s also helpful to announce your rebrand on each of these communication channels a few weeks in advance. If supporters are aware that changes are coming, your new brand will be easier to recognize from the start.

A successful rebrand can help your organization attract new supporters, retain existing donors, and make a greater impact overall. Rebranding can be a major undertaking, so it needs to be approached strategically. If you start with a clear goal and idea of your nonprofit’s identity, you’ll be able to design and implement new brand elements that engage supporters and clearly share your organization’s identity. 

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