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Branding has never been more important for charities

by Owen
by Owen
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In an age where charities are vying for attention with commercial brands and having to harness new technology to get their message in front of the right audience, we take a look at the vital role branding can play in raising awareness and mobilising support for charitable causes.

The relationship between the charity sector and branding has not always been a comfortable one. A lack of understanding around the benefits of investing in brand, as well as the scrutiny that can accompany significant change, has proven challenging for many organisations and held them back. Recent high-profile cases like the RSPCA were met with scepticism by some, mainly because of the investment level made in an area away from frontline services. However, when you look at the fundamental role that effective branding plays in sustaining a charity and securing its future, the investment is not only justified, it’s completely necessary.

Creating clear and consistent messaging
There needs to be a clear ask. People need to know what they’re being asked to support, why they should support it and how they can support it. A well-executed brand will clearly outline the cause the organisation is committed to, as well as its own mission and values, which builds trust and authenticity. A clear and easy-to-understand proposition is vital in a world where all brands are operating in tiny and crowded windows of attention. Organisations with a solid strategy, distinctive tone of voice, compelling messaging, and a clear ask, will cut through the noise. Successful brands always have a well-executed strategy in place that allows them to influence how they are perceived. Charity brands are no different.

A consistent application of the brand is how charities build recognition and nurture loyalty. To be seen is to be believed, and a strong identity creates powerful associations in the collective consciousness of the audience. Confusion kills commitment, but consistent messaging around purpose, goals and values to potential donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries will instil confidence and build credibility.

Developing meaningful connection
Establishing and nurturing an emotional connection with the audience is key in galvanising support. Bringing them closer to the cause and the impact of their support of it creates more engagement and inspires fundraising. It produces champions and ambassadors of the charity that support it in the long-term. This is where well-thought-out copy and design can create a compelling presentation of the cause and demonstrate the impact of the charity. Charities need to consider impact visibility and how they illustrate the direct contribution of donors to positive change. Demonstrating tangible results reinforces accountability and transparency for an organisation. Whether it’s a website, event or success report, a branded approach creates ownership of this impact. Brand helps people to understand why you exist and what you stand for. In an uncertain economic climate, asking people to part with their money is a tougher ask than ever, so creating relatability and attachment is critical.

Developing meaningful connection not only helps with donor attraction and retention, it also helps to build a community of volunteers and attract strategic partnerships. A compelling brand narrative will bring opportunities for collaboration and creating relationships with other brands that share the same values and strategic goals. This is how charities will increase reach, leveraging partner communities and raising awareness among new audiences.

We believe that our brand celebrates sexual and mental health as something we all have and it’s bold, playful feel helps to bust stigma and encourage conversations about our causes.” — Laura Hamzic, Director of Digital & Communications, Brook

Empowering and motivating teams
Branding creates culture and charity teams, like those in any organisation, want to work somewhere where there is a clear mission, as well as values that are woven into their day-to-day responsibilities. Many charities are now looking to new generations to take on their mission and help drive it forward, and it’s well documented that employees rightfully expect to be sufficiently supported and empowered in their role. The majority of charities now have a brand manager or marketing positions responsible for the brand, and these people need to be equipped with the correct tools and level of autonomy to perform their role to the best of their ability. Good branding will motivate and inspire teams, providing them with the appropriate assets to build marketing campaigns. Comprehensive guidelines help to promote consistency and understanding of the brand visuals, tone, language and usage. People want to feel proud of where they work and this is never truer than in the case of those who have signed up for a cause. The brand is the embodiment of that cause and it can unify teams with a sense of strong purpose. 

Moving with the times
Charities are increasingly  buying into the fact that they need to have dynamic and adaptable brands in order to stay current and capitalise on emerging trends and issues. Remaining relevant and responsive through branding puts an organisation in a position to seize new opportunities that align with their mission, whether it’s addressing emerging social issues or utilising innovative methods to fundraise. It’s vital for charities that they can adopt new technologies and increase visibility across the right channels. They need to embrace change, move with the times and make a conscious effort to communicate with their audience in their chosen environments. This can only be achieved with a versatile and adaptable brand that translates well across different formats and media platforms.  

There is a lot of focus on developing an ‘identity system’ in modern brands, satisfying the demands of technology and the expectations of the audience. More fluid approaches to brand identities, with different logo compositions and shortcuts for social media now common-place. 

Charities need to ensure that they have the core building blocks in place for the development of a successful brand identity. A clear vision of the organisation’s purpose and values should come together in a compelling mission statement. What does it stand for and how is it different? This helps to establish a solid foundation for the development of a tone of voice and visual identity that will cut through the noise and be unmistakably ‘you’.

Developing a deep understanding of the audience is also a key task. Good branding should address the challenges and motivations of the target audience, with messaging that resonates with them effectively. The majority of charities are now actively speaking to different audience segments and the brand needs to have the flexibility to serve each of these, so a clear understanding of the audience breakdown will inform all marketing and comms work.

Looking to take your charity brand to the next level? 
We’ve helped charities like Brook, Shore and Havens to create distinctive brand identities and strategies. So if you’re looking to bring your brand to life, engage your audience and mobilise support for your cause, get in touch with us here

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  • Author Owen
  • Position Managing Director
  • ID #0004H