hand holding pantone color samples

How to Align Your Nonprofit’s Brand with its Mission

Oftentimes, nonprofits, especially small nonprofits, feel it is frivolous or a waste of money to focus on branding. Afterall, shouldn’t all your dollars go towards programming? It is so important for you, your board and other staff to understand the importance of solid brand standards and their return on investment. Much like how a nonprofit brainstorms and picks apart their mission and vision statements, the same amount of effort should be spent on the logo, color guidelines, fonts, and imagery they use to represent themselves to the public. 

By focusing on these aspects, you will create an identifiable brand that sets you apart from other organizations within your community. Think about times when you were talking to someone in the community and you mention where you work. Without a strong brand and community presence, it is common for community members to mistake your organization for another, have no idea what you do, and/or make inaccurate assumptions about your organization. So, let’s dive in and go over the four main components of what makes a strong brand!

Follow Logo Best Practices

Your logo is your biggest brand asset. Brand colors, fonts, and imagery all will align with your logo. It is important to take serious consideration in what your logo represents and if it is appropriate for the longevity of your organization. 

First, your logo needs to be easy to identify and reflect your organization’s culture. Think about a healthcare organization’s logo as opposed to a nonprofit focused on youth development’s logo. These should have their own vibes and energy geared towards the audience they want to attract. The logo should also set your organization apart from others. If your nonprofit is currently operating without a proper logo, it can be very hard, if not impossible, for donors, volunteers, and clients to identify you.  

On a related note, your logo should be kept simple. When conceptualizing your logo it is important to remember all the different formats and sizes your logo will be displayed. From being a one inch logo on a handout to displayed on a huge billboard, your logo needs to be easy to read and identifiable. I also recommend sticking to a maximum of two fonts and three colors. Any more will make the logo too busy. 

In addition to thinking about the different sizes your logo will be displayed, consider the space allowed for your logo and if you need to adapt different versions of your logo. For example, oftentimes brands create a horizontal and vertical logo, or a wider logo and a square logo. This is so that their logo is never displayed incorrectly or in a way that could distract or confuse their audience. You should also have a grayscale version as well so you can ensure your logo will look exactly the way you envisioned it in black and white.

Josie Joan Creative Square Logo
Josie Joan Creative Horizontal Logo
Josie Joan Creative Horizontal Logo

Next, you will want to have different file formats for the logo. The two I recommend are .eps and .png. .Eps will allow the logo to be displayed pixel perfect no matter the size and is often required when working with printers, screen printers, or other design professionals. A .png is ideal when working within your organization. While this version can get distorted if the output size is larger than the saved dimensions, it allows for a transparent background which is ideal when designing collateral in-house.

While I’ve outlined guidelines for a good logo, it is important to remember that logos are a huge part of your branding and should be taken seriously. While there are products like Canva that make logo design seem easy, I highly recommend to always reach out to a professional so you have the required sizes, formats, and versions needed to look professional.

Let Color Guidelines Set The Mood

Color guidelines should be taken into consideration with any marketing materials you create. These should reflect and/or complement your logo’s colors. Take my logo for example. In the square (or circle) version, I use a teal color. When creating my website, social media content, or other marketing materials I will always incorporate the teal with a grey, white, or peach color as those are my brand colors. To build a consistent brand image, it is important to stay within your color guidelines and only use other colors under very particular circumstances.

When I decided my colors I made sure they complemented each other and considered the color wheel as well as color theory. Color theory is also a helpful tool to align your brand colors with your organization’s values. For example, if you are a youth development organization you may want to incorporate the color yellow as it represents happiness and youth. Or if you teach financial literacy, perhaps green which suggests stability and growth. 

In addition to your colors having meaning, it is important that colors complement and don’t bleed into one another when one is in the background and one in the foreground. This can often happen when using multiple colors that have a very rich vibrancy. I usually recommend one “wow” color and have the other colors be more subtle.

If you are in need of some inspiration, I recommend using the site coolors.co for color scheme inspiration. Make sure you have your colors translated to all color formats. Let me go over the main color formats necessary: 

  • HEX Codes are great when working digitally such as social media posts and websites.
  • RBG is another color combination that is used digitally and preferred when working with a designer. 
  • CMYK and Pantone colors are necessary when printing your materials. CMYK will determine the amount of pigment each ink cartridge will distribute. Because all printers are different, providing a print shop with your Pantone colors will ensure consistency amongst all your print materials.

Pick Complimenting Branded Fonts 

Branded fonts are the fonts you will use for all the text in your marketing material and extend beyond the marketing department and should be used for any correspondence within and outside your organization, such as donor tax acknowledgement letters, board reports or internal communication. While it may seem unnecessary to use your branded fonts for everything, it makes a huge difference. If you want the community to resonate with your brand and easily recognize it,  you need your staff, board and other key stakeholders to know your brand. Right down to the proper colors and fonts you use. Brand appreciation internally will grow your brand externally. So, how do you decide which fonts to use? Picking out your branded fonts is similar in that less is more. I would stick with two and only recommend a third if you absolutely have to. These fonts can be the same ones used in your logo or complementary. 

For example, my logo is my handwriting. Since I haven’t made a font with my own personal handwriting, I need to find complementary fonts that work. The first font I use is Futura. I chose this since my logo is cursive and needs a subtle partner, a sans serif font (or a font with no extending features or strokes) is perfect in these situations. I also use a serif font that resembles my handwriting.

So how do you know when to use these fonts? You’ll want certain fonts for different placeholders. To keep it simple you will need a body font and heading font. A body font is easy to read and used in letters or text heavy materials. This is where I use Futura.

Headings and call-to-actions can be more dressed up. This is where I would use the cursive font as it draws attention. If you need some inspiration go to fonts.google.com for a plethora of fonts.

Add Pizzazz With Imagery

Take your brand a step further with imagery that complement your logo, fonts and colors. Imagery can include particular backgrounds, graphics or accents that you use in all your marketing collateral. Using a set of images, art and/or shapes in every design increases awareness, preserves your brand, and keeps a consistent aesthetic.

Using the same set of images, art and/or shapes in every design increases awareness, preserves your brand, and keeps a consistent aesthetic

For example, I use this background with squiggles for informative social media graphics.

Another great example is the organization Girls on the Run. You can see from their materials that they use stars and hearts to accentuate their brand. 

Email banner for girls on the run

Featured Image photo by Taylor Heery on Unsplash

want more tips from josie?​

If you are ready to get serious with your marketing and create actionable goals, her Nonprofit Marketing Essentials Guide is for you! The paid version dives deeper into brand guidelines and includes a worksheet to help elevate your nonprofit’s branding. See the whole range of offerings here.

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