The importance of branding for non-profits.

How to gain recognition and deepen the impact.

Most non-profits rely on donors to fund the organization. Understanding the most effective way to impact your potential donors can help any non-profit organization thrive.

The art of storytelling.

In its core strategies a non-profit is essentially a business and a successful non-profit functions in the same framework. Being aware of the parallels between non-profit and for-profit can help the organization build the most strategic and effective method of fundraising, as well as creating a general awareness of the organization’s mission.

There’s one fundamental link between non-profit and for-profit: The story.

Building a deep connection with your customers or donors takes a compelling story that resonates with them. Every cause has a story, the story is your mission and why you exist in the first place. Your story is what you’re doing to change the world and why.

Every good story has a hero. In the non-profit’s case, the hero is the organization. Battling a status quo or an unjust in society, the non-profit is selflessly taking on the mission to fix what’s broken, to shine light where there’s darkness. The critical part is how to tell that story so it resonates with your audience and converts into a crowd that’s devoted to the cause. How to leverage your story to make an impact boils down to having a very fundamental mindset: It’s all about your audience.

Knowing the specific audience the story is being crafted for is essential. The story told must fit the lens your audience is looking through, resonating with them will lead to growing an audience that’s deeply moved by your mission.

The crucial part in that regard, is truly getting to know the audience who you’re serving. Learning what triggers them on an emotional level is key to having them respond positively to your cause. Taking example from the worlds leading non-profits we see a pattern of prioritizing the audience and packaging the story to move them emotionally.

Getting to know your audience.

In 2012 Forbes magazine published an exclusive interview with Steve Rothschild, the founder of an incredibly successful non-profit called Twin Cities RISE and former executive at General Mills. In that interview Steve spoke about the common grounds for success in both for-profit and non-profit and that is: the focus needs to be on the customer and how to best serve them.

“No matter who the customer is, a non-profit organization’s success depends on zeroing in on what that customer needs or wants. Business is about focusing, and I find that many organizations tend to not do that very well. The best organizations focus. They know who their customer is… and they’re doing few things very well,” Rothschild says.

Understanding the audience is the foundation, then telling the story specifically to the audience is the key. Strategy based branding is when the audience is first deeply understood and then the entire brand is formed to tell your story to your specific audience. The brand becomes a vehicle for your story, a conveyer belt of emotions.

Having a brand identity and its essential role in storytelling 

Your brand is your personality, your company’s attributes. Ultimately your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room. Contrary to the common misconception, your brand is not your logo, colour palette or website, your brand is something that lives in the minds and hearts of your users and customers, it’s the emotion they associate with your organization. The organization’s success is dependent on how deeply that emotion is influenced. Good branding means that the visual and verbal messages you give are making a strong link and connection between your audience and your organization. 

Reframing all you do internally as an organization and in all your forms of communication and marketing to fit the specific lens of your target audience ensures that your audience feels compelled to be part of it.

As with every non-profit we work with, we first get to the core and soul of A) the organization’s story and B) an in-depth understanding of who we’re telling this story to, a complete comprehension of the audience we’re impacting. With A and B in mind we begin to craft and communicate the organizations story to fit the lens our audience is looking through, creating the emotional connection w’ere after.

One of the organizations we’ve had the honour of branding as well as designing their 1 million dollar fundraising campaign is a Canadian healthcare organization called Refuah V’chesed, Crafting the visuals for their branded story was both exhilarating and challenging, and the results served as a witness for what strategic branding and communication can accomplish. The full case study of the project can be viewed on our website,

Having the Right Process.

Our process is a simple one, but a process that requires the right steps and strategy to execute properly.

Effective branding and design are always preceded by a strategy. First understanding the organizations core manifesto and reason for being is essential. We run workshops and exercises with every organization we work with to uncover their core and manifesto.

Once the core and strategy is all set in place we craft the actual brand identity and campaign. This phase takes into account all the above, a good identity is a balance of both communicating your story and message and packaging that for your audience in a way that resonates with them. 

A good brand identity is a perfectly balanced system of deeply communicating the soul of the organization with the soul of your audience. 

Knowing who you are serving and tailoring the entire package to them will increase the impact and help to develop strong and meaningful relationships with your audience that will result in a thriving organization.

We love working with non-profits that exist to make a positive change in the world. We are humbled by the incredible organizations we’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last decade and our goal and mission is to continue helping non-profits stand out and make an impact.

Yaakov Shpigelman is a brand strategist and identity designer at Brandify, The Branding Agency for non-profits.

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