What’s in a charity’s brand?

Dan Jubb
  • Dan Jubb
  • Head of Brand and Strategy

Is your charity brand working for you? Is it sending out a clear and compelling message that’s helping you to achieve your goals?

Your brand is at the very heart of enabling you to do the work that your charity was set up for. It’s also an essential part of generating the income that makes it all possible.

But how does it work in practice?

What does a charity’s brand actually DO for the charity?

What is a brand?

Your brand is the essence of who you are. It’s a summing up of why your charity exists and the value of the work that you deliver. It’s also about how you deliver – the personality of your charity.

Easy, don’t you think?

Not always. At TGDH we’ve worked extensively on branding and brand identity and it’s always been interesting when we work with a charity to find out how the people connected with the charity perceive it. It takes time and research to distil the facts, ideas and perceptions that will define the essence of your brand, but once you have that charity brand identity, you have a platform for some significant impact.

Your brand identity will contain the fundamentals that are contained in your organisation strategy. Your brand is all about your strategic aims.

Good branding retains and encourages supporters

A charity is different from other businesses and organisations because its range of stakeholders is unique. Those stakeholders include volunteers and supporters. Those volunteers and supporters are the lifeblood of the charity. They are the conduit through which the funds flow, that make your charity’s work possible.

Your brand has a unifying and motivating effect on those supporters, whether they’re making donations or doing volunteer work that generates income. Your brand makes it clear to them EXACTLY what it is that they’re supporting and why the part they play, no matter how small, is vital to the valuable work your charity does.

There’s a story about President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the NASA space centre in 1962 that shows how this works in practice.

During his tour of the space centre JFK spotted a janitor, carrying a broom. He walked over to the man and said:

"Hi, I'm Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?"

"Well, Mr. President," the janitor replied, "I'm helping put a man on the moon."

Now, that janitor was never going to quit his job and become a janitor in, say, a widget factory, even if it paid a bit more. He was working to put a man on the moon, dammit!

This is the kind of buy-in a strong brand identity will give you. Your supporters will stick with you and give their all because they are PART of what you do.

It’s something that applies equally to individual supporters and organisations that support your charity.

Good branding builds motivation

That Jack Kennedy story isn’t just about loyalty to your charity. It’s also about motivation and cohesion.

Charities are complex organisations, which means that individuals can lose sight of why they’re doing what they do – their role in the overall aims of the charity. This can be demotivating while also confusing the approach to tasks in hand.

An effective brand has a unifying power, bringing a sense of common purpose that energises staff in all roles, helping them to pull together to meet your aims.

Good branding gets attention

And let’s not forget the general perception of your charity by the public. After all – the public are the people from whom your future supporters, volunteers and staff come. They work for organisations that might want to form partnerships with you. They’re customers in your charity shops.

Your branding is crucial to the public’s understanding of who you are. Good branding will not only get their attention in the first place, but it will pull people in and get them on your side.

Good branding makes you competitive

A charity may be a very different organisation to other businesses, but it still has one of the same big challenges - competition. Competition between charities is getting fiercer all the time. Cuts in government funding alongside an increased demand on services are all taking their toll. Whatever your charity sector, there will be other charities competing with you for funding, for volunteers and for other forms of support.

Your brand is a key to getting noticed and then getting chosen.

This is something that successful charities big and small, local, national and international, all know well. Branding is essential to meeting your charitable aims. Charities that have an intelligent and creative approach to their brand identity will thrive. The ones that don’t? Well, they’ll probably lose out to the competition.

Building a successful charity brand takes creativity, time and expertise. But the rewards can be phenomenal. Your brand isn’t just about how you’re seen. It’s about what you are. Your charity exists to do an important job. Branding can play a significant role in getting that job done.