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Creating a Nonprofit Branding Guide: Do’s and Dont’s

Mary Novokhovsky

One of the most important steps to building your nonprofit’s brand identity is creating a nonprofit branding guide. Today we’re going to talk about what your branding guide should include, along with some do’s and don’ts for the process.

Why are branding guides so necessary?

It’s important to make sure that the message your nonprofit wants to communicate is consistent across all platforms. Think about your favorite brands for a second. One of my guilty pleasures is Oreo cookies. I can spot Oreos from a mile away (OK, maybe not that far but you get the point). First it’s the deep blue packaging, then it’s the unmistakable Oreo font plastered across the front.

My mind immediately associates Oreos’ branding with “delicious”. Your goal is make sure that donors immediately associate your branding with things like: “amazing nonprofit”, “powerful mission”, and “this is where my donation will really count”.

Not sold on the power of branding? Well, there’s some science behind brand recognition. Business consultant Chris Malone and Social Psychologist Susan Fiske have been studying the obsession with brand loyalty over the years. They discovered that people perceive brands the same way they perceive other people. “These perceptions drive their loyalty, or disdain, toward a product or provider”.

Now that you’re on board with the power of branding, it’s time get started on creating a set of guidelines.

Logos: The Centerpiece of your Brand

It’s not easy to come up with an amazing logo. The best logos are simple, elegant, and communicate who you are all-in-one. But once you finally get there, remember to treat it with respect.

nonprofit branding style guide skype example

 

Do:

Your logo should always maintain its structural integrity. Whether you want to use your logo as a sweeping background image on social media or embed it in your email signature, make sure that the proportions are always consistent.

Don’t:

Stretch out or pinch your logo dimensions. Logos with skewed proportions make your organization look unprofessional and take away from branding consistency.

 

nonprofit branding style guide spotify example

Do:

Provide people with access to a high resolution version of your logo. Most major brands make high quality versions of their logos easily accessible.

Don’t:

Send somebody a .jpg and hope for the best.

Do:

Tell people what they can and cannot do with your logo. Make sure that everybody knows what the rules are for posting. If you don’t want your logo used in certain contexts, make that clear.

Don’t:

Expect people to read your mind about where you’re comfortable with your logo being posted.

Color Palettes: The Mood of Your Brand

The color palette is an important part of a building a great branding style guide. Different colors can invoke different feelings, so think about that when picking your palette.

According to a 2014 study at the University of Missouri-Columbia, logo colors triggered specific feelings in participants:

  • Blue: confidence, success and reliability
  • Green: environmental friendliness, toughness, durability, masculinity and sustainability
  • Purple: femininity, glamor and charm
  • Pink: youth, imagination and fashion
  • Yellow: fun and modernity
  • Red: feelings of expertise and self-assurance

nonprofit branding style guide example

Do:

Establish a specific color palette for your organization. Also, make sure that you have picked out specific colors to represent the brand. For example, the Neon CRM yellow is always #d1d34.

Don’t:

Forget to specify the exact shade of colors. “Blue” can be a very broad direction.

Do:

Specify when/where different colors are used. Do you have a primary colored version of your logo but have a black and white alternative for sponsorship materials? Make very clear which color palette you prefer.

Don’t:

Forget to clarify how flexible you are with the color palette.

Do:

Think about picking colors that invoke the right mood to represent your message.

Typography: A Building Block of Brand Identity

Type goes hand-in-hand with your logo. For some major brands, logos are typographic (for example: Coca Cola). Whether your logo is type driven or not, the type you choose to represent you is a major building block of brand identity. By now, we’ve all come to love and hate certain fonts. Remember that when you pick which ones you’d like to represent your nonprofit.

nonprofit branding style guide urban outfitters example

Do:

Pick a consistent font (or fonts) to use throughout your web and print materials. It helps reiterate your branding.

Don’t:

Go wild with fonts. Too many fonts overwhelm the eye. If you’re going to pick more than one, make sure that they’re complimentary.

Do:

Pick font sizes and styles for different elements (Titles, paragraph text, etc)

Don’t:

Expect people to know when to bold something or when to underline. Let people know how you want to express different elements.

 

Mission Statement: The Heart of Your Brand

nonprofit branding style guide YMCA example

Do:

Pick exact wording for your mission statement.

Don’t:

Give people flexibility with how to communicate your mission

Do:

Make sure your mission is short and sweet.

Don’t:

Expect people to put up with an entire paragraph. It’s not visually appealing.

P.S: A good mission can always double as a tagline.

Looking for more nonprofit resources?

Does your brand and online presence need a little work? Our Nonprofit network of professionals is here to help.

Want to spruce up your web presence. Let our Web Studio give you a hand.

Looking for some handy guides on best practices for nonprofits. We’ve got you covered.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to design your nonprofit’s website, check out our list of top charity websites to spark your inspiration. Then, read our list of top design firms to find a website builder.

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