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Nonprofit Rebranding: How to Decide if it’s Right for Your Organization


By Terri Harel

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Valerie Neumark Mickela is co-founder of Rootid.in, a strategic communications, web design, and custom development firm focused on non-profits and socially responsible businesses. With over 13 years experience working as a brand strategy consultant, graphic designer, and internal administrator, Valerie has built her career nurturing community growth and sustainability via authentic marketing.

How to Know When It’s Time to Rebrand

Knowing when it is time to rebrand is not an easy decision. It can sometimes feel like an odyssey, so the best way to begin is to ask yourself why. There can be a lot of reasons a change might be needed. The most important place to start is figuring out what kind of change is needed.

Begin by doing a self-assessment of your brand and make sure to enlist current stakeholders (internal and external) to help you with this process. Conducting Stakeholder Interviews are the easiest way to get outside input – just make sure you choose people who have distinctly different roles/relationships with your organization. A quick sampling would include a board member, senior staff member, junior staff member and 2 people your organization serves.

Self-Assessment Questions

  • Has the mission of your organization changed? If so, in what way(s)? Are these changes fundamental to your organizational values or are they add-ons to what you already do?
  • Has something about your community changed? ie. Do you now serve a different group of people than you did before? Are you trying to attract a new type of donor, advocate, community partner, etc.?
  • Is your organization at an inflection point of some kind? Do you want to grow?
  • Are you trying to distinguish yourself from your competitors in a new way?
  • Have you had some bad press that you want to shed the effects of?

Now that you know why you want to rebrand, there is still the question of what type of nonprofit rebranding you should do. Below are 3 types to consider.

1. The Full Rebrand

Consider this option when your organizational values and the community you serve have both changed. Or, maybe there is a competing organization that has a similar name and you are finding too much confusion is occurring. Full nonprofit rebranding can be a difficult process both in terms of figuring out where you are going and just the simple adjustment of “change,” so make sure that you and your community stakeholders are ready to be open and fully engaged in this process.

What it takes

Full nonprofit rebranding would include a renaming, creating new messaging (including a new mission statement), logo and visual identity. Once you are ready to start this process, begin with establishing your new core values and then build your mission statement from there.

Often times creating various moodboards based on your core values will help you establish a new vision, direction and strong visual language. Once this is complete, it is time to create new print and digital/web assets to reflect your new brand. It is also important to plan your re-launch strategy so that people who know you well, will know that you have changed.

2. A Partial Rebrand

If your organizational values have not changed but you have reached an inflection point, are ready to have new growth, or the community you serve has changed, it might be time for partial nonprofit rebranding. Ultimately, the purpose here is realignment, so assess the effectiveness of your logo, messaging and visual identity during your self-assessment and stakeholder interviews and then adjust the pieces that are not working or need strengthening.

You do not need to change everything; it really depends on what will be most effective in communicating your mission to your target audiences. If you already have a recognizable logo, maybe it just needs a facelift. If your logo is really not working, but the fonts and color palette still feel strong, then hire a firm to work with you on creating a new logo that is a better representation of your mission, vision and long-term goals.

What it takes

A new or revitalized logo, visual language-typography, color palette, and imagery, and messaging-how you talk about yourself. Once these are complete, you must create new print, digital, and web assets to maintain your new-found cohesiveness.

3. Brand Revitalization

If nothing about your organization has had any large changes, then chances are your nonprofit branding feels a little old and needs a facelift. The brand revitalization process is focused on modernization and optimization of your print and digital/web assets. The importance here is to create brand consistency, so that you better engage and inspire your community.

Words to the wise

  • Choose your leadership and design team for this endeavor wisely—make sure they are thoughtful, collaborative and will not place their own pride or bias ahead of the good of the brand and process as a whole.
  • Use your core values and long-term goals as touchstones. If you are ever unsure what next step to take or what decision to make, refer to your core values and make sure you are staying aligned.
  • You do not need to change everything but it is ok to allow everything to be ‘on the table.’ Danger really only lies if you are not making authentic or grounded choices (refer back to #1 & #2).
  • Remember that change is often difficult so be sensitive that it might dig up feelings that may not always be constructive. Make sure your stakeholders are not only involved, but also given a chance to voice any concerns at the beginning rather than waiting to show them your product at the end. Keep the attitude that this is often an iterative process.
  • Don’t be wishy-washy. Once you have done your research, interviewed your stakeholders and chosen your direction, stick with it. There will be moments you want to turn back, but push through any discomfort you might feel. Good Luck!

The Nonprofit Growth Guide

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