Are your visuals and content pretty well standardized across your nonprofit’s website? If not, you could appear messy to potential supporters who land on your website. Or, even worse, you could be sending them mixed messages. Consistent nonprofit branding solidifies your organization’s look and personality, instilling a unified and coherent picture for supporters and the general public.
What is Nonprofit Branding?
Your nonprofit branding is the image that your nonprofit puts out into the world through everything that your organization does. It carries across your website, marketing materials, physical location, events, appearances in the media, etc.
A brand is more than a visual identity: the name, logo, and graphic design used by an organization. A brand is a psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of the branded product, person, organization, or movement. Brand management is the work of managing these psychological associations.” — Stanford Social Innovation Review
Exceptions for the Web
Many nonprofits have seen a lot of success from creating branded print materials like brochures, magazines and good, old fashioned letters. While it’s important to have a unified look and feel to everything your nonprofit produces to instill a familiar feeling in your supporters, print is not the same as the web. And your supporters don’t expect it to be.
For example, there are certain fonts that look awesome in print but aren’t nearly as legible online. Rather than sticking to the font that you selected as your branded font, it’s best to deviate and instead select a font that is perhaps similar, but easier to read on screens.
Formatting and writing style are two more great examples. Web content typically uses short paragraphs formatted with lots of headings and lists to make it easier for online readers to scan. But for a print alternative, you might include longer sections of text without so many headings.
The point we’re trying to drive home here is that you want to keep your nonprofit branding consistent, but not at the expense of a website visitor’s experience on your site. There’s some necessary give and take to make sure that the overall image of your nonprofit remains positive, no matter how they’re consuming your content.
Visual Branding Questions
Visual branding is the first impression that a visitor gets from your website. You want your site to fit your image and convey all of your desired feelings.
Your website is not a brochure. You want it to fit in with all of your other branded elements without breaking web design best practices. Use consistent colors from your logo and other custom imagery throughout your website’s design, but again, don’t try to match it entirely.
- How do you want your website to feel? For example, a preschool’s site might feel playful and cheerful.
- How do you want visitors to describe their experience on your site? Simple, informative, emotionally heavy or light, or another feeling.
- Have you documented your main brand colors?
- How does your audience use the web? Any usability considerations you need to make? An older audience might need larger fonts and images.
- When someone visits your website, what would you like their key takeaways to be? For many nonprofits, this will include making their mission and most important goals easy to find on the site.
The key here is to use high-quality photos across your website. If you also plan on using graphics, make sure to use a similar style site-wide.
- What emotions do you want people to feel when they look at your images?
- Do your images convey the diversity of your organization?
- Is there any imagery you’d like to emphasize or avoid?
- If you’re using original photos your organization has taken, do you need to get permission from people featured?
- Will you use stock photos or graphics?
The same logo should be used across your website and other marketing channels, so long as the image is high quality. Variations in your logo, like one with or without a tagline, can be interchanged throughout your branding materials, but the core of the logo should always remain the same.
- Is it representative of your organization?
- Is the quality good enough for the web?
- If the logo is to appear on a background color, do you have a PNG file with a transparent background?
Content Branding Questions
Aside from looking like your nonprofit, your website content should sound like your nonprofit.
Acknowledging what makes your nonprofit unique can help you carry those strengths throughout your content.
- What makes your organization different from similar nonprofits?
- What makes you an authority on the topic?
Target Audience Personas
Don’t have target audience personas? Create a few for your ideal supporters. You can then use them to direct every piece of content toward a very specific person.
- Who are you talking to?
- What are their main identifiers?
- What are their challenges? How do you solve them?
- What are their goals? How do you help reach them?
We’re typically against all duplicate content. It’s frustrating for readers who’ve read the exact same sentence before and a big no-no in the eyes of search engines. However, there are certain core statements about your nonprofit that should not waver.
- What’s your mission?
- What’s your tagline?
- What do you do? It will come in handy to have boilerplate language about who you are and what you do.
Voice and Tone
Your content should not read like a different person wrote each piece.
- What do you sound like? Sassy and sarcastic, informational and serious or supportive and understanding.
- Are your calls to action strong or more incremental?
- Is there any industry jargon that may be confusing to the average visitor? You’ll want to avoid jargon.
- Are there specific terms or a set vocabulary you should use? For example, you might refer to specific populations in one way (underserved vs. low-income; LGBT or LGBTQ).
- Does your voice differ across different channels? For example, what’s your website content like compared to Facebook posts?
Punctuation and Formatting Preferences
There are plenty of correct variations when it comes to grammar and formatting, but make an effort to be consistent with your choices across the website. For more tips on formatting choices, check out chapter six of our content guide.
- What is your stance on contractions?
- What about things like double spacing between sentences, oxford commas or excessive exclamation points?
- Do you format items of three or more into a list?
- And break up long blocks of content with headings?
- Does your website have pull quote styling? Do you use it for every quote on your site?
- Does your name have an acronym that you use? When do you use the acronym and when do you spell out the whole name?
Create a Nonprofit Branding and Style Guide
To help you follow through with your nonprofit branding decisions, pull them into a branding and style guide. It will house these questions and answers in an accessible place for anyone managing your website, and it’s a great way to ensure you carry branding over to new pages and updates.
Get the Guide Template
To make it easier on you, we pulled the questions into an easy template that you can copy and customize to use as your own, complete with examples to reference as you go.
Once you’ve decided on your branding, document these decisions to keep your website and the rest of your marketing in line. Branding and style guidelines can take a lot of the guesswork out of website management. With the guide as a reference, there’s no need to start from scratch each time you create new content.
Does your nonprofit have a branding and style guide? What did you include in it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.