When it comes to choosing the right colors for your nonprofit’s brand, there is no one right answer. There are actually quite a few “right” ones. This post is aimed at putting you in the direction of those right few and steering you away from the wrong ones.

Before I get into this, let’s first talk about why color should be an important part of your marketing strategy.

Why Do Colors Matter?

Marketers have long studied and discovered the importance of color in selling products and services. Colorcom, a group of Color Consultation experts, collected the results of a bunch of studies that quantify the importance of color in branding and advertising. Here are a few of their findings:

  • People make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.
  • Color increases brand recognition by up to 80%.
  • Ads in color are read up to 42% more often than the same ads in black and white.

What Does This Mean for Nonprofits?

As a nonprofit, you too have a brand to develop and maintain. What these studies show is that the colors you choose have a substantial impact on the first impression you make with your viewers. The colors you select when developing your brand (or revamping it) will appear everywhere: your logo, your website, letterheads, brochures, advertisements, you name it.

For some nonprofits, it can be difficult to choose colors that match your mission. It seems pretty straightforward that an orange juice supplier would use the color orange to brand their product. But what does a provider of inner-city education use?

Have no fear. Here are a few considerations to work with as you get started.

What to Consider When Choosing Colors

A skilled designer should be able to set you up with a good-looking and balanced color scheme. When you can, trust them to figure out the hairy details between “sky blue” and “partly-cloudy blue.” However it is good to know the direction you’d like to go in or, maybe more importantly, where you’d like to steer away from.


Studies have found that what really matters to viewers is not whether they “like” the colors used or not, but whether they find them appropriate. You goal shouldn’t be to find your potential donor’s favorite color but instead the color that will best relate to what you do.

If your nonprofit’s mission is to save marine habitats and ocean wildlife, an aqua blue might strike your viewers as more appropriate than a dusty red. If your focus is on children, bright primary colors may seem more fitting than dull neutrals. As I’ve said before, there is no one “right” answer for this. Instead focus on avoiding colors that might strike your viewer as “off.”

Other Nonprofits in Your Field

Looking at other nonprofits in your field can help you in two (at first) seemingly contradictory ways:

  1. You can use their colors to help establish what is appropriate for your industry.
  2. You can avoid their colors to help your nonprofit stand out.

A good way to balance both goals is to use an industry-common color as your base color and another slightly more unique color as a secondary color. Pass along the info to your designer (“everyone in our industry uses blue, what if we try adding in another color?”) and let them take the wheel from there. They may end up finding a completely unique but totally appropriate option.


The last important thing to consider is your nonprofit’s personality. Are you a bold, forward-thinking grassroots organization? Then steer to bright bold colors. Are you a conservative, older organization? Then go for something a little more muted or mature. Is your mission of a very serious nature? Darker colors might be your best bet. Trust your gut with this one. You know your organization best.

Further Research on Specific Colors

Still looking to understand how specific colors fit with your brand? Well thankfully there have been countless attempts to pin down the subjective nature of color. Try using some of the guides below to narrow down your color options.

A Guide to Choosing Colors for Your Brand

[Infographic] True Colors: What Your Brand Colors Say About Your Business

Color Emotion Guide

The Color Wheel

Have you found the perfect color combination for your organization? Do you know of another nonprofit that has? Share the success with us by writing a comment.

Image courtesy of Team Dalog