Five Keys to Building a Unique Nonprofit Brand

Created by Jackie Lalley

Five-Keys-to-Building-a-Unique-Nonprofit-BrandBuilding a successful nonprofit brand is a unique process. Like a business, your brand must overcome competition, apathy, and an oversaturated marketplace, but your organization also has an important advantage: your mission is unique and meaningful. And there are actionable ways you can build a brand around that. 

1. Emphasize Your E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness)

Your content is your brand, but your content can be lost if it’s not being found by your ideal supporters and participants. That’s where E-A-T comes into play. If you can craft content that establishes that you are an expert, an authority, and most of all, are trustworthy in your space, you’ll be able to get a leg up, and you’ll be more likely to rank on search engines. 

The internet is a big place, and one of the biggest challenges is cutting through the noise to ensure that you’re most likely to be found. But even with limited resources, you can gain a foothold in your space in terms of search engine rankings, and then you’ll find massive opportunities for growth. There are many ways to establish your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, including

  • Creating content authored by leaders in your field
  • Ensuring your content is comprehensive and thorough
  • Establishing your nonprofit brand presence on multiple platforms (this can range from social media to guest posting on other sites)
  • Enabling commenting on your articles or blog page (and encouraging commenting!)

There are many more ways to establish your E-A-T, but once it’s in place, you’ll find it much easier to build and grow your nonprofit brand.

2. Find (and Show) Your Differentiator 

Every brand leader knows their “elevator pitch” — you've probably presented yours to dozens, if not hundreds, of potential partners. What’s the most important part of an elevator pitch? The part where you say how you're different from other organizations in your space. 

Your uniqueness will help you identify niche marketplaces that will truly help drive the growth of your nonprofit brand. You probably have identified your differentiators already, but if you haven’t, take a deep look at your brand, and other brands in the space, and determine what sets you apart. What do you offer that others don’t? Who do you speak to that isn’t being addressed by others?

When you’ve determined how you're different from the rest, focus on that in your marketing and communication. Highlight it in your website’s About Us page. Use it as a north star when building new campaigns. The more people you get to see your true identity, the easier it is to build your brand.

3. Speak to Your Core Audience

Once you’ve described what you stand for, you can start focusing on the audience that those values truly resonate with. There’s no value in spending effort and time speaking to everyone. If you’re a nonprofit in the health space, you probably don’t want to create messaging for potential donors and participants in the arts space. You need to find the audience with whom you can create a real impact.  

If you’ve found your differentiator, you likely have already identified your core audience. You need to understand your audience and what matters to them. You can do that through research, messaging workshops, or even surveys to your existing supporters and participants. Once you feel confident about who your audience is, and what they respond to, you’ll be able to center your messaging around those personas, and in doing so, you will drive your brand’s voice and reach.

4. Find Your Voice 

It might seem obvious that you would need to find your voice to grow your nonprofit brand, but this step is often overlooked or glossed over by many brands. A lot of messaging for nonprofits can end up sounding the same, and no matter how worthy your cause, or how important your mission, if it blends in with the crowd, it won’t find the success it deserves. 

You need your own voice and personality to appear as a unique and noticeable brand. This should apply to your web copy, your articles, your campaign messaging, and every aspect of communication you put out. When trying to find your voice, consider the following:

  • Evaluate your current content and materials to determine if you see any common trends.
  • Look at the messaging and tone of other brands in similar spaces. What works, and what doesn’t? Don't try to copy or emulate the voices you find effective, but rather use them to influence how you approach your own voice.
  • Find three words or phrases that you think truly inspire your brand. This can be from your mission statement or elsewhere. You’ll want your voice to speak to these core values.
  • Find adjectives you think should define your brand, like “irreverent,” “intentional,” or “driven.”
  • Create a brand platform that describes all of the above so that everyone involved in your content creation or marketing efforts can ensure they match the brand’s voice.

Your brand is unique, and that uniqueness needs to be celebrated. Even when you’ve found your differentiator that emphasizes that uniqueness, if your voice sounds like everyone else’s, it’ll be a lot harder to get discovered or to get off the ground. By combining a unique brand with a targeted audience and an individual voice, you’ll be able to grow your nonprofit brand. 

5. Tell Your Story

At the end of the day, nonprofit marketing is about passion. There is a reason why your brand exists, and you have a compelling story to tell. Your messaging should focus on what you do, naturally, but what really inspires is why you do what you do. That “why” is how you can really drive home your message in a way that speaks to your audience, showcases your voice, highlights what makes you different, and also establishes you as a trustworthy expert. 

The "why" should appear in all initial communications you send out, but it also should live on your website. Your homepage and your About Us page should describe your services, programs, and efforts in a way that clearly projects your team's motivation to do what you do. Your passion should be evident because that passion can be contagious. 

Ultimately, whether you’re a nonprofit brand with years of experience or one just starting up, there’s always room to grow and build an unforgettable nonprofit brand. The right tools, processes, and priorities can point you in the right direction.

How to Build an Unforgettable Nonprofit Brand