5 Keys to Building a Unique Nonprofit Brand

Created by Audrey Perelshtein

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)

If your content is not being found by your ideal supporters and participants, your ability to advance your mission suffers. The internet is a big place, and it can be difficult to cut through the noise. That’s where E-A-T comes into play. If you can craft content that establishes that you're an expert, an authority, and — most of all — trustworthy in your space, you’ll be more likely to rank on search engines and be found by your ideal audience. 

Even with limited resources, you can gain a foothold in your space in terms of search engine rankings, and then you’ll find considerable opportunities for growth. There are many ways to establish your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, including:

  • Publishing 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 nonprofit 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 focused on mental health, identify the unique topics or audiences within that broader issue that you have expertise on — the specific mental health issues that you focus on. You need to find the audience with whom you can create a real impact.  

If you’ve found your differentiator, draw a line from there to your core audience. You need to understand that 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'll define your brand’s voice and expand its reach.

4. Find Your Voice 

It might seem obvious that you need to find your voice to grow your nonprofit brand, but this step is often overlooked. 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 in order to have a unique and noticeable brand. This should apply to your web copy, your articles, your campaign messaging, and every aspect of communication that you send out into the world. 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 express these core values.
  • Find adjectives that describe your brand, like “irreverent,” “intentional,” or “driven.”
  • Create a brand platform that includes all of the above so that everyone involved in your content creation or marketing efforts can ensure that they're using brand’s voice.

5. Tell Your Story

Nonprofit marketing is about your mission, and your team's passion for that mission. There's a reason that your brand exists, and you have a compelling story to tell. Your messaging should focus on what you do, naturally, but what really inspires others is why you do what you do. That “why” is what really drives 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. 

Whether you have a nonprofit brand with years of history or are just starting out, there’s always room to grow and build an unforgettable nonprofit brand. The tools, processes, and priorities described above can point you in the right direction.