Charity Branding

Brand Strategy: what is it and how can it help my charity brand?

Let’s talk about Brand Strategy! We mention it quite a lot when speaking about charity branding, but until now, we’ve never written about what it is in any great detail. During the first lockdown, we gave away a full brand package to a local charity in order to support them during what’s been a difficult time for charities across the country. We thought we’d use a bit of the process we used with the wonderful people at Selig Suffolk (and the process we use with all our brand clients) to give you an example of how your charity can use brand strategy to gain a competitive advantage, and why it’s a must if a charity brand is to be successful!

So, what is brand strategy?

As with everything, you’ll get many definitions of brand strategy when searching it on Google, but in simple terms; it’s how you’re aiming to achieve long term effectiveness with your brand. This includes how you can differentiate from competitors, who your beneficiaries are, your purpose and how you deliver your services (to name just a few areas of research for a successful brand strategy!). Think of it this way, brand strategy is the route you’re aiming to take so you’re able to be known as an expert and a trusted organisation over a long period of time. It helps you set a direction for your brand equity to rise year on year within the sector, and how you can positively position yourselves for success!

Your brand strategy will influence every touchpoint for your brand and its identity. It will have a big effect on who you’ll partner with, the marketing decisions you make, and the way you spend your money.


Why is it important?

The reason that’s important is the same as the importance of any other strategy, whether that be organisational strategy (which brand strategy should work in tandem with!) or fundraising strategy. If it is developed and used as a compass to navigate a difficult market, it will lead to the long term health of your charity brand.


As we’ve spoken about in this post, if an effective brand builds trusts and leaves those who come into contact with your charity brand with a positive feeling, then we should be making sure one of our goals is to make sure a strategy is behind it. It’ll help your charity make wiser decisions and know exactly what it stands for.


If there’s no direction to it, or if your brand is purely based on visual design, then there’s a big problem. This will often mean trends are followed in order to fit in, rather than knowing why you’re moving in the direction you’d hope to, and standing out for the right reasons.


Sustainability as a charity can and should work across the board, not just in financial terms.Brand strategy helps you do that so you can make sure your public perception is moving in the right direction year on year.

How does that work?

Of course, every brand agency will have a different approach, but our approach is based on working through a series of strategy sessions which aim to get under the skin of the organisation. The sessions are based on 7 questions which ultimately will help to clarify the charity brand that we’re engaging with. The key questions are very simple, yet are very rarely defined if you asked a charity to answer them. The strategy sessions are used to make sure the brand can be defined and we can tie the threads from those sessions together to work with the wider identity.


From those sessions, we then clarify the brand in word form. We do this through what we called a “manifesto” which sums up the answers to each of the 7 questions. Basically, that leaves us with a document that sums up the charity’s key audience, their values, their purpose, what they do and why they’re different.


Not only do these sessions provide clarity to the team we’re working with, but it also means that everyone is on the same page as to what their organisation is all about. Once you can define it, you can design it.


How do you use that information?

The key to brand strategy is finding the insights that can be used in wider marketing and brand identity. For example, Charity: Water don’t necessarily do anything different to other charities, but their key differentiator is the way they provide their service. Their brand focuses on how donors get regular updates on how their funding is being used. That means that they can see the difference their money is making, and in turn, they are more likely to continue donating and telling other people. It gives consumers a sense of achievement!


Their brand focuses on this strategic edge. They talk about the journey of their funding in their messaging, and they focus on telling stories about how their donors support changes lives, and most importantly, they show that – they’re an open book. A key to any brand strategy is finding the strategic edge you have over similar organisations, and driving that home to those that join it.

A key to any brand strategy is finding the strategic edge you have over similar organisations, and driving that home to those that join it.


As we mentioned in the introduction, we’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Selig Suffolk, a charity for those without a home in Suffolk. Their aim is to help those without a home live healthier and happier lives. During our strategy sessions with them, one thing that constantly came up was that everything they did was focused on working for the person, and giving them a sense of belonging and home. That’s massively important for their beneficiaries.


When we researched other organisations, most homelessness charities will focus on the negative side of the situation (which you can’t dispute!), and some act as lobbying groups to the government. There’s definitely a need for that to create lasting change, but we wanted to focus on the person themselves, and to think about how Selig’s work can help restore people’s dreams. How they can learn new things and re-discover some passions of theirs!


We wanted to make sure we spoke with facts, but put a positive spin on things and connected with the human side of this issue. That brand strategy will not only leave people feeling glad they can support Selig in doing that, but it’s also something that can be adopted by the team, as they’re already doing it! Not only that, but those they serve won’t feel even lower about the situation when engaging with Selig, as they’re focused on creating positive change.


The whole of Selig’s new brand is focused on the person themselves. Looking at solving the problems that those they serve are facing right now, not focusing on the bigger issue all the time. That leads to happier beneficiaries and also gives them the ability to help make solutions for people in their care quickly, while still supporting the need for lasting change in this area. We’ll be sharing more of our work with Selig very soon, but here’s some “in progress” shots!

Screenshot from one page of the Selig manifesto, produced from our Strategy Session

Screenshot of Logo Development for Selig

(Project still in progress. Final Project Photos coming soon...)

If there’s one thing to take away from this post, it’s this; brand strategy is valuable to your charity for these reasons:


1. It helps clarify your brand.

Once you create a manifesto about your brand, new partners can read it and understand if you’re a good fit, and new team members know exactly what you stand for and why you’re different. Once that brand is clarified, you then can start to shape the long term success of that brand…


2. It gives clarity as to how you can grow and reach more people!

Once you know the type of brand you are, and the organisation you want to become, the focus can then be how you continue that in the future! The goals you want to hit then become easier to define and reach, and you have a ready-made foundation for where your communications, fundraising and marketing strategy can be built from. Your marketing, comms and fundraising team will thank you for that in the long run!!


3. It gives you a competitive edge when applying for funding.

As we’ve spoken about before, once you define your brand you then have a competitive edge because you can be confident in why you’re different, you can be confident in how your brand operates and why people should buy into that.


It becomes something that’s very clear from the outset in funding bids, and if done well, it will help the panel deciding on funding remember you and understand how by investing in you, you will be able to make an impact you claim to in the funding bid.


By building your brand from a foundation of brand strategy means you’ll go from an organisation who’s moving with the trends of each year and not feeling secure, to an organisation who has a long term focus and the brand to match it as you work to have a lasting impact.


Get in touch if you’d like to chat through any of these ideas in more detail!