Charity Branding

Brand Values: Why you need to live them.

Brand Values; they’re a compass by which to navigate, but a vulnerability which can work both ways for your charity. About a month ago, the football club I support, Norwich (and the best club in East Anglia, by the way) gained some unwanted publicity due to signing a commercial deal with a betting company which had some… let’s just say very poor marketing ideas. It was a reminder of why core values can’t just be something you stick on your website and forget about, and why we owe it to our stakeholders to live them.


There’s no doubt that living by some core values and communicating them internally is vital to the success of any charity, but why is that? Surely it’s better to avoid a situation like the one with Norwich City and just not have any core values to live by? When we flip this situation around though, the fact that the fans of Norwich created such uproar as a result of this deal was because Norwich were doing such a good job of communicating them. It was because of that, that the community and the stakeholders of the club spoke up and held them to account. They were invested in it and felt part of the journey (which is key for any organisation and their stakeholders!). In the end, they did the right thing and stood by what they believed, cutting the contract.

That’s how highly you should think of your brand equity. If we can create a community that are so bought into our values and what we stand for as a charity, then we’re creating a strong brand that will have lasting impact. We’ve written more about that here.


So there’s vulnerability to your core values, but it’s worth it. But why should any organisation have core values, what purpose do they serve, and how do they help build effective charity branding. Well, read ahead, as we’ve got some snapshot thoughts…

1. They make you stand by them!

As we’ve seen with the Norwich situation, if you define your core values, it gives you a foundation for your beneficiaries, the public and your wider team to hold you to account. Alongside that, there’s an understanding of how your team should behave and what you’re striving for as an organisation.


The worst thing you can do with core values is not communicate them, especially to your internal team. Having values that are only known by the top table, or those that are just stuck on a website to look good are going to hinder your charity. They need to be genuine, they need to be a reflection of how you want to work, and they need to be able to govern who you do business with. It’s important they give those who come into contact with your brand an indication of the experience they can expect when working with you.

The worst thing you can do with core values is not communicate them, especially to your internal team.

2. They help you build more effective and sustainable partnerships.

Alongside being a tool to govern the expectations people should have of your organisation, they also help you build better partnerships.You see, if you don’t have any core values, then the only way you can judge whether a partnership is advantageous or not is by seeing it at face value.There’s nothing wrong with that, gut feeling can be important! However, just partnering with people for the sake of it, who may well share opposite values to your own when you look under the surface will lead to long term brand damage. In the short term, you’d say that’s okay, but in the long term it will hamper your efforts to build an effective brand and deliver meaningful projects that bring change.


When you know your core values, the decisions you make about partnerships have a filter which they can pass through. That leads to longer term partnerships that benefit both parties, and also more effective ones as you are working to similar goals. That’s going to help you solve challenges quicker, going to make the partnership much smoother, and it’s going to make it a collaborative experience which both parties are invested in.


There’s no doubt about how important partnership is for the long term sustainability of a charity, so it’s vital to make sure you’re partnering with the right people!

3. They help you make wise decisions.

This option also follows a similar pattern to the last point! When you have strong core values, you and your team will know when something’s not the right fit. Whether you’re hiring someone new, thinking about where you should invest your vital funding, having a strong brand and core values defined means you can again use that filter to make decisions.


Many organisations in our society today say one thing and behave in another. Consumers of those brands see through it. We know you’re different though, so why don’t we in the third sector make more noise about what we stand by, and show how that changes how we work? We’re not pretenders, we’re grafters and change makers. Of course there will always be challenges and difficult decisions, no matter if you have a strong brand or not, but it’ll certainly help you and your team in the long run.

4. They help you learn from your mistakes.

Yes, things will go wrong in your organisation from time to time, mistakes will be made. That’s natural. With the Norwich situation, they scrapped that partnership deal and have since found another partner. That’s fantastic, and as we referenced earlier, it shows how highly they regard their brand values. It also shows how your stakeholders can help you learn from your mistakes, as even if you don’t use the filter of your values to work through a decision, they will!


It may offer a period of embarrassment when things go wrong, but having a community that feels valued and represented by your brand is so important in keeping those people moving in the same direction as you, and supporting you on your journey.


What do you stand for as an organisation? Have you ever defined it with your team, if so – why not put that on the agenda for your next team meeting to start that process! Get in touch if you’d like us to send a document that can help you with that too.

Everyone's forgotten about this mistake after the new kit has been launched anyway... and it's a good one! Photo by Norwich City FC


Just the small matter on focusing on another Premier League season of ups and downs for all us Norwich fans now… At least the kit is nice though.