Charity Branding

Charity Branding: is it helping or hindering your organisation?

Charity Branding. An often overlooked aspect of a charity’s path to sustainability, yet as important as any fundraising strategy and the means by which to deliver your message of hope. In our small corner of the world in Suffolk, we’re seeing more and more wanting to learn how to build effective charity brands, and understand more about how to do that.

There are many charities doing a fantastic job of building their brand, there are some charities that aren’t too worried about it, and some are thinking about it in the wrong way. In this post we wanted to offer some of our advice from working alongside charities.

Before we start, here’s our basic premise about why charity branding is important:

There are around 163,000 Charitable Organisations in the UK. Nearly 97% of those have an income of less than £1 million. More than 21 million volunteers help UK charities and the estimated value of their work is £23.9 billion per year – according to the NCVO.

Among charities surveyed in the Lloyd’s Bank Foundation Survey, 81% of them said the biggest challenge they faced was gaining funding, closely followed by demand for services and capacity.


Despite these challenges, organisations like yourselves have continued to work away in the background, filling the gaps that the government have failed to. To lift heads that have dropped. There are limited resources available to charities though, and this means we need to think creatively about how we’re going to continue our mission.


Charities need to effectively control what’s in their power, as these areas will give opportunity to differentiate from other organisations and make an impact. You can only control the controllable. We would say you should start with these things:

Brand Impact in the Third Sector by BRIX 1
From our Brand Impact in the Third Sector PDF

This can all be done very effectively through creating a robust brand.


SHOCK. A brand agency for the third sector have said you should invest in branding, who would have thought it? But hear us out. It’s not just about brand identity and messaging, in fact, that’s only about 50% of it.


So how do we define brand?

Well, we like Marty Neumeier’s definition, which is: “a brand is someone’s gut feeling about a product of service… it’s a gut feeling because we’re all emotional, intuitive beings, despite our best efforts to be rational”. A brand is defined by individuals, as we all create our own version of it.

In the Charity Comms brand report, they say that: brand is the single most important element of creating a connection with people as a charity.

Brand Impact in the Third Sector by BRIX
BrandingInsideOut Report Quote

So it’s not just us talking about the importance of brand…

The key thing to note though is a brand is not about just the brand identity or website, but it’s about the whole of your organisation really; your team, the service you offer, the way you answer the phone, the results you get – they all have huge impact on building an effective brand.


Brand Identity and Brand Strategy are big parts of that puzzle, because if you can’t tell people about what you do in an effective, clear and distinctive way, then you won’t get them to take the next step with you.


In our eBook we talk about the overarching way design and brand can be used to reach the people you need to, so feel free to download that (it’s free!) and have a read. Today, we thought we’d go through some ways you can work out whether your branding is helping or hindering your organisation.

It’s probably quite helpful for us to talk about the key pillars to an effective charity brand at this point. We believe it’s something like this:


1. Strong Core Values

It’s more important than ever for brands to stand for something, or a number of things. What does your organisation stand for? Does your team embody those values? Does your brand communicate those values?


2. Strong Positioning

Do you know who you’re for, and how you’re different to other charities in the same arena? What will separate you from them? Positioning yourself effectively is key to your success.


3. Effective Brand Identity

A brand identity is not just about how it looks, but how it speaks and communicates with others. If your brand was a person, how would they talk? What would they wear? Sounds strange, but an effective identity will help build trust, and help people to build a positive picture of your brand in their mind.


4. Sustainable, but flexible

A trap we run into in the third sector is we get a flashy brand package at the beginning, but we fail to nurture that as we grow, and your message gets lost. It needs to be able to be sustained in-house, on a tight budget, and your team need to be able to be guardians of that. Alongside that, it also needs to be creative and flexible, so that it doesn’t become bland.

If we’re ticking those boxes then great, you’re well on your way to building an effective brand. It’s likely that if you’re in that position it’s taken some time to do that too, so keep up the good work!


If you’re reading this now and thinking “hmmm, we may have some work to do” then that’s good too, as you can focus on the things you can improve on, and they’re (to some extent) within your control. That’s the first step!


If we can reach the people that we need to effectively, we’ve covered 50% of the battle of gaining funding and reaching people.

Brand Impact in the Third Sector by BRIX 3


When can a Charity Brand be a hinderance?

Now we move onto the other side of the coin, where your brand could actually be hindering your organisation. If we don’t have the pillars above, it’s likely that could be the case.


If we don’t have strong core values, then decision making becomes more challenging (as you don’t know what you stand for) and your team can feel that how they should behave could be open to interpretation. That’s a challenge. Strong core values are defined when all your team can embody them and know them. Core values that are just adopted by the CEO don’t count! It needs to be lived and communicated.


Then, if we don’t know where we fit in the sector and who we’re for, it becomes very unclear as to who we should be reaching for funding, who should be interested in what we do, and how we can support those in need. Basically, it jumbles our marketing.


Alongside that, if our brand identity doesn’t clearly describe what we’re about or communicate clearly, we’re going to have trouble getting people on board with the change we’re trying to make. That in turn affects donations, funding applications and gaining volunteers.


We’re not writing this to tell you off, but to help the sector we serve understand how design and brand; delivery methods that are often seen as “making pretty pictures” are actually very different to the perception. If you’re paying for just pretty pictures with no benefit to you as an organisation, then we’d suggest finding someone else to handle your brand anyway!


Effective charities are re-enforcing the pillars of brand every day with all they do – so if you’re not thinking about how you could be building a brand, then ask the question; can you afford not to think about it?


We know you’re busy and are focusing on service users, that’s who you’re here to help and we’re not suggesting you should turn your focus away from them, but perhaps it’s worth putting this conversation on your next team meeting agenda!


It’s not about just changing our logo to build a brand people will want to join. It’s about the whole identity, and it needs to be lived. It needs to have a strategy behind it that works, and it needs to be consistent. It needs to be something that can grow as you grow and can be moulded each year (hopefully in a positive way!)


It’s then that we can have an impact that lasts, as we can reach the people that can help us with our mission.


If you’re looking for further advice on how you can approach these challenges, then get in touch and we can offer some advice. We want to help you tell a story that people are desperate to join the journey of, and help build confident, effective and sustainable charity brands!


So the question of the month is: Is your current brand helping or hindering your organisation?