The purpose of branding for charities and for profit organisations is the same: a construct around which an organisation can build trust, relationships and resources.


Branding for charities has traditionally been built around visibility and fundraising. But effective branding for charities is more important than that. While raising money for a charity is vital, social capital, organisational cohesion and even operational capability all lean heavily on branding. It’s a branded world and that applies just as much to non-profit organisations as it does to everyone else.


Everyone working, volunteering or simply communicating with a charity does so because the charity, at some level, speaks to them. The smart charities know that communication today has to be effectively branded if it is to have a chance of reaching its audience, or risk their message getting drowned out by the white noise of highly organised brands (of every sector). High stakes given the importance of the work of many charities.


Branding isn’t just about visual appeal, a truism which particularly applies to non-proft organisations. It goes to the heart of what the organisation stands for and should run through every touch-point, communication and action like the lettering through a stick of rock.


“The brand of a non-profit might be roughly defined as the mental impression people have of the organisation: the promises it makes to its clients, collaborators, or supporters and their expectations about the quality of work or the experience it provides. Those promises and expectations are evoked by the names, logos, slogans and other communication devices used…”


The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity


Branding for charities can be a controversial issue, with questions frequently asked about the value (and even morality) to a charity in spending money on branding. A good example of this occurred a few years ago when Cancer Research UK attracted a lot of criticism for the £680,000 that they spent on a rebrand. Surely, the argument went, the money would have been better spent on research into cancer than on an administrative/vanity project?


Here is what Richard Taylor, their Executive Director, said at the time:


“Our volunteers felt that their great work was being let down by the brand. We’re not changing it or dramatically altering it, we just realised that it needed to be refreshed. Part of this will be by using less cold, clinical language – warming up our communications. We want to show how much we appreciate our supporters. At the end of the day, our aim is to increase our income so we can fund more research and save more lives.”


Better branding, for Cancer Research UK at least, equates with more lives saved. It doesn’t get much more worthwhile than that.