Want proof? Recently the Brooklyn Community Foundation renamed itself Brooklyn Org, undertaking a major rebranding effort, which included spending a reported $49,000 for their new domain name Brooklyn.org to accompany the change. In speaking of the rebranding campaign, their President Jocelynne Rainey explained that their primary motivation was to get away from using the “foundation” in their name because of the possible negative perceptions around using that word.
Luckily, Brooklyn Org’s rebranding campaign was purportedly aided by pro bono work from a local marketing firm. However, these kinds of changes are often quite costly even if the work is supplemented with donations of time, professional skills, and other resources. They can run upwards of 20% of an organization’s marketing budget and take months or even years to fully execute. Given that context, deciding to rebrand shouldn’t be taken lightly!
When Should a Nonprofit Rebrand?
When it comes to branding nonprofits will have brand recognition around the organization’s name (at least that’s the hope, anyway) and potentially their programs, offerings, or events as well. Change the name of the organization itself or one of its flagship offerings is never easy. However, rebranding may be necessary when expanding to serve a new geographic area or a new demographic, after merging with another organization, as part of a mission change, or even to signal a new era for the organization.
When an organization’s name no longer reflects their identity, it’s time to rebrand. This is true for the organization overall as well as for its flagship efforts like an annual fundraiser or community-wide program. This does not always mean that a complete overhaul is needed, but it does mean that a change will need to be made to better align the organization.
Typically, the bigger the change, the bigger the rebranding effort that will need to accompany it. For instance, an organization that includes a location in their name will almost certainly need to rename itself if it expands to another distinctly different location. Similarly, an organization with “children” in its name will need to be renamed if they start offering resources for adults as well. However, a community foodbank may not need to change its name if they decide to offer not only groceries but also personal care products because they can just start incorporating phrasing around that in their marketing efforts and word will likely get out organically that they are offering additional types of products to the people they serve.
How to Rebrand a Nonprofit
Typically, understanding when a rebrand is needed is the easiest step. Knowing how to go about doing it is much harder!
The first thing you should always do is establish goals. Understand what you want to achieve with the rebrand so that you can start planning for how you will accomplish that. The goals can be internally focused, externally focused, or both but they should drive every step of your rebranding process.
With your goals for the project in place, conduct market research to understand how your organization is perceived currently and what your target audience thinks about your proposed ideas for the future. Once you have a logo mockup, proposed name, or other new branding component to get feedback on, bring it to a focus group. Let real people share their opinions with you and listen to everything they say objectively to get valuable feedback. Taking the time to do this kind of research upfront is a good way to ensure that you are being a good steward of your organization’s funds because getting too far down the road with a bad concept and needing to go back to the drawing board to start over is quite costly. As a bonus, the information you receive will help you to make better informed decisions about the future of the organization, not only around branding but overall strategy as well.
Once you know what you will do (changing your name, updating your logo, overhauling your website functionality, etc.), implement it with storytelling. Communicate why you are making a change in a way that’s compelling to your audience and use a tone that addresses them as equals. Always relate everything you do back to them and their needs so they can see the value in what you’re providing.
Make the change visual to solidify it. Carry your new branding through every touchpoint your organization has with its audience, supporters, community influencers, and partnering organizations. Consider using video as well as images to showcase how your organization is evolving.
Who Can Help
Utilizing a marketing firm that has expertise in nonprofit rebranding will be invaluable because they will be able to guide and support your organization through the process. You will also want to include your staff at every step of the way so that they can help offer their perspective, especially since they are likely the ones that will be functionally implementing the change. Lastly, you will need savvy executive leadership to help spearhead the process and oversee the subsequent change.
When you need a strong leader during times of transition, reach out to us! We provide nonprofit interim leadership, board advisory services, and nonprofit executive recruiting to organizations going through many different types of changes. Whether it’s rebranding, leadership turnover, program expansion, or a merger agreement, we have the right team of nonprofit consultants to help your organization navigate the road ahead. Contact us today to find out more!
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