Everyone has a brand, good or bad, whether they are aware of it or not. Your brand is the overall sense of how people see you. It is how people identify you, associate with you and what they expect of your actions, expressions and character. Your brand is your story, your identity, who you are. It is how people know you, what they feel about you and how they associate with you.

While you do not own people’s perceptions about you, you can influence how they know, think and feel about you by being persistently and consistently true to your identity. As an association you need to build a strong brand. A strong brand evokes an emotional response, frequently and consistently. A strong brand is a consequential influencer in the society that gives you a good reputation, enables your association to attract public loyalty, and helps you to make a meaningful impact.


The foundation of your brand is made up a number of key elements including your name, your mission, your values, your personality as an association, your unique positioning and your voice as an association.

To establish a powerful, effective brand, you need to thoroughly understand – and communicate – the unique characteristics of your association. To facilitate this, you’ll need to answer the basic question of “who are you?”

Below is a framework of questions you can use to clarify your identity and establish your brand. Answers to these questions will form the basis of your association’s identity and subsequent branding work, including the design of such brand assets like your logo, your packaging, your web design, your social media graphics, your business cards and the uniforms you wear.



Your Answer

1.    Who are you serving, and how are you helping them?



2.    What is the unique service you provide? How do you provide it?



3.    Why does the world need your association?



4.    How is it different than what others offer?



5.    What is the desired outcome of the service?



6.    Do you have good human stories to share? Is there a common thread?



7.    Who are your audiences? clients, donors, volunteers, employees, community, press, and possibly others.



8.    What attracts these important audiences? What inspires people to give to your association, or to want to volunteer or work there? Why your association and not another?



9.    What emotions or perceptions do you want people to feel when thinking about your organization? Maybe safety, compassion, fear, religious loyalty, obligation.?



10. List all the related keywords you can think of about your brand, your service, your stories, the emotions they invoke.



11. What words, colors, images, symbols, might support those feelings or relate to the keywords?





It is critical for everyone involved in your association to understand the basic foundation and character of your brand. When you fully understand your brand, you can work on expressing it clearly and consistently every time you communicate, no matter the medium. There are many components of branding, not just your logo, your tag line and elevator speech! Your brand is expressed in your Mission statement, vision statement and positioning statement. It is expressed in how you answer your phone, in everything printed or created for your association, in your website, in your presence on other websites and directories, in social media, in press releases and articles, in your mail signature lines for everyone in the organization, in your events, in how you handle problems, in your annual report, in your newsletters, in your email blasts, in your promotional products, in your signs & banners. In short, your brand is expressed in everything you do, including the grants you apply for, the databases you keep and how you communicate with your stakeholders. Everything matters, including who you interact or associate with. Every time you perform a task, offer a service or interact with people, you are communicating your brand. Planned or not, your brand is communicated in everything you do and is expressed in your quality of service, your attitude, your ease of access and integrity.

A successful brand is inextricably linked to your mission; is relevant, believable, sustainable, and consistent. To achieve a successful brand that is authentic and communicates clearly about who you are and what you do, you will need to establish brand guidelines


Take some time to document the unique way your association wishes to be represented by creating a comprehensive set of brand guidelines. Establishing brand guidelines is an important component of increasing visibility and understanding. The guidelines will help you to build consistency within the visual and messaging elements of your brand. Consistency is incredibly effective in improving awareness and comprehension of your brand. The guidelines should not only set standards, but also be considered a living document, that can be reviewed and updated in future.


Brand Element

General Guidelines

Your Name

Naming conventions should be addressed here, including circumstances where a shortened/abbreviated version of your name should/could be used (or not)


Your logo

Identify the specific design of your logo, including both primary and secondary approved versions.


This may include a primary version that’s full-colour, and a secondary version that would be appropriate for one-colour design needs. Details can include relative measurements, dedicated white space around the logo, and pantone/HTML colour specifics. Don’t forget to address preferred positioning for your logo, as well as examples of improper use.


Your logo design should bear the following qualities

1.    Clearly communicates who you are and what you value as a brand.

2.    Is visually appealing: simple, clean and uncluttered goes a long way;

3.    Is classic, not trendy: the last thing you want is for your logo to go out of style in 6 months;

4.    Plays along with your industry’s standards—and if you veer off, do so deliberately

5.    Makes a lasting impression on your audience.

6.    You also want to make sure that your design partner delivers your logo in multiple formats (like a black and white version or multiple sizes) to ensure you always have the logo you need—and that each is in line with your brand identity


Consider specifying a font(s) that matches your brand’s personality and conveys your information in the most appropriate way. If you create pieces in-house as well as via contracted designers, ensure you select fonts that are readily available so consistency can be maintained.


Colour palette


The personality of your brand can be expressed through colour, and can help you stand out if applied consistently and liberally. You can identify a primary and secondary colour palette to keep options open, yet maintain control over how the association is identified through its colour choices




Thinking about the photographic style that best matches your brand’s identity means you can get specific about appropriate images to represent your brand. Does it make sense for the images to be formal or informal in composition? Should people be looking into the camera? Indoor or outdoor settings (or both)?




Internal and external signage is one of the most utilized and visible elements of your brand. Include details about design, sizing, and elements that ensure easy access for all users of your programs/services


Interior design


If you have physical locations, interior design can be utilized to express your brand’s approach. Think about colour, logo usage and placement, furniture style, and the overall layout of the space


Brand positioning and personality


Telling your story emanates from knowing who you are at the core. Describe who you are as an organization, what you do at a strategic (ultimate aim) level, and why you’re unique. Consider including how you’d describe the brand’s personality attributes to help frame the language you’ll ultimately use. For example, if your brand wants to primarily be seen as nurturing goodwill, your messaging choices will likely be different from an organization that exists to create controversy.


Tone of voice

If your association was a person, how would it speak? Think about the level of formality that’s suitable, style of conversation and how your brand personality will be expressed.


Grammar and style


Include details and examples of the words and phrases your nonprofit uses, including grammar and punctuation. If you follow a specific style guide, state the guide and version, as well as any exceptions that are unique to your association


Key messages


Consider the messages you need to communicate to your audiences, and how they should be expressed. You may have a few key messages that are paramount to your communication strategy, and sub-messages that provide additional context/details in support of your main points.



Your nonprofit likely communicates with many different audiences, and messages for each need to be framed differently to meet their individual needs. When crafting any communication, think about your internal as well as external audiences.



Your website is one of the most representative aspects of your brand identity. Many people will definitely check your website out before deciding to associate with you. Your website is where your brand identity should come through in full force.




A high level of brand democracy means that you trust your members, volunteers, staff and supporters to communicate their own understanding of your brand’s identity. To make sure people know your brand well enough to advance it on their own, you can consider some of the following:

  1. Get everyone on the same page. From members and volunteers to leaders, everyone in your organization should be able to explain your mission in a 30-second session. Make note of the key words. Even more importantly, note where they falter. If they can’t find the right words to describe something, it’s usually because they don’t yet understand it well enough.
  2. Provide plenty of resources. Make it easy to check out mission statements, meeting minutes and case stories that sum up what your association does best. These materials can help staff and other stakeholders further develop their understanding of your brand’s identity.
  3. Make it impossible to forget your mission statement. This might be as simple as a grassroots T-shirt campaign that gets your tagline into the streets
  4. Be a good neighbou People are watching what you do. Your actions make up a key part of your brand, especially to those standing outside the organization.
  5. Seek to harness, not control, social media.
  6. Spend some time reflecting on your brand both inside and outside your association. Collect data, if needed — talk to your volunteers or connect with members on social media. Does everyone understand your mission? Can they explain it to their children?
  7. Have a powerful brand presence physically
  8. Your brand must appeal to people intellectually
  9. Promote your brand content on social media
  10. Prove that your brand is here to stay

Your brand identity is what makes you instantly recognizable to your targets. Your audience will associate your brand identity with your product or service, and that identity is what forges the connection between you and your clients, builds client loyalty, and determines how your clients will perceive your brand.

You will need to generate content that will be useful in promoting your brand. Some of the artifacts you may design to promote consistency in your brand include magazines, newsletters, website, fliers, your offices, vehicles and other promotional items.

1.1.1     Magazines

When hosting big conferences that you want to publicize to new audiences, an event magazine is ideal. Event magazines are publications dedicated entirely to coverage on a specific event.

You can use them to recap or detail highlights from an event your company has hosted. Creating a magazine for a past event is also a good way to archive it for those who were interested but didn’t have the chance to attend.

They can also be used to promote upcoming events. You can give your audiences a glimpse into what they can expect from the event, the kind of speakers who will be there, and location details.

1.1.2     Newsletters

You can use newsletters to stay in touch with current clients. They are also used to keep clients up to date on new features or product updates. There are advantages to using newsletters.

  1. Aside from connecting with clients, you can drive traffic to your site.
  2. At the consideration or decision stage, they can be used to drive sales and move prospects further down the funnel.

Although your newsletters are targeted to your current or loyal audiences, you can choose different ways to distribute them to different target groups. Personalizing your campaigns will result in better engagement from your clients.


1.1.3     Corporate profiles

A company profile is a brief that provides an overview of the association to potential members and supporters. It generally includes the following data:

  • the name of the founder(s) and the names and titles of the key members of the association
  • the official name of the association, its address and its telephone number.
  • the overall activities of the association
  • the association’s overall strategy, including its purpose and mission statement
  • the governance structure of the association
  • who serves on the board, if there is a board
  • the numbers and types of employees or independent contractors in the association
  • the basic financial data related to the association, including its yearly revenue
  • places where the association does business
  • the operations and mission of the association
  • the achievements that the association has made recently
  • the short- and longer-term goals of the association
  • Update and maintenance of the profile is important in order to keep people up to date with the organization.


1.1.4     Fliers

If you are looking to promote your services, you can also use flyers. Flyers are one of the most affordable as well as cost-effective marketing tools. Information needs to be concise and simple for effective marketing.

Flyers are extremely cost effective. Rather than paying for advertising space or venturing into the expensive world of offline media, flyers have an incredibly high return on investment. It’s easy to get flyers into potential client’s hands. This encourages promotion within smaller circles of family and friends.

Not only are flyers tangible, they add a personal touch to your message. Physically handing your potential client a flyer will immediately create a personal relationship with them. Flyers are still important in the world of advertising because people actually read them. They are visually appealing and represent the message at hand. They are quite affordable and easy to produce.


1.1.5     Websites

Websites, like fliers, are important in marketing your association. A well-maintained website can help you gain a competitive advantage in your institution and improve your organization’s image. Developing your website offers many benefits including helping you get more leads and prospects, enhance your professional brand, and improve your membership uptake.

Your website can enable you to facilitate online advertisement which is cost-effective compared to print advertisement and enables you to make changes. Your website transmits your business profile around the world, permitting for enhanced exposure and services, due to a wider demographic reach.

If you have a professional looking and user-friendly website, clients will likely have a greater chance of considering your institution credible over those who either do not have a web presence, or have a poor website presence. Having a website provides your clients with around-the-clock availability in terms of access to products and information.


1.1.6     Social Media

Clients frequently use social networks to make the decision to connect with a brand. Your brand can best educate, communicate and engage with clients through social media through the following activities

  • Curating relevant content
  • Publishing original content
  • Continuous engagement and community building
  • Paid advertising

A well-defined social media strategy will help determine what to achieve in order to better connect with your community. Your brand should be represented consistently across all social media networks via the posting of relevant, high-quality content. With social media, your aim for clients is first to gain trust. Then become loyal. And then, advocate for your brand’s products and services.

Some of the social media services you can use to keep connected with your members include Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok among others

1.1.7     Sample Communications Plan Framework

Target Audience




Format and Distribution


Who is the target audience?

What do you aim to achieve on/from them?

How do you present yourself to them

What messages will help you to present yourself as desired?

How will you send the message, in what format?

How frequently will you be sending the message?




















It is vital to build your brand in order to create memorable distinction, difference and convey the value of your association. A strong brand enables you to: create client recognition and trust; build loyalty; and become sustainable, relevant and competitive