The important role donor software plays in establishing nonprofit brand identity

Nonprofit organizations can use donor management software to develop a more powerful and comprehensive brand identity. A well-polished and recognizable brand can dramatically increase donor acquisition, retention and trust over time. In the nonprofit sector, brand identity can mean the difference between failing to launch a meaningful campaign and exceeding fundraising goals. 

What makes up a brand?
A nonprofit's overall brand is the relationship constituents have with the organization. Stone Soup noted that a brand is rarely – if ever – defined by the charity itself. The way donors feel about a nonprofit identifies its brand. Gut reactions based on stories and experiences with a group will affect the ways in which donors see and relate to a particular nonprofit. This emotional connection extends beyond the product offered. Loyalty to a brand can exist even if the product changes. For instance, if Doctors Without Borders ended one campaign and started another, donors would like to continue contributing to the newer cause because they trust Doctors Without Borders and feel emotionally connected to its mission. In the business world, first hand stories, memories, expectations and relationships determine which items consumers purchase. The same idea applies to the nonprofit sector.

In actuality, a nonprofit's brand is comprised of many smaller parts. Logos and identities influence the overall brand of an organization.

The way donors feel about a nonprofit identifies its brand.

A logo is an image or phrase that immediately identifies a nonprofit. Logos can be symbols, words, phrases or a combination of all three. At the end of the day, the logo must stick with constituents, thus increasing public awareness and recognition of an organization. The mark must be easily recognizable and utilize colors, forms and shapes that evoke the nonprofit's attitude and mission.  Over time, some charities find that their logo can be reduced to a single symbol, like the Red Cross, as it reaches a global audience.

The logo is a large part of identity which encompasses all visual and verbal devices used to convey a nonprofit's mission. Color themes, fonts and phrases make up the brand's identity. Seals and emblems featured on stationary letterhead, brochures explaining the group's goals and mission statements and signage on physical locations all contribute to the identity of an organization.

Designing a brand 
Due to the importance of establishing an emotional connection with donors, nonprofits approaching their brand, identity and logo design should note the effect colors and imagery have on human brains. Business 2 Community covered this topic recently, exploring the notion that color can evoke sadness and happiness and both are necessary to contributor acquisition. 

Happiness and charisma inspire people to take action. The New York Times reported that online users more frequently share articles with their friends and family that instill a sense of awe and positivity. These types of stories are more contagious. On the other hand, sadness and anger were shown to produce a neurochemical called oxytocin, which increased the likelihood that research subjects would donate funds to someone they did not know. These extremes are motivating emotions that nonprofits should incorporate into their brand.

Emotions, like happiness, can help establish a stronger connection to a brand.

Color can have a large impact on the way constituents view a nonprofit's identity. Yellow is most often associated with ecstasy and joy, while deep blue is seen as indicative of grief and sadness. Taking colors and their corresponding emotional responses into account can help nonprofits shape a more robust brand, identity and logo, depending on their mission.

Putting the brand into action
Harnessing the power of each of these brand components gives nonprofits consistency and relevancy in their sectors, as long as they are applied appropriately. The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University conducted intricate research into the roles brands play when it comes to building a successful nonprofit organization. They whittled their findings down to four basic components that ensure brand continuity and fundraising success.

  • Brand integrity – This refers to nonprofits establishing solid structures, not ensuring moral integrity. The brand identity should align well with the NPO mission. The way staff and the public see the brand should correlate to the actions of the charity.
  • Brand democracy – All members, volunteers, donors and recipients uphold the organization's reputation as brand ambassadors.
  • Brand ethics – The methods the nonprofit uses to carry out their mission are ethical and the brand accurately conveys these goals.
  • Brand affinity – A charity that works well with other groups to reach a common goal has terrific brand affinity.

Donor management software works with nonprofits to ensure a consistent experience for all donors and staff over multiple platforms and extended periods of time. A constantly changing brand identity can be detrimental to NPOs; maintaining quality communication with constituents and providing them with tools to monitor their giving and volunteering yields a greater sense of confidence. Trust is the cornerstone of a strong relationship and nonprofits would be wise to invest in a software system that effectively establishes this connection.