How to create brand guidelines for nonprofits


Your nonprofit has an important story and mission to share with the world, and your brand elements are a vital part of making a bigger impact in your community. Here’s some branding tips on how to tell your story with intention, through design.

What is branding? 

Jeff Bezos once said: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Branding creates not only a first impression but a lasting memory with your audience. It’s the image and emotions they come to associate you with. 

What impact is your nonprofit making in the community? How widely are you recognized for the work you are doing? Is your message, design and presence consistent on all platforms? 

By creating or revamping your brand guidelines, you have the ability to develop trust and loyalty among your supporters as well as a sense of unity within your organization. When board members, volunteers, staff and partners have a unified vision, it can improve your nonprofit’s brand message and visual identity. 


Key components of brand identity 

Your brand identity should include messaging as well as visual components. A brand message is the foundation of your story and how you communicate internally and externally. Brand message guidelines should include: 

Vision/Mission: Your unique purpose, what groups you serve and how you serve them. 

Core Values: The fundamental beliefs and guiding principles of your organization. 

Brand Personality: The characteristics and unique features of your organization. 

Brand Tone: This is the voice of your organization and should reflect your brand personality. 

Your brand visuals should include:

A logo: A graphic mark or symbol that represents your brand and mission. Your logo should appear across all social media platforms, marketing materials and your website. 

Typography: Typography can be used through fonts that showcase the personality of your brand. 

Color Palette: These are the specific colors you use consistently in your marketing to create a more identifiable brand. 

How to create your brand guide: 

By creating a guide where your brand messaging and visual elements are outlined, this serves as a living document for staff, marketing efforts, public relations and more. When we work with clients, our branding process begins with an in depth brainstorming and strategy session with nonprofit stakeholders and involves several iterations of development and feedback. Branding is a process that requires creativity, vision and collaboration. We recommend setting aside time for your staff and stakeholders to meet and develop a brand guide book together. 

Ready to take your non-profit to the next level, with custom branding? Visit my branding studio website to learn how I can help! And while you’re there, read this case study about a recent project for Catalyst MIami, a non-profit organization based in Miami.

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