Does Your Nonprofit Need a Brand Book?

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Yes! But let’s take a step back. What do I mean by brand book? I actually mean two separate things, an internal brand style guide and an external brand book. I think every nonprofit should have both.

But why is branding important for a nonprofit? Studies show that people perceive brands the same way they perceive other people. These perceptions shade their feelings, both good and bad, towards a product or an organization. This includes nonprofits. Nonprofits should promote a positive brand identity in order to build trust and confidence in the mission. A brand book ensures that your brand communication both internal and external is consistent and cohesive.

There’s no right way to build a brand book. Depending on your organization, your brand book could include visual identity, verbal communication guidelines, written communication guidelines and more.

So, let’s start with the internal brand book. An internal brand style guide is critical to ensuring that every staff member has the resources and guidance they need to communicate your nonprofit’s brand correctly. You can’t leave this stuff to chance. That’s how stretched and pixelated logos end up on donor websites and incorrect program names end up in press releases.  Don’t let bad branding happen!

Our organization’s internal style guide lists our visual identity standards including logo usage, approved fonts and their usage, approved brand color rules, and image or photo guidelines.  This also includes examples of how not to use our important visual elements. It also includes a communication style guide in terms of verbal and written communication guidelines. This is our brand tone, our approved program names and the rules when writing them, our rules on words that are highly sensitive, other writing guidelines, our email signature and voice mail guidelines and our approved press release boiler plate.

This internal style guide should be readily available to every staff member who may be asked to communicate about your organization to an external interested party. That could be donors, volunteers, a vendor, a member of a neighborhood or community group, a member of the media, or a lawmaker.  With these tools, they are better equipped to stay on brand when communicating with these important partners.

An external brand book is a great resource to give to partners who might need to use parts of your brand in their marketing or promotional materials. Our book is a small printed book that includes a listing of our mission, our values, our boilerplate, our logo and our Pantone and CMK colors. I give it to marketing partners who will be using our logo on posters or writing about us in a collaborative press release. Of couse, I always ask for final approval on everything, just in case.

Your brand is sort of like your child. It is important that you build it up until its strong, but then let it make its way out in the world. A brand book can help you make sure it is protected from harm. 

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