Rebranding Your Nonprofit? 6 Steps to be Sure Your Rebranding Sticks

Can rebranding actually help you raise more money, retain more donors, and communicate more clearly?80_635_400_glue_main

Can it help you get your message out to the right people, and recruit new members, clients or audiences?

The answer is “of course” – IF you do it correctly!

Rebranding even has side benefits – like strengthening internal culture, improving staff commitment and confidence, and even (for some organizations) recruiting better board members. (!)

Today we have a guest post from one of the smartest nonprofit communicators in our sector: Sarah Durham, President of Big Duck in New York City.  

Sarah will be presenting a webinar for my INSIDERS on July 9,  The Rebranding Effect: How Rebranding Can Dramatically Help Your Ability to Communicate and Raise MoneySarah-Durham

Sarah’s amazing research into the benefits of rebranding have carried her around the world, presenting at international conferences.

You can download her ebook about the research here. I highly recommend sharing it with your board and leadership!

Here’s Sarah’s guest post:

How to make sure your rebranding is as successful as possible.

Before your nonprofit rebrands, consider the timing and sequence that will help you do it right.

How will the changes you make connect back to your vision and mission?

How will you bring that new brand to life?

In my webinar, “Surviving the Rebrand (and living to tell the tale)”—which you can watch online any time here—I mapped out these six steps:

1. Have a clear organizational strategy.

Clarity around your mission and values, who your audiences are, what actions you want them to take… that’s actually the stuff of strategic planning, which should happen upstream of rebranding.

Big Duck’s ebook The Rebrand Effect explains how fifty-one percent of the 351 nonprofits polled said that strategic planning was the most influential thing moving their rebranding process forward.

The more your board and your staff are aligned and clear about the mission, the more likely it is that your rebrand is going to reflect it.

2. Get buy-in.

Branding isn’t just about a logo change or messaging update.

It impacts the culture of how your organization works together, so making sure people are onboard and understand why you’re doing it is important.

In particular, consider bringing the people who aren’t convinced that the branding process is going to be helpful together, and have some frank discussions about it.

Try putting all your materials in one place, and really look at them not from your own point of view, but from your audiences’ point of view.

  • What messages are you sending?
  • What do these materials say about your organization?
  • Are you communicating consistently?

Often, people who’ve been resistent to making changes see why it might help when they take a step back.

3. Start with a clear communication strategy.

You don’t want to leave the harbor unless you’re clear where you’re sailing the ship, right?

You need a clear communication strategy if you want your rebranding to succeed!

You need a clear communication strategy if you want your rebranding to succeed!

Having a communication strategy means making sure what you want to communicate is clearly defined, ideally before you start making changes.

That sounds really simple and obvious.

But you’d be surprised how many organizations that rebrand jump right in to messaging or a logo redesign without stopping to ask the question,

“What does this have to communicate?”

Branding, ultimately, is about reputation awareness, reputation shaping, and reputation management.

If you don’t have a clear sense of how you’re perceived now,
it’s very hard to know if you should actually make a change.

Many nonprofits require research to get a clearer picture of this area and to set a viable communications strategy.

If you haven’t done any in a while, consider talking to both your internal and your external stakeholders to get a sense of how you’re perceived.

  • What’s your organization known for?
  • What’s the reputation that you currently have?

4. Ok, now you can rebrand.

Rebranding your nonprofit might include changing your name, your logo, your tagline, developing key messages, writing an elevator pitch, rewriting your vision, mission, value statements.

It might even mean changing how you manage communications, or how departments collaborate, all in the name of working together to communicate “on message.”

5. Bake it in.

Your staff and board will need simple tools they can use to communicate on brand consistently.

Typically, we suggest a simple brand guide (including both visuals and messaging) and a training or two.

Ideally, all new staff receive the guide and training as part of their onboarding.

6. Start campaigning.

Your rebrand isn’t really done until your website is updated, your social media adapted, and more.

Once that’s in place, use your new brand in a year-end fundraising appeal, or perhaps launch a recruitment campaign to get new clients to come in for programs or services.

Remember, campaigning is really where we start to move people up that engagement ladder.


Updating your brand can have a very positive organization-wide impact, that spills over into everything you do.

If you are careful, invest the time and energy up front, these benefits can be yours!