Five reasons nonprofits organizations need brand guidelines

When it comes to effective communication, we know the importance of showing up consistently. We’ve discussed the importance of creating a brand beyond the logo, and a big part of a brand is the visual identity. A visual identity is a combination of the different pieces such as colors, typefaces, logo variations, photography style, etc. that together, create a cohesive visual identity. All the individual pieces are different, but they all fit together as a part of a system. Having a visual identity helps you show up in a consistent way. A way that makes your audience remember you. But in order to be consistent, you need a clear set of rules for what you should and should not do, and guidelines for how all of your different components work together. Essentially, a blueprint.

In design, we call these blueprints Brand Guidelines. A brand guidelines document is a set of rules and standards defending the use of different visual components of your visual identity. It often includes rules for how to use your logo, what colors and typefaces are a part of your brand, how to use photography, illustration recommendations, etc. Basically, your Brand Guidelines are the rules for how to use your visual identity. Brand Guidelines can be of various lengths but they are all intended to help you communicate with your audience in a consistent way.

As a marketing agency, Media Cause recognizes the importance of Brand Guidelines for all brands. We know the importance of consistency. Repetition leads to recall, and this can’t be said enough. But as an agency specializing in nonprofits, we also know why Brand Guidelines matter even more in the nonprofit sector.

Here’s why:

Brand Guidelines help you create sustained support
If you’re in the nonprofit sector, you know that sustained efforts from supporters help you plan your work and create more impact. We need donors and supporters who are willing to support us over time, and to do that, we need to communicate in a consistent way. Like I mentioned above, Brand Guidelines are all about establishing long-term brand consistency. You want your donors and supporters to stick around, and you can do that by creating a brand that will stick with them.

Brand Guidelines help you stick to a low budget
Nonprofit organizations often have smaller budgets when it comes to marketing efforts. And with a leaner budget, having clear guidelines for how to use colors, typefaces, and elements helps you stay efficient. If the rules are put in place, you will spend less time (and money) trying out new things and more time creating what works. The money spent up front on the guidelines pays off in the time and money saved later.

Brand Guidelines make it easier to work with external agencies
Having well-defined Brand Guidelines also helps you collaborate with agencies. You may not work with a marketing agency right now, but sooner or later, your organization will grow to the point where external help is needed. Many nonprofits use marketing agencies to bring big events and campaigns to life. Marketing agencies have resources and expertise that can help highlight events and bring new supporters on board. And there’s nothing agencies love more than clear guidelines for what your brand is all about. The more detail the better. It allows us to execute more quickly and limit the number of revisions. Brand Guidelines make for a smoother process, where time is spent creating change rather than changing things.

Brand Guidelines make it easier to create unique marketing campaigns
As an agency well-versed in non-profit campaign work, we know the importance of annual fundraising events to raise money for nonprofits. For many of our clients, big yearly events serve as the leading revenue generator. And we also know that these big events require creative campaigns to attract attendees. How do Brand Guidelines fit into all of this? Having a well-defined brand is key to creating an effective marketing campaign. The brand is the umbrella, and individual campaigns should all fit underneath the brand. Brand Guidelines help us brand events in new and creative ways while still keeping the core brand at the center. Each event gets its own personality while your overall nonprofit’s brand awareness continues to grow.

Brand Guidelines help non-designers design better
Most nonprofit organizations start out small. If you’ve ever worked for one, you quickly learn to be nimble in your approach, and no matter your title, you often wear many hats. Because of this, it is easy to see how sometimes it is not always trained designers doing the designing. We do what we need to do to get by. And for this specific reason, Brand Guidelines play a big role in giving your team the tools they need at the moment. Even if you’re not a designer, Brand Guidelines will tell you what colors to choose, what typeface to use, and how to find good stock photos without ever studying composition, color theory, or any of the other topics they teach us in art school. It won’t make you a professional designer, but it can help get by before you have the money to hire one.

Brand Guidelines help you stay on track as your team grows
You might not have a lot of in-house design resources right now. You might be a one-person-band. But as your organization grows, so will your need for additional people. With a set of Brand Guidelines, onboarding new people becomes less about trial and error, and more about giving new hires the tools they need for success. And as your design team grows even more, the same guidelines will help your design team create according to your brand, rather than their individual design styles.

These are just a few ways Brand Guidelines can help your nonprofit communicate in an effective way, and in the end, create stronger associations in your supporter’s minds.

San Francisco

147 Natoma Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(800) 705-1622

Washington D.C.

1436 U Street NW, Suite 400. Washington, DC 20009 (800) 705-1622

Atlanta

800 Battery Ave SE, Suite 100,
Atlanta, GA 30339
(800) 705-1622

Boston

170 Milk Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
(800) 705-1622