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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How effective branding helps achieve nonprofit mission

Apple, Google and Starbucks all are famous brands in the for-profit sector. Goodwill, AmeriCorps and Girl Scouts are good examples in the nonprofit sector. These are big ones, with big brands. But what about most nonprofits, without national recognition? There are more than one million nonprofits in the U.S. Why is building a strong brand important for them? 

There are some remarkable authors, like Peter Frumkin, who consider that a nonprofit brand is the principal asset of the organization. An effective brand can be a positive influence on an organization’s assets (human and financial). It can impact their capacities to achieve goals, their social impact and their missions. 

A strong brand is important because it facilitates opportunities, resources and results. These nourish the brand to attract more funding, helping the organization become stronger and more successful. Professors Nathalie Kylander and Christopher Stone state that a strong brand is critical to attracting donors and key stakeholders.  

Additionally, having effective branding benefits nonprofits in other ways, such as credibility, authority, recognition and consistency. It helps nonprofits maintain a good reputation with stakeholders. Matthew Schwartz, the founder and executive director of Constructive, stated that an effective brand helps organizations earn trust, increase loyalty, develop new opportunities and strengthen organizational leadership. 

Being aware of the brand importance can help nonprofits gain co-branding opportunities with other organizations, which can contribute to achieving the full financial value and improving nonprofit’s social impact.


Branding must be a priority. Leaders need to develop brand awareness, brand commitment, brand strategic thinking, flexibility, communication skills and teamwork. The leadership style recommended is collaboration, which includes a wide participation from the members.  

Nonprofits require consistency for an effective brand. A strong brand requires a clear mission with identity, values, strategy, relationships, impact and image. The brand should be focused on positioning. It is useful to be consistent among the internal and external stakeholders.

Build an effective strategy to achieve a strong brand. It is recommended you build a unique brand strategy that responds to specific needs of the organization. The brand strategy helps to define how the brand should look, sound and feel, according to the organization’s mission. Leaders need to know the audiences, define allies, convey clear messages, use effective communications tools (branding guide, social media plan) and maintain close relationships with stakeholders. It is possible to measure the brand using the Brand Equity that includes consistency, operation, trust, and partnerships.

Branding is the result of the direct and indirect experiences that people have with the nonprofit. For this reason, it is necessary that the organization represent universal values and ethics codes, articulated to providing a high-quality service. 

Brand reputation is the link between the organizational results and the emotional connection between the organization and its stakeholders. This means that the supporters believe in the organization’s mission and in its capacity to deliver on that mission. Leaders also need to guarantee funding to develop the branding strategy and count on the board governance. 

Branding positive cycle. An organization can develop a positive cycle to achieve the best brand reputation: attract stakeholders, build strength, demonstrate results and build brand. It is important that leaders foster an organization’s branding culture, facilitate rules and mechanisms that can include a brand team and a brand strategy. They can work closely with the CEO, and report to the board. 

A brand is not just a logo and a slogan. It is an emotional connection between the internal and external stakeholders and the experience provided by an organization, and this experience needs to be meaningful.

You can think about Goodwill, AmeriCorps, Girls Scouts and many more to witness branding success. Branding is not exclusive to large organizations and is available for any nonprofits interested in taking on the challenge.

Tomasa Ravines Burga is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University.  


ASU Lodestar Center Blog