Branding on a Budget

Branding on a Budget

May 18, 2015

If your organization is like a lot of other small (and not so small) groups, branding may fall by the wayside. You may be thinking: I don’t have the staff or the money to take on a branding project.  

However, branding is not something you should push aside. Your brand tells people who you are and differentiates you from others doing similar work. A good brand makes a great first impression—helping you connect with potential donors and funders, elected officials, volunteers and other stakeholders.

Basic branding includes: your visual identity - the organization’s name, logo and design; messaging, including a tagline; and a plan to get the brand and messaging seen by target audiences. 

What is the most important aspect of good branding? As the grandfather of branding Alan Siegel says, “Clarity above all.”

Improving your brand does not have to be an intimidating or complex project. Here are some ideas:

Keep it Simple

At the very least, you should have a consistent, clean brand. You can do this by evaluating and scrubbing your current materials.  

Gather everything you use with external audiences, including letterhead and envelopes, flyers, brochures, annual reports, newsletters, electronic newsletters, website, social media – and put it on one table. Evaluate for the following three things:

1. Does your name and logo appear consistently across all materials? You should have a standard logo (organizations can have variations of their logo, but if you are reading this, you should probably stick to one) and a standard treatment (font and color) for your organization’s name.

2. Is your visual identity consistent across all materials? Do you use consistent font types? Colors? Images? If the answer is no, agree to a look you like and redo all your materials accordingly (that includes your website and social media).

3. Is your messaging consistent? Do you have a standard, succinct way to describe what you do?  Make sure a standard message appear on all your materials.

Ramp it Up

The next stage in a cost-conscious rebranding effort includes developing a new name, logo, tagline, messaging and a plan to increase visibility. Unless you have branding and design experts on staff, you will need to outsource this. It is hard work that requires good eyes and ears, command of a pen, research and legal work to ensure someone else does not have a copyright.  

Consider rebranding when:

1. Your name no longer describes what you do. The name Citizen’s Advice Bureau no longer described the work of its organization, which served non-citizens and provided service, not just advice. Today that organization is called BronxWorks! - which more aptly conveys its mission.

2. Your logo feels stale. Project Renewal modernized and professionalized their logo while maintaining the essential feel of their brand.

Old logo:


New logo:


3. A simple tagline or improved messaging will reinforce your story. Community Healthcare Network added the tagline “Care You Can Feel Good About” to reinforce that they provide direct care services. 

4. You need to increase visibility. Rebranding can help your organization increase visibility for the purposes of attracting more funders, pushing a policy or legislative agenda, developing visitorship, increasing volunteer, or advancing another organizational goal.

Resources for Free or Low-cost Branding and Design Work:

Taproot Foundation: drives social change by leading, mobilizing and engaging professionals in pro bono service.

Catch-A-Fire: provides talented individuals with meaningful pro bono experiences in order to build capacity for social good organizations.

AIGA: nonprofits can solicit projects via the job board at the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design. 

ReServe: an innovative nonprofit that matches professionals age 55+ with organizations that need their expertise.

Hatch for Good: a Rockefeller Foundation funded initiative to help social impact organizations effectively tell their stories.

Another option is to call design schools to inquire about students willing to work on a branding project.

The summer months are often slow for nonprofits. Take advantage of the extra time to make sure your branding reflects the type of organization you want people to perceive it to be. 


Anat Gerstein is the President of Anat, a communications, public relations, public affairs, and marketing firm. 

Anat Gerstein