Nonprofit Hub: Is It Time for a Rebrand?
This was a fun one—a blog post for Nonprofit Hub about how to determine if it’s time for a rebrand, and an accompanying quiz. Finally, my years doing quizzes in Seventeen magazine paid off.
Have you ever caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and thought it might be time for a change? Maybe your haircut is getting a little tired, or you haven’t updated your wardrobe in a few years. Your “look” has worked for you, more or less, but you’re afraid you’ve fallen a bit out of fashion. Or, worse, you feel like what you look like on the outside no longer reflects who you really are on the inside.
Brands, nonprofit or otherwise, often find themselves in the same position. Your brand is so much more than just a logo. A brand is a living, breathing reflection of who you are, brought to life by every interaction between your staff, donors and volunteers. It’s both tangible and intangible. And, like your own identity, it’s always evolving.
Over the years, an interesting pattern has emerged: organizations seek out a rebrand—or a brand refresh—roughly seven to ten years after their most recent brand strategy process (or, if they’ve never done a formal brand strategy, seven to ten years after their organization was founded).
Below are some of the most common reasons these organizations were feeling the “seven-year itch.” Wherever you are in your organizational timeline, if you’re experiencing one or more of these criteria, it might be time to consider a brand refresh—or a comprehensive rebrand.
Your organization has changed
Chances are, your organization has evolved in some way within the past decade. Maybe your leadership team has changed, you’ve refined your mission and vision or you’ve gone through a strategic planning process. Maybe a new funding source has caused a drastic change in organizational direction. Does your brand strategy reflect who your organization is now? If not, you likely aren’t connecting with donors and other stakeholders as well as you could be. You need a new brand strategy to make sure your “insides match your outsides”, so to speak.
The competitive landscape has changed
It’s possible that when your organization’s latest brand strategy was developed, you were the only ones tackling the problem you’re tackling. Now, other organizations have joined the fight, and you need to differentiate your approach from theirs. Maybe your target audiences have changed, and your brand doesn’t feel appropriate for your potential stakeholders.
Your identity feels out of date
In the digital age, things move fast. A visual identity designed in 2010 may have been cutting-edge at the time, but will look completely out of place on a website designed for mobile responsiveness and accessibility. If you want to come across as innovative, forward-thinking and tapped into what’s going on in the world, your brand shouldn’t look like it runs on dial-up internet.
The worst thing you can do is let your brand fall so out of date that it undermines your organization’s credibility. The best time to fix a mechanical issue is when you first notice a strange rattle, not when your car breaks down in the middle of the highway. We recommend that you conduct regular brand checkups, either internally or with a wider stakeholder survey. This way, you can assess whether your brand feels like a current and accurate reflection of who your organization is, and how you’re working to make the world a better place.
According to Pamela Cantor, President and CEO of Turnaround for Children, the process of rebranding “has played an important role in helping Turnaround for Children synthesize our identity as an organization—both how we understand ourselves and communicate this identity to the world. [The rebrand] helped uncover the heart, soul and brain of Turnaround by connecting with people inside of our organization, outside of it, our champions and even our hesitant champions.’”
See what I mean? So much more than just a logo.
When you hand your business card out at conferences, how do you feel?
Proud. People always remark at how snazzy it is. (3)
Meh. It fulfills its purpose as a business card, but not much more. (2)
I try not to hand it out unless I absolutely have to. (1)
2. When a user visits your organization’s website, how long would it take them to figure out what you do?
By the time they leave the homepage. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? (3)
A couple paragraphs into the About page, they should have a decent idea. (2)
They could spend their whole day on there, and still not be entirely sure. (1)
3. Is your organization meeting its fundraising goals?
Yes, every year. We’re on fire! (3)
Sometimes, but it’s never easy. (2)
Never. I don’t know if we’ve even come close. (1)
4. How many sentences does it take to explain to someone what your organization does?
I need at least a page. (1)
5. How often do you refer to your organization’s brand guidelines?
What are brand guidelines? (1)
I have them bookmarked on my computer, and refer to them when needed for inspiration and alignment. (3)
I don’t. We have them, but we’ve deviated so far from them, they’re essentially meaningless. (2)
6. How’s your recruitment going for your organization?
We don’t have any problem filling advertised roles, but we’re certainly not attracting top talent. We get by. (2)
Awesome! People want to work for us, so we have our pick of the litter. (3)
Not great. We aren’t always able to fill advertised roles with a qualified candidate. (1)
7. When you say the name of your organization to someone within the same sector, what response do you get?
A blank stare. No idea who we are. (1)
A look of admiration, and maybe even envy. (3)
A look of vague recognition. (2)
8. When was the last time you did a tune-up on your brand strategy (either a refresh or a full rebrand)?
What’s a brand strategy? (1)
Not since the organization was founded. (2)
We’ve done a rebrand in the last few years. (3)
21 - 24 - Your Brand Is In Great Health
High five! Your organization clearly recognizes the power of a strong, cohesive brand. You’re most likely meeting your organizational goals and experiencing strong internal identity, culture and capacity. But just because you’re in great shape now doesn’t mean you should become complacent. We recommend that you do an annual brand check-up to ensure you don’t outgrow your identity. Keeping in mind that nonprofit organizations tend to rebrand every seven to ten years, you’ll want to ensure that the cost of an eventual rebrand process is considered during your annual budget planning. Until then, you’re awesome. Keep up the good work!
14 - 20 - Your Brand Is Showing Some Significant Wear and Tear
It seems it might be time for a brand refresh. More of a course correction than charting a new course, a brand refresh might be as simple as a tune-up for your visual identity—new fonts, updated photography guidelines, a refreshed color palette. Or it may mean new communications guidelines or talking points to ensure everyone is singing from the same songbook. On the other hand, it might be worth doing a rebrand now. Nonprofits that have rebranded increase their revenue, so why wait? Our Account Director, Brodie Wasserman, would be happy to provide a complimentary, no-pressure consultation to help you talk through your options.
8 - 13 - Get Yourself A New Brand, Stat!
Okay, we have good news and bad news. The bad news is that your brand is not pulling its weight for your organization. In fact, it might be holding you back from reaching your goals. The good news? We can help with that. Our Account Director, Brodie Wasserman, can assist you in getting the ball rolling. Feel free to reach out for a complimentary consultation — no hard sell, we promise!