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Essential Tips for Crafting Your Nonprofit Brand Guidelines

As a nonprofit professional, you already have many tasks on your plate. But one of the most important is creating and maintaining brand guidelines for your organization. An effective brand will help you stand out from the competition, as it outlines how your nonprofit should be presented in terms of design, tone, and messaging. Every aspect of your branding should be considered and crafted carefully, from your logo to your copy. These guidelines are essential for ensuring that your organization's message is communicated consistently and effectively to all stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, staff, board members, and other partners.

Here are some essential tips for creating brand guidelines that will help you take your nonprofit's branding to the next level.

Establish Your Brand Voice

The first step in creating a practical brand guide is establishing your tone of voice—how you want your organization to sound when communicating with others. A strong brand voice is vital for any nonprofit that wants to stand out.

  • First, consider who your target audience is. Your brand voice should resonate with them and speak to their needs. If you're unsure who your target audience is, evaluate what kind of people would be most interested in your cause or services.

  • Next, brainstorm what words you want your brand to be known for. Are you funny or serious? Approachable or aloof? Professional or casual? Keep these words in mind as you develop your messaging.

  • Write down a list of adjectives that describe your brand. These adjectives will help determine the overall tone of your brand voice.

  • Use these adjectives to write a short description of your brand voice. This description should be included in your brand guidelines so that everyone who works on your marketing materials is on the same page.

Defining Your Visual Identity

Your visual identity is just as important as your verbal one when creating a cohesive brand experience for potential donors and supporters. Your visual identity makes you recognizable and sets you apart from your competition. It's more than just your logo - it is your entire look and feel, from the colours you use to the fonts you choose.

Start with your logo. Your logo is the foundation of your visual identity, so it's essential to get it right. Make sure your logo is simple, recognizable, and easy to reproduce.

Choose a colour palette. Once you've finalized your logo, it's time to choose a colour palette. Stick to a maximum of three or four colours, and make sure they work well together. Ensure to include a contrasting colour to help your materials pop and grab attention.

Select some fonts. Fonts are another critical part of your visual identity. Again, simplicity is key - choose one or two fonts that are easy to read and complement each other well.

Define your Images and patterns. Patterns can be used across many forms of visual communications and help your stakeholders quickly recognize your brand. Sometimes patterns use icons or typography, others repeat your logo, and some are simple patterns like stripes or polka dots. As with everything within your brand guidelines, these patterns should utilize your brand colours.

When using images, consistency can be challenging. One way to create a brand photo library is by colourizing your photography. For example, you could make all your pictures black and white, duotone of two colours, or perhaps desaturated photography. Whatever you choose, colourizing your photos will bring a sense of uniformity to your photos.

Define how and where your visual identity will be used. Will it be used on print materials only? Or on social media as well? Once you've answered this question, you can create specific rules for how your visual identity should be used in each case.

Setting up Your Design Library

A design library is where you store all your work, both past and present so that you can easily reference it when working on new projects. If you're just getting started with creating brand guidelines, here are a few tips for setting up your own design library:

  1. Start by creating a master folder for all your assets. This master folder should include logos, photos, fonts, and colours in subfolders.

  2. Make sure to name all your files clearly and consistently so you can easily find them later.

  3. Organize your files in a way that makes sense to you. Some designers prefer to keep everything in one master folder, while others prefer to create separate folders for each project. Find what works best for you and stick with it.

  4. Back up your design library regularly so you don't lose any work if something happens to your computer.

These tips can help you create an organized, easy-to-use, reliable design library. A well-organized design library will save you time and frustration in the long run, so it's worth setting it up correctly from the beginning.

Final Brand Guideline Essentials

  • Your nonprofit's core values should be clearly outlined in your brand guidelines. Outlining your core values in your brand package will help guide decision-making.

  • Include detailed instructions on how each branding element should look—from fonts to colour schemes—so everyone uses the same visual language when representing your organization.

  • Stay consistent across all platforms—social media accounts, website content, newsletter templates—for donors and supporters to recognize your organization immediately.

  • Ensure all team members (including volunteers) are familiar with the brand guidelines before starting work on projects related to the organization's branding efforts.

By following these essential tips, you can ensure that all your nonprofit communications stay true to your mission and values while maintaining a consistent look and feel across all channels. From online to print materials, having clear branding standards will enable consistent messaging throughout your communications, which is essential for any successful nonprofit!

Don't forget that we do nonprofit marketing if you need a little help. As always, if you prefer to watch, check out our YouTube video on Nonprofit Branding!


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