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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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Revitalizing Your Nonprofit’s Identity on a Shoe String
Carlo M. Cuesta

August, 2009

I am always looking for inexpensive ways to help organizations strengthen their power to engage the public. One of the best ways to do this is by reaffirming your organization's brand identity rather than trying to create a new one from scratch. This type of overhaul relies more on creating internal clarity rather than spending a lot of money on a new logo, printed materials, and in rare cases a new name. Sometimes we think that we need a bigger billboard (and some organizations do need one), but most organizations who consider themselves a "best kept secret" can get very effective results by taking small yet very important actions that are cost effective.

Here are a few strategies to consider before investing large amounts of resources:

 Identify Specific Goals – First off, wanting greater awareness about your work is not a viable goal for a nonprofit organization with limited resources. Your goals need to be very specific. For example: "My organization wants to …

Increase city government leaders' understanding about our programming offerings;


Deepen major donors' understanding about our long range goals;


Broaden our service reach among families in the Phillips Neighborhood."

Unspecific goals like "wanting greater awareness" lead to unfocused choices regarding how to use your dollars and create results that are hard to track. On the other hand with specific goals, like those listed above, you are able to locate who your target audience is and track the progress you are making with that audience. More importantly, because your audience is more defined you are able to be creative with how you are going to reach them. A billboard will probably not be very effective with city government leaders, but one-on-one conversations with specific leaders in that group will be.

 Get Specific about Your Message – If you want to reach your audience, you need to provide them with a message that is meaningful to them not just meaningful to you. A good message positions the unique value you deliver in terms of the beliefs that you and your audience hold in common.

 Tag for Value –Your tag-line, second only to the organization's name, is the widest key message that will be conveyed to your public. Most organizations choose a tag-line to further explain what the organization does. I think it's more important to convey a message about the value you create for the community, so that people know what you deliver when you deliver it.

 Identify New Colors – A new color palette for your identity system can go a long way to sharpening an identity system that has dulled over time. Often, colors become excessively used or begin to mean something that isn't what you want to convey. Consider changing them if you feel that the look of your type face and any graphic element still conveys what your organization stands for.

 Educate. Educate. Educate – Finally, we often find organizations wanting a new identity system because they want to shake up the organization as much internally as they want to have a big splash externally. The real issue here is to educate your board and staff about the organization's current identity. Help them understand the unique value the organization is delivering to the community and the unique way you deliver that value. Also, help them develop their story about the organization, not just an elevator speech they can memorize, but a personal story about the impact the organization is having on the community.

The financial difference between needing a new identity system and refreshing an already existing one is huge. By considering these strategies, you can begin to think through what you really need and strategize how to use your resources more effectively.

Carlo M. Cuesta is the managing partner of Creation In Common— a group of strategists helping public sector organizations enhance their power to engage the public. Creation In Common helped KERA facilitate the collaborative listening sessions and establish the Art & Seek brand identity.


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