Does your charity or not-for-profit organisation think about its brand?  Or do you think branding is something only commercial firms do?  After all, you might think, we are not selling anything like cars or trainers or clothes – what need do we have for a brand? 

Just think for a moment about any business which comes to mind – firms like Tesco, M&S, Ford, Samsung or Nike – and you will be instantly aware of who they are, what they do and you are likely to have an opinion, good or bad, about their products. 

This recognition is equally as important for your charity.  It matters if you are fundraising for example when you have just a moment, a few seconds even, for someone to know who you are, what you do and decide whether to give or perhaps come and join you.

There are shelves of book on this subject, the vast majority aimed at commercial firms.  For the charity and not-for-profit sector I think the following six elements are key:

  1. People need to agree with your basic purpose and think it worthwhile.
  2. Recognition: this comes from promoting yourself, articles in the local paper, your logo and activity in social media.
  3. You must convey trust, a factor which has become increasingly important following several scandals in the sector.  This comes from careful governance, good systems and sound management.  Contributors must feel that ‘my £1 will do some good and will be spent wisely’.
  4. Offering hope. However serious the cause or dire the plight of those you are trying to help, there has to be a sense that you are actually achieving something positive.  The biggest criticism of the sector is their inability to evidence successful achievements or outcomes.
  5. You have to be able to convey, more or less in an instant, what it is you do.  Long explanations, copious factsheets or dozens of photos can serve to confuse rather than enlighten.  Can you encapsulate it in a sentence or a phrase even?
  6. People expect more from charities so your core values – equality, fairness, and integrity for example must be clear.

This is taken from the recently published book by Peter Curbishley How to be a Successful Trustee where these and other issues are explored in more depth. Available in bookshops or on Amazon

About Peter Curbishley

Peter has been a trustee of several charities and not for profits and has recently helped set up a CIC.  He was for many years a small business adviser and some of the problems in that sector are similar.  He is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, has a Diploma in Management Studies and a Masters Degree. He lives near Salisbury in Wiltshire.  His blog on this topic is: