August 21, 2018

Effective Brand Differentiation for Nonprofits

Branding for Philadelphia Nonprofits

Building a strong brand identity and brand values are a trending topics in the business world, especially when it comes to digital marketing. There’s a good reason. Online sales and Internet usage are higher than ever and only continue to rise. There’s tremendous competition online for businesses. And while a non-profit doesn’t compete directly with businesses offline, they do have to compete for Internet users attention online, and ultimately their dollars. 

The good news is, the same branding best practices that work in the business world work for non-profits as well. And non-profits are arguably in a better position to use their brand identity and values to stand out from their competitors. 

Logo design for Philadelphia nonprofit

Nonprofit Competition and Opportunity

Standing out amongst the 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the U.S. alone is a big hill to climb. But climbing it means a larger share of the $471 billion that Americans gave to charity (in 2020). It means access to government grants, corporate sponsorships and other revenue sources. 

More options are emerging for non-profits to connect online too. Innovative giving platforms and personalization tactics are there to help organizations reach donors and supporters. That improved technology, innovation, and optimization are several reasons Americans have been steadily increasing online donations in recent years.

The opportunity is there. So how do you capitalize? 

Brand identity design for Providence Forum, a Philadelphia nonprofit

Key for Nonprofits: Clear, Purposeful Mission and Vision

For profit businesses can often struggle to define key aspects of their brand. They know what their business does, but not what it stands for. A good nonprofit is built on well defined mission, vision and values. It’s a unique advantage when it comes to defining a strong brand and gaining traction with audiences who want a mission they can connect with. 

As for standing out alongside other nonprofits, those nonprofits who can effectively align their brand identity with their core values will excel past those who can’t. 

Branding and corporate identity materials for Philadelphia Health Partnership

As competition increases, it becomes more important to clearly differentiate your organization’s work. Non-profits can portray their brand promise and value proposition accurately and effectively by:

  • Assessing operational capabilities. What are you really able to do?
  • Defining and renewing their mission and vision. Make sure you have a clear idea of what these are, or risk muddying your message.
  • Developing strategic solutions for operational inefficiencies and mission/brand alignment.
  • Optimizing their online presence (website design, mobile solutions, digital marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, PPC ads, affiliations, etc.).
  • Aligning offline and online marketing strategies.
  • Leveraging online donation platforms to optimally facilitate audience engagement.
Business Card and Logo Design for Philadelphia Health Partnership

Maintaining Brand Integrity to Resonate with Target Audiences

After a nonprofit’s core purpose is found, defined, and expressed in their renewed mission and vision, they’ll be ready to formulate an authentic brand promise.

Packaging design for local nonprofit farm

Building an authentic brand and clearly portraying it with online efforts is key for nonprofits to extend their reach, increase visibility, and resonate with target audiences. This may filter out audiences at first, but will eventually result in a more passionate and informed membership and donor base. Quality over quantity is the idea. By building a deeper, more trusted relationship, impassioned members and donors will turn into influencers with the potential to exponentially grow a brand organically.

Core branding principles are universal. Relating to a target audience, engaging them emotionally, and then adding value to the relationship works for all nonprofits to some degree.

Branding, logo design, and corporate identity for John Templeton

Donor and member relationships with nonprofits are more personal compared to most business relationships. The cause or interest that attracts donors and members creates a deeper commonality within the relationship and those affiliated with the organization. When this commonality is clearly defined and leveraged, nonprofits will successfully resonate with their target audiences.


With well-defined missions and visions, nonprofits are in the perfect position to differentiate their brands from the competition. And by honestly assessing their operational capabilities and inefficiencies, nonprofits can develop strategic objectives and build authentic brands that resonate with target audiences and build lasting brand equity.