Branding for Nonprofits: it’s not about you

Branding for Nonprofits: it’s not about you


  1. Branding for Nonprofits—it’s not about you.Most nonprofit organizations are driven by a mission to effect change. They focus on specific areas where they think they can have impact and transform some area of the world. But many organizations get lost…
  2. Radiant Blog: San Francisco, a curious case of place branding Most people take the name of San Francisco for granted. It’s an international icon, let alone in the US. Everything about this amazing city on the Golden Gate is memorable—the waterfront, the architecture, the food and, of course, San Francisco Bay. But this name wasn’t as planned as it sounds…
  3. Radiant Work: CREATING A NEW BRAND FOR A GROUNDBREAKING SOCIAL SERVICES INSTITUTION RadiantBrands creates a new brand: Felton Institute.


Branding for Nonprofits

Most nonprofit organizations are driven by a mission to affect change. They focus on specific areas where they think they can have impact and transform some area of the world. But many organizations get lost in their view of their own world and their services. And, organizations don’t often see what they need to do in order to attract donors, board members, foundation grants, and well, “customers.”

The words “marketing” and “branding” are anathema to some in the nonprofit sector, and are often seen as the antithesis of what nonprofits are committed to. They are fighting the corporate mega-giant after all! But, to be successful, not-for-profits need to show the world their real value. Nonprofits have to convince us, just like any other business, that they are worth our time and investment—that what they are committed to is a good investment—that they produce results.

In our work with nonprofits over the last 15 years, we’ve seen massive changes in how organizations reach out to their communities and how results and accountability have become a focus for donors and partners. The Robin Hood Foundation in New York City makes powerful, bold statements on their website about what they are committed to. They state that 100% of your donation goes directly to fighting poverty, and – their board of directors pays for all administrative and fundraising costs.

This statement, located right in the middle of The Robin Hood Foundation website, expresses their brand claim – that they use your money to fight poverty, not to pay for overhead. This statement strongly positions the organization as committed to real results. It essentially reflects concerns about nonprofits only using a small amount of donated funds to services they provide.

Also, many nonprofits have names that don’t communicate what they do. Your organization’s name is critical to supporting the messages around your value and your purpose. With the rise of donors-choose models where organizations permit donors to designate the area they want to support, there’s been an enormous increase in individual contributions to nonprofits. How you brand your cause is imperative.

We’ve learned that nonprofits need to develop goals and strategies as a business and that they must focus on clear marketing—yes, marketing strategies to build the message of value and results to their communities and to raise awareness about who they are to the right target segments. All these factors weigh in when organizations compete for awareness and support in a very saturated and loaded marketplace of service, support, and the perennial desire to change the world.

Nonprofit branding checklist:

1Get the name right

2Focus on your mission

3Don’t over-promise!

4Get your elevator speech right

5Know your customers (define them and look for them)

6 Yes, do marketing and brand awareness campaigns

7 Get a board that supports your goals

8 Keep it simple – logos and graphics 101

9 Always, deliver

New Radiant Work:


RadiantBrands creates a new brand: Felton Institute.

The nonprofit organization Family Service Agency of San Francisco had a long history of innovation in providing social services to those in need in San Francisco. Over the years they have developed some of the most effective, unique mental service programs anywhere in the country.

The board of the Family Service Agency asked RadiantBrands to work with the organization to help them develop a new brand that would help them expand outside of the City of San Francisco to bring their breakthrough mental health programs to areas across the United States. As a result, Radiant recommended renaming the organization after their founder Kitty Felton who in the 1880’s established the organization. The final result is the new Felton Institute and tagline, “lives transformed,” speaking to the importance of the value of their services.


• Brand Strategy
• Naming
• Identity Design
• Brand Guidelines
• Web Design
• Branded Communications