Charities are now considered big brands, but what happens when the name, logo or corporate identity need a makeover?

Branding must be led by the chief executive and senior management/Committee/Board of an Organisation/Group.

Adopting a brand model advertising companies have developed a number of models. This can be as simple as a cycle of examining the existing brand, reviewing it, changing it to the desired brand and then reviewing it again. Bear in mind ‘brand’ is not ‘advertising’.

After conducting an audit of existing materials, consult with stakeholders, including staff, partners, volunteers, service users and suppliers. It is also suggested setting up a branding group comprised of a range of stakeholders to lead the exercise and act as both brand champions and critics

In order to analyse what the charity wants from its brand, hold workshops to discuss ‘belief statements’: Who we are, what we believe, what we do, how we do it and who we help. You need to try to find agreement on this in your organisation/group.

To help with the process, charities should conduct a product analysis. This involves seeing the charity as a product, looking at its positioning, its personality and its brand character. The product could be operating a flying ambulance, running a meals-on-wheels service or protecting children. To assess positioning, the charity needs to ask itself how it compares with competitors, who supports it and why, and what benefits it offers.

The personality of the charity will include its values, whether it is open, honest, has a good relationship with stakeholders and the colours and type of logo used.

To assess the character of a brand by describing the charity as an animal or symbol. At Amnesty, the re-branding group described the charity as an elephant slow and bureaucratic. It wanted to become a cheetah.

To make sure branding fits in with the charity’s operations, charities should consider other issues, for example, how the re-branding fits in with strategic plans and how the vision, mission and values of a charity might be affected. These may be an integral part of the re-branding exercise but not if a charity is three years through a five-year strategic plan.

Key steps that need to be taken, include making sure existing materials are re-branded, developing a style guide, putting key messages on posters around the premises of the charity and developing a photo library of images with the new branding.

To implement a re-branding plan, charities should communicate internally and externally through newsletters, team meetings or road shows and keep people updated throughout the process. There is a real need to bring the exercise to life and keep it fun, interesting and relevant.

The rewards of re-branding include integrating the organisation, increasing the public’s trust and confidence, reducing fundraising costs, increased staff loyalty and as a result of all this, greater income.

And it is not all talk. a study by the Economic and Social and Research Council of the UK’s top 500 fundraising organisations showed that charities can significantly increase their income from voluntary donations by employing fundraising managers who are firmly committed to branding. This study clearly shows that fundraising managers who regard their organisations/groups as brands and perceive branding as beneficial to the charity generate more voluntary income than low brand-orientated fundraisers.

Note A word of caution?? Before an organisation/group decides to go down the process of re-branding consider the saying “If it is not broke, do not try to fix it!” Why do you want to change your branding; image; logo

It is common, especially for smaller organisations/groups to see a lot of material with a host of ‘well known’ organisations/groups who have changed their branding, e.g. name, logo etc and to think that this is the order of the day the ‘in-thing’ to do and perhaps a change would be beneficial to your organisation/group.

It might be ‘the thing to do’, but if you have used your existing branding for some time and it has worked relatively well, having not had problems attracting supporters then why change? If it has not attracted as much support as your research suggests, or it does not put across the message you want to get over to your audience, stakeholders, members and so on, then maybe the time is right?

It needs to be carefully costed and budgeted for as all your existing publicity and promotional material will have to be changed completely, to mention just a few changes that we have to be made and that means significant, (if not substantial costs!) Do the researched potential benefits outweigh the cost and can it be recovered medium or long term? Have you discussed this with your existing funders so that they understand and agree with your vision of change? Will even just the ‘perception’ of your target donors feel that you have been extravagant with expenditure on the change and consequently less inclined to support feeling that their money is going into an ‘image’ rather that the cause for which you exist to deliver services? You need to ensure that you have a clear message to publish to existing and potential donors to help them understand why you have changed your branding.

Be careful about ‘abstract’ images/logos which aesthetically look nice but say little or nothing about who you are. We recall one organisation who re-branded and introduced a ‘nice’ image. But when discussed with others who were associated with this organisation as to the relevance of the new logo we were referred to a portfolio from the designers which explains at length what the logo represents and how it was relevant to the particular organisation. Think about it, if it takes a booklet to explain and help people who know about the organisation; what its new image logo was about, how on earth are the wider audience and potential stakeholders expected to understand.