Marketing & communications

What is your charity brand saying behind your back?

Don't let your branding become a horror story!

Avis Johns, Co-Founder of Social Engine, shares tips on branding for your charity.

Avis will be leading our ‘Make more impact with your brand’ session at the Charity Writing and Communications Training Days on 25 and 26 October 2016.

With the nights drawing in and darkness creeping ever closer it’s worth considering whether the real threat from the shadows is your brand. Because, unless you have a clear strategy for managing it the chances are your brand identity means something different from the impactful, reliable and innovative charity image you want your donors and media to grasp.

Commercial organisations will often have a whole team dedicated to the issue but while their resources are a mile away from those available in the voluntary sector the issue is just as important. A good brand is the difference between a donor choosing you or supporting your competitor; between cut-through on your policy demands and a sidelining of your issues.

Not just a logo

Too many organisations make the mistake of thinking that brand is ‘the logo’ or ‘the colour palette’ – these may be part of your branding, but brand itself is the essence of who you are and what you do. It’s the impression you leave on your stakeholders through every single interaction they have with your charity. From the unanswered call to demoralised staff, from how you treat your suppliers to what your service users really think. Each one of these moments can deliver an ambassador or a detractor.

But what needs to be done to side step a horror story and to create a happy ever after?

First things first.. A critical look at the current position. What’s going on? Is another organisation winning the work or funds that you should? Is membership and support on the way up or down? What do service users or beneficiaries have to say about you? When the issue becomes ‘live’ who do the media call? Does your name or range of services let you down?

If you’ve got an iffy feeling about any of these issues then it might be time to consider how best to rebuild your brand.

Six things to think about…

Listen and question everything:

  • Is our charity offer clear and relevant? Do our audiences value it?

Consider the current context:

  • What’s our USP?


  • Create your brand vision with supporting messages and materials
  • Nail down some clear goals and metrics.


  • Don’t leap without getting feedback.

Roll out:

  • Roll out. Few organisations can afford to scrap all materials and start again. Identify the key points of engagement – probably website and outward facing staff and make sure they’re ready for launch. The rest can follow along.


  • There’s nothing like evidence of impact to get skeptics on side.

And finally, a brand review needs senior level buy in – without leadership backing it can easily become unstuck. But there’s no need to do it on your own. Bringing in expert support will mean you’ll be guided through the process, will have an ally to help engage those trickier colleagues and capacity to mean you can achieve those goals without burning out the in-house team.

Find out more about branding at the Charity Writing and Communications Training Days on 25 and 26 October 2016.