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How Small Charities Can Overcome Barriers to Brand Investment

  • This article follows on from Natasha’s Roe’s recent blog on how Brand Management can help Small Charities to Raise More Money. Here Natasha explores how small charities can overcome barriers to branding investment.  

    What are the main barriers to branding that small charities face?

    Working with Cass Business School, I carried out a study of 127 small UK charities with annual incomes of £1 million or less a year –  the types of groups that make up 97.2% of the sector.  

    As expected, small charities do face barriers to investing in branding. However, there are practical ways of overcoming barriers, including suggestions from CharityComms’ Building a Brand that Delivers conference.

    The barriers small charities ‘strongly agreed’ with were:

    • We don’t have the money to invest in branding (51.6%)

    • We don’t have the resources (people and time) (39.3%)

    The barriers they ‘agreed’ with were:

    • We do not have the right expertise (58.8%)

    • Supporters and funders do not welcome us spending on branding (45.9%)



    Tips to overcoming your branding barriers

    1) Make branding a team responsibility

    Get people from across your organisation involved in brand management – trustees and volunteers too. Leave branding to a single person or team of senior people and you will experience more barriers.

    If your charity is short on expertise, read charity branding blogs, visit KnowHowNonProfit and look out for workshops run by CharityComms and Small Charities Coalition.

    2) Lack of money: Good brand guidelines

    Brand guidelines need to cover how you communicate in words and pictures and cover all forms of communication – print, website, social media, photography, video and co-branding.

    Many larger charity and commercial organisations’ guidelines are online. Use them as templates. Adobe’s Corporate Brand Guidelines is an excellent resource.

    3) Lack of expertise and resources: Stick to guidelines

    Clarity and consistency really help build a brand - don't be tempted to ‘make exceptions’.

    Establish an annual guidelines review, where brand application can be discussed based on what is best for the whole charity – not on a ‘case by case’ basis.

    4) Lack of resources and time: Prioritise spending on templates

    If you have any brand budget, invest it in a vector copy of your logo and professional templates for external communications – e.g. Word, PowerPoint, e-newsletters, flyers, posters and report covers. Commission as many as you use regularly and insist everyone uses them.

    Templates mean audiences know all materials are from the same charity and staff and volunteers don’t spend time setting up files for each communication.

    5) Resistance to investment: Surveys

    Use free tools like Survey Monkey and do an annual survey of your beneficiaries, customers, members and supporters. Which brand elements are clear? Which encourage people to engage with your charity? What needs to change? Ask questions that test people’s knowledge, attitude and behaviours.

    Understanding your audiences’ needs helps build a business case for brand investment and ensures spending is targeted to the greatest needs.

    6) Share stories – externally and internally

    More people in small charities are close to the people they help and their stories. Celebrate your brand by sharing those stories.

    Our study found that many small charities didn’t see storytelling as part of brand management but it’s where small charities can lead larger ones. There are more opportunities for everyone to be a story collector and teller – any smart phone can capture publishable photos, videos and audio. Apps like Instagram mean you can edit on a phone before posting on social media, your website, newsletters, Localgiving or putting into a presentation.  

    Natasha Roe is Founding Director of Red Pencil and carried out research with small charities during her MSc studies with Cass Business School. She is looking for small charities (£1m p/y or less) interested in testing out the branding models. Please email to find out more.

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    Brand Management can help Small Charities to Raise more Money by Natasha Roe

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