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  • 07 Jun 2016
      “Pragmatically, branding should be a critical issue for charities because it has been shown to impact dramatically on income generation.” (Hudson, 2008) In the commercial world, a company’s brand is given a monetary value. In the UK last year, Shell topped the league tables at a whopping £30,716m. Larger charities have recognised the benefits of branding and rebranding – “Shelter’s repositioning helped land more corporate partners”, “Macmillan’s rebrand helped increase donors by 27% and raised additional £5m” and “Save the Children’s brand refresh helped integrated fundraising appeals raise over 50% more than target of £500,000.” (Civil Society, 2011) I was intrigued to find out whether smaller charities were also seeing a correlation between branding  and income generation? 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.  Our study looked at whether small charities are managing their brands and whether they gain the same benefits from this as large charities. The results were fascinating. The small charities agreed that brand management did deliver the same benefits seen by larger organisations. They also identified practical examples of these benefits. Benefits of brand management Raised income – “through unifying banner and consistent management of brand” Rise in supporters – “by being better able to manage new and existing supporter expectations” Efficiency savings – “by linking vision and values to internal and external brand management” More partnerships – “by having clear values and messages” Supports strategic growth – “through long-term planning aligned to the vision” Distinguishes us in difficult times – “clarity is attractive to funders and donors”   How can you get the same benefits? 1) Define what you mean by brand If brand is viewed purely as ‘the logo’ then you will not realise the benefits of brand management, no matter what size of organisation you are. Grounds (2005)  writing on non-profit branding argues: “A brand is quite simply – who you are, what you say and what you do, and the set of relationships that are built on that.”  2) Manage your brand A strong brand needs active management. We worked with small charities to identify the most common activities required to see strategic benefits of branding. Most activities do not need significant resources. Clarity and consistency go a long way. 3)Brands are not static Charities are about social change and that takes time. One brand is unlikely to see a non-profit through its lifetime. All organisations will need to periodically update brands to stay relevant.  4) Brand management is a team sport The charities where the brand is managed by a team from across the organisation are better able to reap the rewards of branding and manage resource barriers. Charities where the brand was left to a single person or the “senior team” struggled to see the benefits. Teams should include volunteers and trustees. Turning your team into brand ambassadors can be a real strength for smaller organisations. Natasha Roe is Founding Director of Red Pencil and carried out research with small charities during her MSc studies with Cass Business School. In Part 2 of this guest blog she will share the barriers to investing in branding that her research identified and the ideas small charities came up with to overcome them. Illustration by Alec Leggat Found this blog post useful? You may also like:    The Power of Storytelling: Six Top Tips by Mike Zywina  How to make friend with the media by Kay ParrisGet your charity’s voice heard by Duncan HatfieldHow Charities can tap into the hyperlocal by Zoe AmarCorporate Fundraising for local charities   
    5772 Posted by Natasha Roe
Tips & guides 7,727 views Jul 08, 2016
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.

Found this blog post useful? You may also like:   

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

3 Tips to tell Your Story on Instagram by Nisha Kotecha

Storytelling Tips for Charities by Becky Slack