Crash Course: Aligning Websites With Your Nonprofit's Brand
Nonprofit branding is more than just the colors and logo you choose; it’s the image and context that supporters immediately think of when they see your nonprofit’s name. Your branding strategy impacts how your supporters engage with your services and your mission.
Imagine your site visitors as if they’re entering a store. They’ll browse for a bit, get a sense of the type of items you’re providing, and decide whether or not to shop around. Like brick-and-mortar stores, your website should devote every part of its design and construction towards introducing visitors to your organization to starting that relationship off on the right foot.
This means that as soon as someone stumbles upon your site, they should have a clear understanding of your nonprofit mission, fundraising goals, the types of supporters you have, and the community that you serve.
With online fundraising continuing to rise in popularity, ensuring that your website aligns with your nonprofit’s brand is critical. As you continue to map your fundraising plans for the rest of the year, it’s worth it to optimize your website. To get started, this crash course will go through the following tips:
- Define your nonprofit mission and audience
- Take advantage of storytelling
- Use consistent visual branding
- Meet with a nonprofit tech consultant
The best nonprofit websites use key branding strategies across their web pages, content, and marketing materials. A comprehensive branding approach causes donors to recognize your work, building a relationship that can lead to continued support. Your nonprofit can achieve these results with deliberate application of core branding techniques. Let’s get started.
1. Define your nonprofit mission and audience
Before you make any drastic changes to your website, you first need to define your nonprofit’s mission and target audience. Doing so will allow you to take a step back and identify the core ideas and principles that your website should follow to create compelling branded design and content.
Typically, nonprofits established their mission statement when they first found their organization. However, now that you have a little more fundraising and donor engagement experience under your belt, your mission might have shifted to reflect your nonprofit’s growth and current direction.
With your marketing team and other key leaders in your organizations, you should:
- Review your mission statement—are these ideas and goals still accurate?
- Ask each of your team members what the nonprofit means to them.
- Reach out to major donors, board members, and other stakeholders for their input.
After solidifying your nonprofit’s mission, take the time to understand your target audience. As you’re expanding your brand strategy, it’s essential to know the types of donors and supporters you want to reach. Target your marketing strategies to bring them the most value and begin donor relationships with a strong foundation.
To identify your core audience, look at your nonprofit database and constituent relationship management (CRM) system. Check to see who is already actively supporting your organization. Create a profile of your average donor, including age, interests, lifestyle, motivations, jobs, and more. All of this will help define your target audience, allowing your nonprofit to build a brand identity based on your supporters.
2. Use consistent visual branding
If you’re looking to expand your nonprofit brand strategy, you’ll likely first think of the visual components. Details like your homepage’s color scheme, the graphics and photos style you choose, and your organization’s logo are all elements you have to consider.
Keeping up consistent visual branding is crucial, especially throughout your nonprofit website. Not only does this provide your visitors with a seamless user experience, it continues to assure them that the content they're navigating through and engaging with is, in fact, yours.
This is especially critical for your high-impact web pages. Your online donation page, event registration forms, e-commerce storefront, and any other pages that ask users to input sensitive information should give visitors no reason to doubt your website’s validity.
These are also likely to be your most popular landing pages. Visitors exiting out of them before completing forms will have a negative impact on your online conversion rate and websites’ return on investment.
Consistent visual branding throughout your website also establishes what your nonprofit’s other marketing content should look like. The same branding visuals and techniques should be used for all materials, whether it’s in your nonprofit’s newsletters, event ads, or social media posts.
3. Take advantage of storytelling
Successful nonprofit branding should not only conjure a specific image in your audience’s minds, but it should also appeal to their emotions. This is where nonprofit storytelling comes in.
As Jessica Skewes in this article on nonprofit storytelling states, “Your organization likely has some pretty interesting stories to tell; why it exists, who it serves, and how they are served. By writing your organization’s story and gaining an emotional connection with your audience, you can keep them engaged and create excitement to tell others about you.”
If you want to better align your nonprofit website with your brand, storytelling elements are key. Frequently sharing your impact, answering donor questions, and remaining transparent about data and facts can all help support your nonprofit’s story and help your organization stand out from other similar ones.
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:
- Talk to community members that your organization serves to receive some first-hand accounts. Anecdotes from your constituents put a human face on your cause, allowing donors to understand the impact their support has on real people.
- While reading a story can be powerful, adding visual elements can take it to another level. Consider incorporating media content like photos and videos to help with your storytelling. Take photos of people your organization has helped (with their permission!) to help craft an emotional narrative with an identifiable, relatable main character.
- Use real data to back up your claims. Compile reports taken from your nonprofit CRM to relay the hard facts and showcase your organization’s true impact.
Remember to position your donors at the center of this story—they not only want to hear about the good work you do but how their role plays a pivotal part.
4. Meet with a nonprofit technology consultant
Once you have established your mission and the audience you’re looking to attract, partnering with a nonprofit tech consultant can be the necessary conduit to bring your website to the next level.
Nonprofit technology consultants can help with many aspects of your digital engagements and operations. Specifically, they can work with you to flesh out the right technical elements and tools to support your nonprofit mission and connect your supporters deeper with your brand.
Look for a consultant that specializes in website development and design to ensure that you’re getting as much valuable advice as possible. The right consultant agency will work closely with your team to not only provide that advice but also to set your website and organization up for long-term success.
Choosing the right consultant is a time-consuming but critical process. Be mindful of your budget, your needs, and whether the consultant has worked on similar projects before. For more concrete steps and advice, head on over to Kanopi’s dedicated guide to finding a nonprofit technology consultant.
Having a memorable and influential branding strategy can do wonders for your nonprofit mission. Many of us can likely recognize the pink ribbon symbol instantaneously as the right against breast cancer. This immediate association isn’t just beneficial for attracting new supporters, but it also encourages current ones to keep engaging with the organization.
If you want to leverage your nonprofit’s brand more deeply, starting with your website is your best bet. Use the above tips to get started, and don’t be afraid to turn to professional help if needed.
As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems and empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.
Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddleboarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew. You can find her here: