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Effective Nonprofit Brand Management: Tools & Techniques that Get Results

A strong brand and strategic nonprofit communications are essential to the health of any social impact organization. And the people in charge of nonprofit brand management and communications are usually loaded with responsibilities—especially because so many nonprofit organizations have smaller communications teams (shout-out to all those Comms Teams of 1, you know who you are!). They plan brand experiences and nurture audience connections. They decide what brand elements should be elevated and developed. They help craft a consistent visual look and feel for the organization. For a Brand Manager to be successful, they need to ensure all these responsibilities are defined clearly and that they use simple, effective brand management tools.

With a properly defined role and the right tools, they can offer deep contributions, especially to nonprofits and educational organizations that lack a large communications staff.

Essential Elements of Brand Management

Let’s first look at what actually needs to be managed. This will depend on how your team has structured their communications, but every organization will have some combination of the following essential elements to work with, or perhaps even create. Because brands are made up of so many varied parts, we can divide the elements up into three areas.

Visuals: Logos, design systems, grids, graphic elements, and design rules combine to define the look of your organization. These elements can be designed in-house or by a branding and design firm and packaged into brand handbooks or guidelines. After the definition and creation phase, those guidelines will need to be maintained, a perfect responsibility for Brand Managers.

Language: These are guidelines and documents on your voice, tone, and brand character. Whether developed internally or by a design firm, what’s essential is that they be clear and accessible so that your team will be able to easily use them in design, communications, and marketing.

Community: These are elements that help you connect with your audience, the people who contribute to the health of your organization. For example,  social channels, feedback mechanisms, or even marketing material. The emphasis here is on human connections and elements that will nurture the community.

Defining Your Brand Management Responsibilities Internally

In order to market and promote their organizations externally, Brand Managers need to make sure they clearly communicate their role internally first. While many nonprofits and educational organizations value and promote clear branding, there is always room to do more. For Brand Managers, this may require educating audiences on the role of brand strategy and design in nonprofits, but it’s essential that you speak openly and enthusiastically about what your brand is. Whether your audience is senior leadership or your team members, positive energy is infectious!

One way to start these conversations is to set up short, purposeful, 15 minute meetings, to explain the ways the brand will be realized, like logo usage or social media scheduling. These sessions provide a highly scripted way to introduce your role and techniques you will use to realize your nonprofit’s brand. These meetings can then stay focused on concrete ways the techniques will benefit the organization, rather than more diffuse organizational questions that take longer to address.

Brand Management Tools that Get Results

Everyone is busy—that won’t change. Having tools that extend our reach and help manage the brand is essential to effective nonprofit communications. The most successful tools are those that are easy to use and have measurable results. In order to help your brand succeed and grow, measuring its impact and reach is extremely important.

Visual Design Tools

  • Pattern Libraries: front-end code samples of the most common user interface and design patterns
  • Brand Guidelines: print or digital guides on how the brand is used visually
  • Design Templates: InDesign, Photoshop, Word, and other templates for quickly creating on-brand communications

Brand Messaging Tools

Community Tools

  • Social Media Management Platforms: apps like Hootsuite for managing Twitter, Facebook, and other accounts
  • Communications Guidelines: guides on appropriate community interactions and messaging
  • Crisis Communications Guidelines: guides on responding to crisis situations, harassment, and hacking

Successful Brand Management

So you have a clearly defined brand management role at your organization; one that is continually communicated to everyone on the team. You have some great tools to help you do the job. But how should you define success? All it takes is setting some clear goals and outcomes, then measuring your efforts to see what is improving and what is not.

Measuring Visual Impact: Using email flags or a simple spreadsheet, track the number of internal conversations on correct logo usage. The less it happens, the more your team members are following the brand guidelines. Work with the design team to track visual and user interface standardization projects. For projects that use brand guidelines and pattern libraries, track production time, seeing if simplified code and visual design means faster launches.

Measuring Tone Impact: Use A/B testing on web-sites and email marketing software to see the impact of different language with customers. Track the number of internal downloads on voice and tone documents. Work with the community and marketing managers to track how your team members are using updated communications guidelines.

Measuring Community Impact: The community, and their reaction to a more tightly focused brand, will be crucial to success. Track numbers of likes, reposts/tweets, and other metrics in social media platforms to find out what content the audience is interacting with. Solicit feedback from your customers and team members in controlled questionnaires, to see how sentiment changes over time.

All these metrics can be analyzed and provided as evidence of successful brand management, but also of the success of the brand in general.


Brand Managers have a number of responsibilities—they are evaluators, designers, and strategists. They have the complex task of growing and stewarding an organization’s personality and visual presence. By defining their role clearly, using tools to communicate and track progress, and working closely with their team to manage brand assets, Brand Managers can deepen a brand’s impact, connecting it more deeply with their audience.

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