Branding for Nonprofits

Does your nonprofit need a new logo (and maybe even a new name)?

Too often, nonprofit organizations wait far too long before changing a logo that is well overdue for either a makeover or a complete change. The reluctance to change is understandable, but in many cases it is not warranted.

Here is a check list to jump start the conversation at your organization:

Are staff members reluctant to use your organization’s logo because they feel it does not project the right image?
To put it simply, are you proud of your nonprofit’s logo? If you and your staff are not excited about your logo, no one else will be either. It may be time to think about a change. It doesn’t hurt to ask volunteers, clients and the public what they think about your logo. Just don’t get defensive when they give you their honest opinions.

Are you using a logo that doesn’t work just so you don’t hurt someone’s feelings? Nonprofits tend to depend on giveaways. Many times this is also the case with an organization’s logo. Whether it is the founder of the organization or the godson of your biggest donor that designed your organization’s logo as a “favor” – there is no excuse for continuing to use a logo that just doesn’t work. Better yet, don’t let your nonprofit be in this position in the first place.

Does your organization’s logo look like someone else’s logo? If your staff often hears, “your logo looks just like so-and-so’s logo,” book a meeting about your logo in the conference room right how.

Does your logo look good when it is copied, faxed or resized? Often, a logo looks great when it is printed in full color or viewed on a monitor. But a seven-color logo is no use if it does not reproduce well when copied in black and white (assuming your organization can’t afford to always print in full color). Hard-to-read type treatments can also cause issues that can make a logo utterly useless. In some cases, your organization may not need a completely new logo, but perhaps an altered version of one that has limitations.

Does your name and logo say you do something or serve somewhere that is inaccurate? In many cases, nonprofit organizations simply outgrow their names. If you now serve all 12 counties in your state, but your name still states “Tri-County,” you need a new name. Keep in mind your ever-growing services and mission to make sure you select a name that you won’t outgrow again in the future. The same goes for services. If your name states that you do one thing but now you do eight, you should have changed your name when you moved into that new building during your organization’s latest expansion. But it is never too late to get it right – even if it means having new signs made.

Do people call your organization thinking you are something you are not? An example of this is a child therapy center that constantly receives calls because their name sounds like a children’s clothing store. If the public thinks you are something you are not, then you are making the communications game a lot harder than it has to be. To investigate this, include staff members that answer the phones and email in the conversation. If the public thinks your organization is something you are not because of your name, it is probably time to explore a new one.

If your organization does decide to take the plunge and create a new logo, or even a new name, it is always a good idea to bring in an outside consultant or volunteer to assist you in the process. A fresh approach always begins with gaining new perspectives. And remember, a “logo” is not your organizations “brand” – although both need to be discussed and developed at the same time.

Keep in mind that your logo is not supposed to do it all. You don’t need an icon that represents everything you do cluttering up your logo and your brand. Simple is always better. A logo should be supported by a proper tagline (which is much easier to change in the future than a logo or name) and targeted messages.


Written by Hannah B. Gregory. (LinkedIn)

Hannah B. Gregory is a nonprofit marketing expert, PR strategist and founder of The Shoestring Agency. As an expert in the field, she and has been interviewed by Marketplace on NPR, NBC News and others. A trained and experienced journalist, she has a passion for helping nonprofits tell their stories and working with the news media to produce meaningful coverage. Hannah can be reached at or 1-888-835-6236. Follow her on Twitter at @NonprofitHannah.