Nonprofit Branding: No One Cares About Your Logo

Question: How important is your nonprofit’s logo?
Answer: More important to you than to the folks you’re trying to impress with it!

But what about super famous logos?

There are corporate logos many of us covet on our consumer goods – like the Apple logo on a laptop that tells the world we can afford the best.

red cross symbol on white backgroundAnd there are super famous nonprofit logos as well. A good example is the Red Cross symbol pictured here.

But organizations like Apple and Red Cross don’t succeed because they have cool logos. It’s not like Red Cross stakeholders sweated and strained to think up that visual and now they just relax and let it do the heavy lifting.

Ultimately, both corporate and nonprofit brands are judged by what they do – not by how memorable their logos are.

It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of logos are NOT super famous. In fact, there are very few organizations people recognize just by looking at their logo.

I know this because one of the mindless games on my iPhone is called “Logo Quiz”. I was sure I would ACE this game, but I was wrong. In reality, I was shocked by how few logos I could readily connect with actual brands.

Your logo is just an image.

A great logo may make your nonprofit slightly more recognizable. But at the end of the day, it’s still just an image. It doesn’t encompass everything you are, what you stand for, and how you’re working to make lives better.

Your logo only begins to have meaning after your organization begins to have meaning.

Ultimately, people will associate that image with the feelings they have about your organization. It doesn’t work the other way around.

For example, your feelings about the Red Cross logo reflect your feelings about the Red Cross as an organization. They aren’t a universally known nonprofit because of that red plus sign. And your nonprofit won’t succeed or fail based on superficial things like brand colours, or fonts, or logos.

So if no one cares about your logo, what DO they care about?

Your brand isn’t about visuals, or mission statements, or catchy tag lines. It’s about the feelings people have when they think about you.

To build a highly respected nonprofit, you need to focus on your people and their feelings:

  • Who are you trying to serve?
  • What are their pain points? (What do they need?)
  • How can you create and promote programs and services that meet those needs?

And, because nonprofits generally rely on donations and community support, you also need to consider your funders:

  • Who is your ideal donor/funder?
  • What problems are they most worried about?
  • How do your programs and services address those problems?

The more deeply you understand your audiences – both program recipients and funders – the better. Because knowing your audience is the BIG secret to building an effective, mission-driven organization.

You can always “tweak” your logo.

I’m frequently surprised by how worried people are about having the “perfect” logo. It’s NOT a tattoo!

You can change it later. In fact, many high-profile nonprofits have changed their logos more than once.

For example…

 

 

UNICEF has changed its logo several times. Their first logo depicted a child drinking milk. Now, they focus on a parent lifting up a child. As the organization grew and evolved, so did their logo.

That said, the future of UNICEF doesn’t rest on the creativity of their logo design team! At the end of the day, their logo is a reflection of what they stand for, not a driving force of change.

Conclusion:

Your logo is part of your organization’s public image. As such, it is worthy of a degree of attention. But it’s important to recognize that logos, fonts, colour schemes, etc. are just bells and whistles.

A fancy new logo isn’t going to put you on the fast track to greater online visibility or stronger brand authority. And I’m pretty confident that you won’t lose a funding source because someone was less-than-inspired by your logo.

Building a nonprofit that accomplishes great things and thrives over time is hard work. It requires stakeholders to dig deep into the needs of your community, and develop programs and services that genuinely help people.

If folks love your logo… cool! But it’s not worth obsessing over.

 


 


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