Beyond the Logo: Building Your Organization’s Brand

By Judy Song-Marshall, Chief Strategy Officer, PIR

This article is part 1 of an 8-part series called “Bootcamp for Mission-Driven Organizations”.

Think of some of the most familiar brands in your daily life. What do they have in common? Coca-Cola with its vivid red can and swirling logo creates a nostalgic, All-American feeling. Nike’s ubiquitous swoosh and command to “Just Do It” exhorts you to run one more mile or climb one more hill. The pink ribbons of the Susan G. Komen Foundation encourage you to support the search for a cure. The best brands don’t simply offer eye-catching logos or pithy slogans. They make you feel something. They move you. 

According to an article by Nathalie Kylander and Christopher Stone in the Stanford Social Innovation Review,, “A brand is more than a visual identity: the name, logo, and graphic design used by an organization. A brand is a psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of the branded product, person, organization, or movement.” In order for non-profits and good-for-the-world companies to inspire, engage, and drive donations, a solid branding strategy is essential. 

It is possible to build a recognizable and impactful non-profit brand. Think about AARP, UNICEF or the World Wildlife Foundation

Still, there may be internal challenges regarding time, energy, and resources on branding.  Yet statistics show that building a solid and recognizable non-profit brand can have enormous pay offs. The Harvard Business Review,, noted an increasing number of high-profile non-profits have created  brands that are worth billions of dollars. The work your organization puts into branding is well worth it.

 “In the for-profit world, marketing professionals talk of creating ‘a total brand experience.’ In the nonprofit world, executives talk more about their ‘global identity’ and the ‘what and why’ of their organizations. But the point in both cases is to take branding far beyond the logo,” say Kylander and Stone. 

This is not to say a good logo is unimportant. In fact, a good logo can say everything without saying a word, so choose wisely. Think carefully about colors, typeface and images, and how they reflect your organization. Vet the logo with trusted members of your board, team, and prospective audience, if possible. To land on the right one, and take your brand above and beyond it, it’s important to first 1) clarify your mission and vision, 2) streamline your story, and 3) make it personal.

  • Clarify Your Mission and Vision

Your mission is a succinct description of your organization’s core purpose, while your vision describes the world that awaits if your mission succeeds. Mission and vision statements establish the internal foundation of your brand and guide programs, services, communications, organization, and culture. They also inspire and generate external support by helping you tell your story to potential funders, collaborators, and partners.

  • Streamline Your Story

Once you have mission and vision statements, it’s time to draft some compelling and cohesive language. Branding and messaging guides for your entire organization will have everyone, from the executive director down, on the same page whenever and wherever they communicate about the organization. There are a variety of ways to structure your guide, but most include some combination of the following: 

  • Mission and vision;
  • Logo and color choices;
  • Rules for photography and graphic design;
  • Tone for verbal and written communications; 
  • Tagline and elevator pitch, if you have them; and
  • Your brand pillars, with messaging to support them.

This article contains numerous examples of non-profit brand guides

  • Make it Personal

Once you have refined your story, start telling it. A great way to make sure it resonates with your audience is to make it personal. Focusing on your work’s impact to one person, one family, or one community offers context and connection. Think about how words and images from your favorite charity or brand affect and motivate you to get involved. The emotions you experience are what you want to create in your audience. For a guide to non-profit storytelling, see this article on

An eye-catching logo will stick in the mind of your audience as a signifier of your brand. But, it’s only one aspect of it. We hope this article has helped you understand how to build a solid and meaningful brand for your non-profit or good for the world business. By trying our advice, your brand can have the beyond-the-logo awareness-generating and fundraising impact of a simple pink ribbon.


Creating your organization’s mission and vision statements are an integral step toward building a strong non-profit brand and connecting with your audience and raising awareness and funds. To learn more about how to create a strong mission and vision, see this piece by You can create an “awesome” mission statement with this advice from And this article detailing successful non-profit mission and vision statements can inspire you as you work.

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