Think you can’t afford to build a strong brand?

Well now’s the time to think again!

It’s the age-old conundrum – not-for-profits need a strong, compelling brand to help them stand out and raise the funds they need but spending money on developing that brand costs hard earned cash, which could be put to good use elsewhere.

Arguably there has never been a time in the not-for-profit sector when having a strong brand was so important. Whilst the overall figure of household giving remains relatively stable at £10.1 billion, for the third year in a row significantly fewer people say they are giving money to charity and trust in charities is decreasing steadily. With around 168,237 registered charities in the UK it is a highly competitive sector, one where your brand needs to work harder than ever.
As a recent CAF report stated, “income generation remains the number one challenge for organisations, followed by meeting demand for services and reductions in funding. This comes at a time when over four in five charity leaders stated that demand on their organisation’s services had increased over the previous 12 months.”

It’s a tough climate but one where you can make a difference by taking control of your brand and ensuring that it is sufficiently strong and differentiated to attract the support that you need.

So, what do we mean by a strong brand?

A strong brand is one that is rooted in firm foundations. It knows who it is, why it exists, what it is trying to achieve and how it is going to get there. In other words, it is a brand with a clear purpose and direction.

To use a simple analogy, a brand is like the willow tree. Its beautiful showy branches thick with leaves attract attention but it is under the surface with its extensive root system where the real work occurs. The roots are what direct its luscious appearance and health of the tree – its size, shape, number of leaves, glossy finish, the sweep of its branches and so on. Similarly, in the world of brands, it is the strategic definition of the brand that ultimately directs its health and success. Known as the Brand Definition, this is the unique DNA of a brand and the stronger and clearer your Brand Definition and the better you implement it, the more effective your brand will be in its competitive arena.

The Brand Definition is comprised of several different elements which together provide your story or narrative. These are your Vision, Mission, Values, Proposition, Personality and Reasons-to-believe. Your Brand Definition is unique to you, reflecting your focus and particular set of strengths and operating conditions. Getting it right and crystallising it into a set of crisp statements will provide your target audiences with clear and motivating reasons to support you and not any other brand. It will help you meet (or even surpass) your fundraising targets.

How does the Brand Definition work?

It is the role of the Brand Definition to determine how your brand portrays itself. It is the blue-print for all action, both internal and external. Once you have created your Brand Definition, you should use it to direct all your communications activity. Your unique Brand Definition is not something to leave growing dusty on the shelf. It should form the basis of every piece of communication you develop – your list of key messages, your visual identity, your brochures, ads, DVDs, sponsorship deals, training procedures and manuals, fundraising events, grant applications and every other communication tool. To be effective your Brand Definition must become your bible.
It is only by having a strong Brand Definition at the core of your brand that you will be able to take full control of your marketing and communications activity. It will enable you to ensure that every initiative you undertake is always working to the same end – building the brand perception that you want, not one that others will create for you. It is what will motivate your staff and supporters as it will show what you are about, how you are different from your competitors and why you deserve their support.

Put simply having a clear Brand Definition will help you build a successful brand more quickly and cheaply. It will provide focus and clarity, giving you a framework for all your marketing communications, help streamline your visual identity ensuring it is communicating what you want it to, unite your staff and volunteers through a common sense of purpose and help you to stand out from the crowd through offering a clear set of benefits to engage your supporters and help you secure the necessary funding you deserve.

But creating a compelling Brand Definition is expensive
It’s true, it can be. Hiring brand expertise doesn’t come cheap and understandably often feels out of reach of all but the largest, wealthiest not-for-profits.

However, there is some good news. There is now a way that all organisations, even the very smallest one-person bands can access the skills and expertise they need without breaking the bank. Brand consultancy Housebrands has launched an innovative online programme aimed at making Brand Definition accessible to all. Using the tried and tested programme they use with their consultancy clients, the easy to follow step-by-step guide walks users through the programme, enabling them to create a winning Brand Definition in-house for a fraction of the cost of hiring external consultants. Packed full of tips, examples and based on a series of easy to use worksheets, it is like having your own personal brand consultant at your shoulder.

So, if you think you can’t afford to streamline your brand, think again! Not-for-profits can now expertly define their brand without taking funds that have been earmarked for specific projects.

To find out more go to

Fenella McCarthy

Fenella McCarthy is co-founder of brand and communications agency Housebrands. Having spent over 20 years in brand development, she realised that accessing expert brand consultancy is out of the financial reach of many voluntary organisations and so, Housebrands Toolkits was born.