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Strengthen Your Nonprofit Brand Strategy With This 6-Step Audit

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Ever get that nagging sense that your marketing doesn’t feel like you?

Maybe you’re struggling to come up with social posts that are different from your competitors. Or your logo looks stuck in the early 2000s. Or your team can’t agree on the right message for a new landing page.

A lack of marketing consistency and clarity can erode trust in your organization and your ability to connect with your audience. Your first instinct to solve these challenges might be to bring in a new marketing consultant or graphic designer. Instead, try taking a closer look at your brand.

Your brand is more than your logo, tagline, colors or fonts. While those elements represent who you are on the outside, branding is all about who you are on the inside. Your brand strategy defines why you exist, what your audience needs, and how you help them in ways that no one else does. It’s the foundation for strategic creative and marketing programs that achieve their intended purpose: authentic connections with the right people.

At Statement, we’re big believers in the power of brand-first marketing (just watch us make the case to our friend Matt Cornelison on the “Go Fungal” podcast). Building a solid nonprofit brand strategy can help you:

  • Strengthen awareness and reputation across all your offerings with accurate and consistent branding. 
  • Build relationships with your target audience by aligning your brand around their unfulfilled needs and desires.
  • Foster unity across your team and make them effective ambassadors for your mission through a shared purpose.

Not sure where to start? Conducting a brand audit is a smart first step to see what’s working, what’s not and what to prioritize in your own brand strategy. Here’s a peek inside our brand audit questionnaire.

6 Steps To a Successful Brand Audit
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Think of your brand like a tower of blocks. Each piece builds on the next to create a solid foundation for your marketing. Skip some steps, and your tower turns into Jenga – at risk of toppling to the ground at any moment.

There are plenty of strategy frameworks to build your brand; we like using a version of Brand Master Academy’s because it’s so comprehensive. The framework moves from left to right, helping you define key brand characteristics like mission, vision and values; audience; and competitive landscape to inform creative and marketing decisions. 

Conducting an audit first can help reveal gaps or strengths to prioritize during the brand strategy process. Our brand audit questionnaire uses a four-point scale to assess each brand component, but your internal audit doesn’t necessarily have to be that formal. Here’s what to consider when conducting your audit.

Brand Structure

Your brand structure describes how you organize the sub-brands, programs or services under your organization’s roof. The term “sub-brand” might make you think of mega-companies with dozens of branded products, like Procter & Gamble or Apple, but brand structure matters for smaller organizations, too. For example, we worked with a nonprofit in the film industry that operated three well-known programs – but no one knew they were all part of the same organization. We defined a new structure that would help raise recognition for the parent brand, while still keeping each program’s unique look and feel.

Key questions to ask:

  • Do our programs or sub-brands follow a clear structure that makes sense for our organization, such as a branded house, house of brands or something in between?
  • Do we have documented rules about how to treat future sub-brands or programs? 

Brand Purpose (Mission, Vision, & Values)

Simon Sinek said it best: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy the reason why you do it.” What’s the change you want to create in the world? Your brand purpose is a powerful tool to align every aspect of your organization, from your program offerings to your marketing content. When conducting a brand audit, your existing mission and vision statements are a good starting point for defining your purpose. A framework like the Golden Circle can help your organization refresh and refine your purpose by mapping out the what, how and why of your organization.

Key questions to ask:

  • Do we have a documented mission and vision? Do they accurately reflect our organization today? 
  • Do we have a documented set of values? How do those values show up in the way we work and interact with our audience?

Brand Audience

How well do you know your program participants or donors? Does your audience include different segments that would benefit from specific messaging? A brand audit will reveal gaps in your audience profile to explore when building your brand strategy. A well-researched analysis is key to get into the mindset of your audience, informing everything from word and tone choices to benefits to highlight. If you serve multiple audiences, this exercise can also help you zero in on targeted messages and tactics for each segment. Try an exercise like our Persona Worksheet to map out your own audiences.

Key questions to ask:

  • Why does our audience choose to partner with us? Which needs are they looking to us to fill?
  • Do we know where our target audience spends their time, both digitally and in real life? 
  • What are the main groups that make up our audience? What are their similarities and differences? 

Brand Competition

First, let’s start by defining “competitor.” In the brand world, a competitor doesn’t have to be another organization in your space – it can be any alternative way your audience is solving their main challenge. That could include other organizations doing similar work, in-house services at your audience’s company, or even doing nothing at all. If you haven’t conducted a competitive analysis before, taking the time to pinpoint your top competitors and exploring what they’re doing well (or not so well) can reveal effective – and sometimes surprising – strategies to stand out. Try our Competitor Worksheet to start documenting and organizing your competitor insights.

Key questions to ask:

  • Do we know where our audience is going to solve their problems? What other solutions are they researching and buying? 
  • What are our competitors saying about the value they provide? Is it believable?
  • How do our competitors organize their key services or programs? Are there key differences between our services that we could use to our advantage?

Brand Difference

Where’s the gap between what your audience wants and what your competitors can provide? Brand strategist Marty Neumeier coined this concept the “Only-ness Factor.” Brand difference is the most powerful part of a strategic brand, helping your organization stand out in a sea of sameness and convert your target audience into loyal brand ambassadors. During your audit, take time to scrutinize your only-ness factor and whether you’re communicating it in a clear and compelling way.

Key questions to ask:

  • Does our team agree on our biggest strengths or combination of strengths?
  • Why do our customers or donors choose to partner with us? Do they see our strengths the same way we do? 
  • What can our audience get from us that they can’t get elsewhere?

Brand Personality

Imagine your brand was a person. What clothes would you wear? What shows would be saved on your Netflix list? Your brand personality helps you decide which messaging and visual “outfits” fit, making your communications more personal and engaging. Without it, your organization can veer into “mannequin brand” territory, where you lack the warmth and personality needed to connect with your audience on an emotional level. If your audit reveals it’s time to tackle brand personality, the 12 major brand archetypes offer a good starting point for exploring common brand personality traits.

Key questions to ask:

  • If we were to describe our organization with 2-3 adjectives, what would they be? Does our team agree on them?
  • Do our messaging and visuals match our brand personality? Why or why not?

Ace Your Brand Audit

When you’re refining your nonprofit brand strategy, a fresh perspective can work wonders to reveal challenges you hadn’t noticed – and solutions you never imagined. Our complimentary brand audit is a simple way to assess your brand strengths and opportunities for improvement. Reach out to set up your audit.

Discover your next breakthrough.