Case Study: Branding for Non-Profit Organizations

October 2018

To concisely emphasize the power of a brand, public figures or companies typically bottle up who they are in various ways - the most popular, vision, mission, and branding statements. However, the power of branding for non-profit organizations differentiates from branding for consumer good and service based companies. Successful non-profit brands shake the discourse and elevate a cause. This was stated best by Tom Scott. Tom served as the Director of Global Brand and Innovation for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 2010-2016.

“We’re catalysts,” says Scott. “Could we have greater impact if we leveraged our brand in different ways? What difference could it make to attach our logo to things to move conversations forward or elevate certain issues? Can we use our brand to elevate other brands?”

Some brands quietly shy away from taking a stand on controversial topics like politics and religion within their branding statements. Non-profit organizations, on the other hand, require a strong stance, voice, and tone when developing with their purpose and goal. Although non-profits have a level of business behind their brand in gathering and distributing donations, non-profits measure their level of success by the amount of impact they make. Brand strategy brings the elements of a financial model and name recognition to answer the question: 

How can we bring awareness front and center? How do we get people talking about it? How can we make an impact?

"The Brand IDEA"

Natalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel researched, interviewed, and identified the three primary factors that determine the success of a non-profit's brand.

Do as you say. Always keep your promise.

Realign the brand with all members.

Focus on the shared impact.

Mission Statement Formula

When developing a company's brand, each company should include their mission statement - the why they are doing what they do. According to, the most successful non-profits have developed their mission statement with these general findings: 

If you're having a hard time getting your mission statement to 15 words or less, consider creating a tagline between 2-6 words.

"A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste®" - United Negro College Foundation
"Finding a cure our daughters won't have to." © - PA Breast Cancer Coalition
"Holding Power Accountable" - Common Cause

Case Study

Rebrand Concept


Staying in life with the heart of the Ellen Degeneres Wildlife Fund's mission, the color palette reflects neutral tones with textures and graphics. A change from the website's current design of black and white, the rebrand focuses on the wildlife aspects with a mix of tones, textures, and graphics.


Primary: Sanos Brush Light
Secondary: Open Sans


When branding the mission of a nonprofit, photos and graphics speak louder than words. Effective branding includes a mixture of illustrations and real photos depicting the heart of a nonprofit's goal. The Ellen Degeneres Wildlife Fund included black and white photos within its original design. By including illustrative graphics that included pencil lines and brush strokes, the website becomes softer in its design and overall tone. The below photos and graphics are attributed with links accordingly:

Branding Baseline

Branding for nonprofit organizations includes elements of design that need to bring an emotional impact. Mission based organizations use cause marketing to highlight their goals with the ultimate focus of bringing awareness to a specific problem that they are looking to solve. Through a combination of clear and concise content, handwritten typography and approachable graphics and photos, branding for nonprofits is catered in bringing an emotional impact. Branding for mission based organizations brings a focus on the visual components to serve as a solid framework to bring cause awareness.

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