Episode 034: Rebranding Your Non Profit Organization – 5 Steps to Success

Brilliant Branding Live Show Archives

Originally aired weekly August 2017 - August 2018 With host Phil Davis

Show Description

"Brilliant Branding" shines the spotlight, and provides valuable insights, into the most common, and frustrating company identity issues facing startups, entrepreneurs, consultants, and even established business owners. Topics address timely issues such as effective naming strategies, smart logo design, tips for trademarking, clear brand messaging, engaging social media and reputation management. We take a deep dive to uncover the "pivot point" of an organization, the "why" behind each business to help build a more clear, cohesive and compelling brand image.


Hello and welcome to another episode of the Brilliant Branding Podcast! This week is all about how to name or rebrand a nonprofit or not-for-profit company. You know who you are. You’re on a mission. You’re on-task to do something something great— something big!— but you’ve just got this one obstacle standing before you and your dream. Something’s just not right. People aren’t understanding what you do. They’re getting confused. If only you could just find a way to communicate your big mission and vision to people. Agh! You need to rebrand!

Sound familiar? If you’re nodding along reading this, don’t worry! You’re not alone! We deal with this problem all the time. A lot of times nonprofits and not-for-profits will start off with whatever name and logo they can muster together and they get to work. Then some time down the road— maybe months, maybe years later— the brand becomes an issue. We find that all-to-often the thing that defines a nonprofit ends up restricting it. It can be for a variety of reasons. As nonprofits grow and change to serve different people in different locations in different ways, their old identity just doesn’t fit anymore. This is around the time we start getting calls for help. 

For those who are in this situation, we feel your pain! We’re more than happy to help in whatever way we can. While we always recommend getting help from professional a professional branding firm, we’ve created this short, 5-step guide for people who want to try doing it themselves (or at least get an idea of what the process is like before reaching out to branding experts). That being said, get ready! Here are the 5 steps to rebranding your nonprofit organization:

Step 1: Determine Your Pain Point

Right now you’re reading about rebranding a nonprofit business. Not only that, but you’re now several paragraphs in. There’s obviously a reason. What is it? What brought you here? What was the motivation? What was the pain point? Are people confusing you with another organization? Does your name limit you to a geographic location? Does your organization do something different than the old name implies? Have you received a cease and desist order? Identify the issues with your old name that brought you here and write them down. This is going to help you stay motivated and on target throughout the process. 

Step 2: Assemble Your Team

Get a small group of people together who are going to be the decision-makers in the rebranding process. Get the right people in the right seats. Get people who understand and really get your business. Don’t make it a democratic process. A lot of times nonprofits are all about inclusion and democracy, but just think about it: What a great idea ever came from 700 people getting together? Don’t they usually come from a couple guys or a couple girls getting together? Keep the group small to avoid unnecessary headache and conflict. Use odd numbers to create a clear majority. 1, 3, or 5 decision makers are ideal. Make sure to include all critical decision-makers early in the process in order to avoid surprises and lost progress later down the road. 

Step 3: Determine Your Brand Criteria

Decide what objectives you want this new name to accomplish and in what order of priorities. We refer to this process as determining your brand recipe. Just like when you cook, you commit to certain ingredients in certain proportions. Do you want the name to sound modern? Do you want it to have an exact matching domain name? Do you want it to be easy to say and spell? Which of these things is the most important? Second most? Least? Write all this down and use it to guide you through the process and keep you on track. Refer back to this list as a sort of litmus test for all the names you come up with. 

Step 4: Determine a Naming Strategy

Here you’re going to need to determine which naming strategy or strategies you’ll use to start coming up with names. There are multiple strategies to coming up with brand names and we’ve talked about this subject in great detail in earlier episodes. All of these strategies involve assembling words and word parts, both real and invented, to evoke a certain feeling or image. If having a matching .com is high on your list of rebrand priorities, consider running all the names you’re coming up with through a domain registry search. Luckily, there are plenty of tools to help you through this process much more quickly and effectively. 

Step 5: Pick a name

After you’ve narrowed down your short list, it’s time to pick a winner. For som this is easier said than done. If you’re having trouble deciding, “try it on” for a few days. Practice an elevator speech using your new name. Practice introducing yourself as working for a company with that name. See how it feels. Don’t be surprised if a name grows on your during this process. Ultimately, you want to go with whatever feels right after trying them out for a few days. 

If you’re still having trouble deciding at this point, you’re going to have to just pick one. Come up with a way to decide. Ask a friend, flip a coin, or whatever you have to do. Remember that if you’ve gone through a thorough process, it’s likely that all of the remaining names are better than what you started with. So don’t worry about it. Just make sure to tell everyone who needs to know first before you announce it to the public. This includes shareholders, donors, etc. Make sure they know why the decision was made and how it’s going to benefit the organization. This way you don’t rub anyone the wrong way by taking key team members by surprise.

That’s it!

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Brilliant Branding with branding expert Phil Davis. If you’re a nonprofit or not-for-profit organization looking to rebrand, we’d love to help! You can contact us here. We hope that you’ll join us next week when we’ll be discussing the 6 steps to naming a tech company. Until then, stay brilliant!