Branding vs. Marketing and What Nonprofits Need to Know

September 16, 2015

Guest Blog by Alizah Epstein, Chief Creative Officer, Epstein Creative Group, Associate Member of Maryland Nonprofits

Alizah Epstein is the Chief Creative Officer at the Epstein Creative Group. As a passionate creative thinker and problem-solver, she is the driving force behind the branding and marketing design studio. What makes this firm different is that they focus on branding and marketing for organizations that benefit women and children. Through strategic branding and marketing efforts, they secure more donors and build awareness so these organizations can continue the good work that they do. To Learn more visit Design with purpose.

Branding vs. Marketing, two terms that are often interchanged or misused so first, let’s get branding and marketing straight. And yes, nonprofits should be doing both!
In a nutshell, marketing unearths and activates your audience. Branding is designed to educate or create certain emotions. It attracts loyal supporters, donors and advocates to your cause.
Branding for nonprofits is more than just your logo or name — a lot more. Branding is telling your story to your audience and showing why YOU matter. It’s about the experience and perception your audience has of your organization online, in-person, and on paper. This means everything from the delivery of your services, interaction with donors, office space, signature, printed materials, website, and social media. It’s not what you say you are, it’s how they perceive you. So what are you doing to make sure they are seeing you the way you want them to? Effective branding differentiates your organization from the countless others the public can choose to support. It should convey a clear and cohesive identity and communication for everything associated with your organization.
Marketing for nonprofits are activities and strategies employed by a nonprofit organization that are designed to spread the message of the organization, as well as to solicit donations and call for volunteers.
Marketing may contribute to a brand, but the brand is bigger than any particular marketing effort. The brand is what remains after the marketing has swept through the room. It’s what sticks in your mind and is associated with a mission, service, or organization.
Branding is strategic. Marketing is tactical.
Branding is usually overlooked in nonprofits but great brands know that the more consistently they reinforce their reputation, the more likely supporters will remain loyal.  Are you strategically leveraging your brand to advance your mission and impact?
Marking tactics come and go. Branding lasts forever.
Developing an effective brand and marking plan for a nonprofit is a process. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself to get started.

  1. Do you have a clear vision and mission?

  2. Do you have a clearly defined value and objective?

  3. How would you describe your organization’s personality?

  4. Have you done an audience profile to define a clear picture of all the personas you are targeting? Nonprofits have the challenge of multiple audiences, including donors, reaching the right people for their programs, establishing leadership, and advocating around their core issues.

  5. The most important question is this: Does everyone in your organization understand how to use your brand effectively and consistently? 

Answering these questions is the first step in achieving your organization’s brand. It’s a process, and everyone in your organization can contribute. There are plenty of cost effective and simple ways nonprofits can implement a branding plan. Getting started is the hardest part, but a trusted, experienced partner can help smooth the way. 
I would love to hear what you are doing to brand your organization. Drop me a note at to set up a free 30-minute consultation.


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