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For-profit businesses have used branding strategies to bolster their bottom lines for decades. But just because your organization is a nonprofit, doesn't mean you should ignore such marketing practices. Branding, which uses names, symbols and ideas to differentiate an entity and mold public perceptions about it, is particularly important in the current challenging social and financial environment.

Read on for five basic branding — or rebranding — strategies to put in place right now.

1. Carve Out Your Niche

In the best of times, not-for-profits must aggressively fight for donor dollars. And these certainly aren't the best of times. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, tax law changes depressed donor giving. Now more than ever, your nonprofit needs to communicate who you are, why you're effective and why donors should give to you rather than another organization. This is a relatively easy task if you're the only charity representing a particular cause. But most nonprofits have "competitors" and must differentiate themselves.

Is your organization the sole animal welfare advocate in your geographic region? Does your food pantry offer corporate volunteer opportunities that similar nonprofits don't? Has your community theater found an effective COVID-19 workaround, such as online performances? Differences of geography, offerings and ideas can all provide a launching pad for a strong brand.

2. Make it Personal

Many studies have shown that when people are rewarded emotionally, they're more likely to donate to charity. Brand your organization to reflect these personal benefits. For example, get supporters directly involved in fundraising. Provide them with the tools to create their own "fan" webpage to tell their story (with graphics and photos) and the part your nonprofit has played in it. Or personalize participation by allowing volunteers and donors to choose the program they want to contribute support and money to.

Also pay attention to how you communicate with donors. Do you reach out to them on a personal level? As much as possible, customize communications so that they feel special.

3. Be Engaging

Running a not-for-profit is about more than rallying the troops behind a worthy cause. Donors should be able to relate to your organization and cause. They need to be engaged.

If a website visitor is directed to your organization's "how you can help" section, do they see pictures of celebrities and wealthy individuals working toward the mission? "Ordinary" supporters may conclude that you don't need their assistance. Although it's important to recognize major donors, you also need to represent small donors, volunteers and fundraisers with appropriate content and visuals on your site, blogs and social media pages.

The same principle applies when explaining your organization's mission. Provide specific examples that people can easily relate to (for example, a single mother who has lost her job during the pandemic or a senior fighting lung cancer) and you can strengthen the connection between supporters and clients.

4. Second That Emotion

You probably wouldn't work in the nonprofit world if you didn't have an emotional tie to charitable activities in general and your organization's mission in particular. Donors are no different. To fight apathy and donor inertia, go after their hearts.

Let's say your organization assists people affected by natural disasters. Although you want to avoid being exploitative, portraying hurricane victims' hopelessness and despair can stir donor emotions and result in higher contribution levels. Also spotlight the positive emotional results of your activities with testimonials from recipients of assistance and your organization's staffers.

5. Lead the Charge

Last, but not least, position your nonprofit as an innovative organization that keeps abreast of and implements the latest ideas — such as strategies for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. This means being flexible and prepared to pivot when opportunities come along. In other words, don't do things simply because that's the way you've always done them.

Many innovative nonprofits rely on technological advances to help make decisions. To that end, work with the best tech tools (many of which are discounted or free for nonprofits), such as the latest mobile device donation and social media content-enhancing apps.

Lasting Impressions

Even if you've never thought about branding, your audience probably already harbors a set of impressions about your nonprofit. Make sure those impressions are correct — and overwhelmingly positive — and reinforce them constantly with a formal branding strategy. Contact us for more recommendations.

© 2020



With the uncertainty of the situation surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19) continuing to evolve, we understand that it is affecting businesses and individuals in many different ways. 

At Hutchinson and Bloodgood, we value the relationships we have built with you. We will continue to be accessible so that we can serve and assist you while providing the level of attention that you deserve.

We will work alongside you throughout this ongoing situation to develop and build the optimal solutions for you.

Please contact us with your questions and concerns.

Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for speaking to your accountant, tax planner or financial planner. All information is provided “as is.” With change happening on a daily basis, we do not guarantee completeness, accuracy, timeliness or results obtained from the use of this information.


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