What’s with the charity rebrand trend?!

You may have noticed a bit of a trend lately of charities “rebranding”. Canadian Diabetes Association is now Diabetes Canada. Heart & Stroke changed its logo and freshened up its visual identity in November of last year. Sick Kids launched their “VS” campaign last year, too. Big charities are bringing new attention to themselves and the important work they do by making a creative splash in the marketplace.

Why? Well, if you’ve been working in fundraising for the last 10 years or longer, you’ve noticed how saturated the Canadian (or any, really) marketplace has become with charities and their messages to Canadians to GIVE! It’s a competitive landscape these days, and in order to stay relevant and reach new audiences and inspire new donors, sometimes a new way to express your “brand” is the way to cut through the noise.

But don’t just jump on the rebranding bandwagon! A new brand or campaign is usually the tip of the iceberg. It’s a big investment for any charity – large or small – to make a big change to its look and name, so you have to give it some serious thought.

Here’s a few things to think about:

Does your brand need a facelift? Heart & Stroke was concerned it was perceived as “your grandmother’s charity” and that it was old-fashioned and not relevant for younger generations. Part of its motivation to rebrand was to modernize its look to reach new audiences. If you’re successfully connecting with donors of all ages, a rebrand may not be for you.

Does your cause need new attention? Diabetes Canada rebranded as much to end the stigma around diabetes as it did to freshen up its look. You may want to rebrand to position the important work you do in a new way, but if you’re feeling good about the way your brand aligns with you’re mission, it may not be the right move.

If you’re trying to reach new audiences, who are they? I did a few interviews on the radio the other day on the topic of charity rebrands, and a lot of the interviewers thought charities were motivated to rebrand in order to get millennials involved in their causes. Fortunately none of them could see me roll my eyes. Remember: millennials are a nut to crack when it comes to fundraising and philanthropy, but they are probably NOT your target audience. It will be a decade at least before millennials make up a meaningful percentage of your donor base, so don’t change your look for them. Think about who you really want to inspire, and make sure any changes you make will speak to them.

What will your donors think? I think that most donors want to see your work funded, and if you can inspire new donors to give more through a rebrand, then your donors may fully support it. But if you run the risk of abandoning your donor base by trying to unnecessarily change your brand, forget it! Don’t let the excitement of a new logo cloud your judgment when it comes to keeping your best supporters close!

So don’t rush into the trend! Make sure you spend time thinking about whether rebranding is right for you. It could be the difference. Just know for sure before you take the plunge!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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2 thoughts on “What’s with the charity rebrand trend?!

  1. I’m probably going to be the lone dissenter here, but I think a refresh/rebrand is important sometimes. Not only does it remind people you’re out there, but it can bring in new donors. In a world where we’re bombarded with requests, organizations have to find a way to cut through the noise.

  2. The Children’s Center—who helps thousands of Detroit’s vulnerable children and families each year overcome mental, behavioral or intellectual disabilities challenges—recently completed a comprehensive rebrand, the first in its 86 year history.

    Why now? As The Children’s Center expanded its offering from a handful of services in 1929 to more than 30 today, it became extremely challenging to talk about their work in a meaningful and relevant manner. It was very difficult for families to understand what all The Children’s Center did and how it could help their children. Some had no idea The Children’s Center even existed—right there in their own backyard. Desktop Publisher was on everyone’s desk and they all used it. Their brand had become diluted with mixed messages and imagery, and was communicated in a variety colorful voices. Worse yet, lost relevance, weak and inconsistent messaging, and deteriorating brand strength undermined donor trust and confidence.

    To put their brand house in order, The Children’s Center retained our services to redefine and strengthen its brand. To unify its voice. To create powerful and consistent messaging that really connects with its generational audiences. To regain lost relevance, and significantly improve the consumer and donor experience across all touch points of the brand.

    Side Note:
    I remember walking around asking families, staff, board members, donors, volunteers, and other supporters one simple question: “What does The Children’s Center do?” I expected the answers to vary a little, depending on their relationship with The Children’s Center. What I didn’t expect was that most didn’t even know how to begin to answer that all important question. I told the leadership: “If no one know’s what you do – your story – how can you expect anyone to tell it?”

    We also retooled their marketing and communications support infrastructure. We built an agile integrated, multichannel communications program to increase results for their awareness and fundraising campaigns. New and strategic tools were created to improve donor cultivation and stewardship efforts. Internal and external marketing resources were realigned. A new approach to grassroots marketing and community outreach was implemented. We created a PR/Media relations plan designed to position The Children’s Center as the leading authority on children’s mental and behavioral health.

    Last, we created a compelling and differentiating brand story to help all truly “get” who they are, what they do, why it matters, and inspire supporters to want to be a part of what The Children’s Center is doing. A story that empowers staff, board and supporters to tell their story in a powerful and consistent manner. To scale storytelling to the masses, we moved it from a book format to online by creating a digital version of their brand story, added a little interactivity along with video and audio to enhance the reader’s experience.

    When done properly, a powerful and compelling brand story can literally be a game-changer for your nonprofit. It can help you connect with existing and prospective donors on a much deeper and emotional level. In today’s competitive environment, Nonprofits who don’t tell their story well run the risk of donors choosing another organization who does a much better job at telling theirs.

    You can check out The Children’s Center brand story here:

    R. Trent Thompson

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