5 Ways to Boost Credibility on a Budget

If the idea of branding has you seeing dollar signs right now there are simple ways to invest in your nonprofit’s credibility and reputation without breaking the bank. Here are 5 tips to help you build your nonprofit’s brand with little to no cost.

For many nonprofit leaders, the idea of rebranding or doing a brand refresh may be overwhelming right now. There’s still rumblings about a recession and let’s be honest, branding is probably the last line item on the budget. 

Although building your nonprofit’s brand may seem like a pipe dream right now, there are many ways you can continue investing in your reputation and credibility without breaking the bank. In fact, you can build your brand on little to no budget at all. 

In this post, I’m going to share 5 little-known ways to build your brand without breaking the bank. Plus, these ideas are perfect to do in the giving “off-season” before everyone comes back from vacation charged up and ready to tackle Q4.

1. Set Up Your Brand Kit

Canva is a design tool made with nonprofits in mind. And they offer premium access to ALL nonprofits for FREE. If you haven’t set up a Canva account for your nonprofit, then this is a low-cost way to start getting your brand consistent online.

Although there are thousands of free templates available, I’d actually recommend starting with their “Brand Kit” feature. This Premium feature will allow you to add your logo, colors and fonts so that they’re automatically pulled in for every new design you make. After you’ve set up your Brand Kit, then take a look through templates that feel close to your current design style (or add your own!), then apply the Brand Kit styles to instantly have your logo, colors, and fonts incorporated. 

Pro tip: Upload your logo as an SVG file so that you can change the color for specific designs. Rather than having 5 different logo versions, you just need one!

Cost: Free

2. Collaborate!

A huge part of building a brand is about building credibility. One of the best ways you can do this on a budget is to reach out to complementary nonprofits or companies who are also working toward the same goal as your nonprofit, instead of staying in your own silo. People respond really well to organizations that team up and lift each other in the process. After all, you’re working to eliminate a problem or improve the outcome of something – so why not join forces?

The key is to find complementary organizations that align with your nonprofit’s values and vision. There are probably a couple organizations that immediately come to mind!

Start by following and liking the complementary orgs’ posts, then send them a direct message asking to connect. For many small businesses and nonprofits, the founder or ED is the one to manage their social media accounts so you’ll have access directly to the decision maker. If it’s a larger company or corporation, schedule a video call and be prepared to share your nonprofit’s strengths and potential partnership ideas. Get a head start with 5 creative ways to build brand loyalty through philanthropy.

Cost: Free

3. Take New Photos

This may seem counter-intuitive, but a great way to take advantage of a slow season is to book a photoshoot. Featuring photos of real people in your programs or on your staff is the perfect way to showcase your important work without resorting to stock photography or using illustrations in your marketing. Plus, you’ll be SO thankful for those fresh photos when it’s time to draft your end-of-year appeals!

Think through the photos you’d love to have or save examples of photos you love, make a bulleted list of them, then hire a local photographer for 2-3 hours to take pictures for you. In 2-3 weeks you’ll have edited photos that you can use on your website, in social media, direct mail, or future appeal letters. 

After you get the photos, organize them! My favorite tool for sorting and tagging your photos is Dropmark. It allows you to create photo collections, add image tags, and share files easily. Importing old photos and labeling them in specific folders will save your team loads of time and headaches down the road! And don’t worry about importing decades of old photos – start with the last 2-3 years. 

Cost: $100-500 + $5/user/month

4. Add an Extra Touch to Your Donor Experience

The most effective brands know they have to give people something to rave about in order to stand out. One of our clients, The Adventure Project, does this with the simplest marketing tool there is: email. Every time they get a new donor in their system, both of their founders send them a welcome email. This one simple gesture doesn’t cost them anything except for time and an automated reminder, yet it takes their giving experience from forgettable to remarkable. In fact, I’ve seen fellow consultants comment on how delightful their simple thank you is on social media, which then is shared worldwide with their audiences again and again. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a simple thank you or a handwritten note. You can certainly automate this process through your email marketing platform, but it’s the organic nature of the thank you that takes this experience over the top. Automate the reminder instead of the email itself to let you know you need to send an email, but keep the note organic and thoughtful!

Cost: $10-30/month

5. Invest in Yourself

Sometimes the greatest investment we can make in building our brand is staring back in the mirror. If you’d like to build a strong nonprofit brand, then you need to understand what it takes to build one. 

Just last week I launched The Matchbox Method – a first-of-its-kind branding course specifically designed for nonprofits. The self-guided course will give you a crash course in brand-building for the low price of $397 – just a fraction of what it costs to hire a creative team. This course is designed for nonprofit leaders just starting out in their brand building journey, and it’s filled with loads of strategy lessons and tips to help your nonprofit build a strong foundation.

Don’t worry – if you already have a brand style and website this course can still help you! It’s built to help you refine your brand and make sure you have all pieces covered. 

Cost: $397

These 5 tips are quick wins and definitely can be accomplished in the “fundraising off-season” so that your nonprofit is ready to hit the group running in Q4. 

Many of the connections that we’ve made at HeartSpark come from these very tips! It’s the preparation, collaboration, and consistency that continue to help us stand out from the crowd – and I know the same can happen for your organization, too. 

Have any other brand-building tips to share? Drop them in the comments below!

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Picture of Lauren Atherton
Lauren Atherton
With over 15 years in the creative industry, Lauren uses her award-winning design experience with agencies, startups, and Fortune 200’s to help nonprofit organizations attract support through branding and design.