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The Importance of Brand for a Charity

When most people hear the word ‘brand’, they think of names, logos, and colours. They think of businesses – of brand as a mere marketing tool, something cultivated by companies to sell products and boost bottom lines.

But the importance of brand isn’t limited to commercial enterprises alone. Developing a recognisable, consistent, and trustworthy brand is just as vital for organisations in the non-profit sphere, as well.

So, what does the concept of brand mean, exactly?

At its core, it’s the way a charity, company, person, or product is perceived by those who interact with it. Sure, the way in which a charity presents itself – be it through images, words, design, or tone – is important. Ultimately, however, brand refers not to these assets alone, but the feelings they provoke in the people that use them.

In that sense, a charity must ensure that its brand reflects the values at its heart, in order to attract the support and loyalty of like-minded people. The stronger a charity’s brand image – the more it resonates with its audience, and their own values – the more people will feel connected to it.

For a charity like ellenor – a Gravesend-based hospice that provides care for patients – adults and children with life-limiting illnesses, as well as supporting their families – this is particularly crucial.

After all, ellenor relies on the generosity of the local community in Kent to continue its vital work there. Yet, similarly to other charities, the difficulty for ellenor lies in imploring people to pledge their time, energy, and support – or put their hand in their pocket – to aid a cause for which they may not receive anything tangible in return.

Essentially, ellenor needs funding – but to get that, it must use its brand to develop and engage the right people.

“We need to nurture and stewardship our existing supporters, and we do that primarily through the brand,” says Georgina Lestini, Head of ellenor’s Communications and Marketing team. “We want to make sure we’ve got brand visibility and strong values, and that people resonate with what they feel we stand for.”

From a practical standpoint, ellenor’s recently-revised Vision, Mission, and Values help achieve just that – establishing the charity’s ‘North Star’ and conveying this to the community. ellenor’s overarching principle – ”People are at the heart of everything we do” – helps lay the foundation for its concrete values, which include we are caring, we are focussed, we are inclusive.”

Yet a charity’s brand should be reflected not only in its values, but in its vision, too. ellenor communicates its own vision – we are dedicated to enabling every person we support to have a seamless and personal experience that meet their needs and wishes. And with our mission to respect a patients’ dignity and independence, providing quality care and supporting them and their families to live with a life limiting illness in their home or in our hospice in the place of their choosing – through a recently-added strapline, which sits just underneath its logo; "hospice care in our home or yours".

This strapline serves to encapsulate ellenor’s key offering – hospice care – in a nutshell, whilst also underlining the fact that its service is available from both the patients’ home, as well as from the charity’s Inpatient Ward. In the logo above it, ellenor’s trademark orange provides an instantly-recognisable hallmark, while the hand-drawn style of the lettering and ‘x’ – the universal symbol for a kiss – mirror ellenor’s personalised commitment to care.

“The big part that we play in this,” Georgina continues, “is making sure that we’ve got the brand absolutely spot on. If we don’t have strong brand awareness – if we haven’t got the essence of ellenor out there, or steadfast values – why would people trust or support us?”

Trust, after all, is the most vital ingredient in any relationship – particularly that between a charity like ellenor, and its array of patients and their families, donors, trustees, supporters, allies, and volunteers within the local community. Considered, consistent branding can serve as the conduit for this trust; it makes a charity instantly recognisable and allows people to build up a picture in their mind of what to expect each time they interact with the charity.

Consistent branding also brings the benefit of uniting a charity’s communication channels. Whether a non-profit organisation is using social media to engage followers, email or search engine marketing to grow its supporter base, or a blog to increase awareness of its cause, brand can serve as the crucial connective tissue – the final proverbial piece of the puzzle.

For charities, then, brand is an important way of cultivating and conveying its vision and mission, as well as providing a much-needed consistency to its communication. But to do all this, a brand must accomplish another key goal first – it must stand out from the rest.

In the UK, there are currently around 169,000 registered charities. It’s a crowded space, with similar organisations constantly jostling for the same audience. Only a charity with a powerful, purposeful brand – fuelled by its values, and embraced by every employee, trustee, and volunteer – will be enough to cut through the noise and make the biggest mark.

So yes – for charities, a strong brand is extremely important. But that doesn’t mean that decisions around brand should be approached in a ‘top down’ manner, made exclusively by stakeholders or head honchos. Brand is a bidirectional concept – a two-way street.

Rather, a brand image and identity should be formulated together with volunteers, donors, and supporters in the community, via focus groups and discussions. Brand should be built not only around what a charity means to its people, but what they mean to the charity. Because at its core, brand isn’t just about wording, tone, or design. It’s about people – about telling their stories and sharing their lives with compassion, empathy, and inclusivity.

People are at the heart of everything we do.