At the most basic level, the purpose of nonprofit marketing is to spread awareness of your mission and work. However, your public-facing communications should also make your organization recognizable in the community. That way, your marketing will lay a foundation for building trust with audience members, and this confidence will make them more likely to become engaged supporters of your nonprofit.

The best tool you have for making your communications recognizable and trustworthy is your nonprofit’s logo. However, for your logo to have this effect, there are several key elements that you need to keep in mind as you design it, including its:

  1. Brand Alignment
  2. Marketing Incorporation
  3. Accessibility
  4. Universality

According to Loop, “Your logo serves as a powerful visual representation of your organization’s mission and values, weaving them together into a compelling and memorable symbol that demonstrates who you are and why your work is vital to your community.” Let’s dive into how to develop a logo that accomplishes this purpose.

1. Brand Alignment

Especially when it comes to the most popular companies, people often conflate logos with their associated brands. When you think about Apple, for example, you probably picture a neutral-colored graphic apple with a bite taken out of the right-hand side. This logo has become so synonymous with the Apple brand that many of the company’s stores don’t even have the name on the sign—only the symbol!

However, logos are just one part of an organization’s brand kit (the signature elements that communicate its purpose and personality). Before developing your logo, first consider these other essential aspects of your nonprofit’s brand:

  • Color palette. Most organizations choose one or two main colors to represent their brand, plus a few secondary shades to accent their marketing materials. Color psychology also applies heavily to branding, so consider different colors’ popular associations before finalizing your palette. For example, red is a favorite color among healthcare organizations because it evokes a sense of boldness, urgency, and passion.
  • Typography. Be specific not only about your nonprofit’s one or two primary brand fonts but also about the size and weight of the typefaces you’ll use for headers and copy. For instance, if your main brand font is Poppins, you might specify that headers should be in Poppins Bold and body text should be Poppins Normal, with all headers being at least 6px larger than their corresponding copy.
  • Messaging. Branding extends beyond visuals to the way your nonprofit talks about its work and tells its story in written content. Within your brand guidelines, establish a tone of voice, preferred word choices (e.g., is your organization an animal “rescue” or “shelter”?), and writing style guidelines (e.g., do you spell out the word “percent” or use the % symbol?).

Your nonprofit’s brand colors and fonts should be front and center in your logo design. If you include a tagline in your logo, ensure its format aligns with your messaging standards.

2. Marketing Incorporation

Consistently incorporating your logo across your nonprofit’s various communication channels is critical for audiences to recognize and remember it. Each marketing material will have a different amount of available space to accommodate your logo, so you’ll need to align the logo’s format with the content’s layout to ensure the design remains aesthetically pleasing.

Here are some ways to effectively incorporate your nonprofit’s logo into common marketing channels:

  • Your organization’s website. As the main information hub for your mission and work, your complete logo should feature prominently on every page. Many organizations add their logo to the top corner of their navigation bar and link it to the site’s homepage.
  • Social mediaSetting your logo as your nonprofit’s profile picture on every social media platform will ensure it appears alongside all of your posts. Make sure it fits the circle displays on social media sites (Facebook displays profile pictures at 196 x 196 pixels, and Instagram displays them at 110 x 110 pixels). If your complete logo is a combination mark (a symbol and text), consider only including the symbol since the text likely won’t be readable at that small display size.
  • Print communications. If you’re creating many materials at once, such as presentation handouts for conference attendees or a large batch of direct mail messages, printing everything in full color can be expensive. A black-and-white variation of your logo will come in handy in these situations.

Create samples of each type of content with your nonprofit’s logo featured correctly so you can reference them as you update your website, join new social media sites, or launch future print marketing campaigns.

3. Accessibility

Every member of your nonprofit’s community should be able to gain value from your logo—including individuals with disabilities. Some of the general steps you take to make your communications accessible also apply more specifically to your logo.

If your logo includes text, always check for adequate color contrast between that text and its background. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (the industry standard for digital communications) recommend a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for regular text and 3:1 for larger text such as headers. Using dark text on a light background or vice versa will usually allow you to meet this standard, but there are online contrast checker tools you can use if you’re unsure.

Additionally, include alternative text for your logo whenever possible in online content. Alt text, as it’s commonly known, will show up in place of your logo if a website visitor’s internet connection is poor and allows audience members who rely on screen reader technology to interpret images. Make alt text descriptive, and keep it to 140 characters or less to match the processing limits of common screen readers.

4. Universality

No matter when or how community members encounter your nonprofit’s logo, it should stick in their minds. Try these tips to make your logo unforgettable:

  • Feature it in other spaces besides traditional marketing materials. Reinforce your logo by adding it to event signage, branded merchandise, and appropriate locations around your facility.
  • Don’t overcomplicate the design. As explained in NXUnite’s graphic design guide, simple logos that use white space effectively and are highly relevant to the nonprofit’s mission are the most memorable.
  • Be strategic about rebranding. Although you might update your logo to keep up with current design trends or reflect a shift in your organization’s values, don’t substantially change its look without warning your supporters well in advance. That way, they’ll still recognize your content as belonging to your organization and continue engaging with your nonprofit even after your rebrand.

Most of all, ensure your logo’s symbols align with your organization’s purpose. While adding your name and tagline helps cement the connection between your logo and your mission, the images you include should also allow audiences to visualize key aspects of your work.

To see these strategies in practice, let’s look at one of the most iconic nonprofit logos in history: the WWF Panda.

A timeline of the evolution of the WWF Panda, one of the most iconic nonprofit logos ever created.

The World Wildlife Fund has used a version of this logo to represent its purpose of conserving nature and protecting vulnerable species (like giant pandas) since its founding in 1961. The logo’s graphic style has changed throughout the years to align with the organization’s evolving brand and audience. However, the core of this simple black-and-white design has stayed the same and is used consistently across WWF’s communications, which is why it’s so memorable.

Take inspiration from WWF and other strong nonprofit logo designs as you create a unique logo for your organization!

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