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While the mission will always come before marketing for nonprofits, advocacy groups, and other purpose-driven organizations, creating a visual brand is vital for anyone who needs to build an impactful online presence—even before you figure out how to promote your cause. While marketing is your interest-generating toolkit, think of branding as your overall approach to reaching your target audience. In a socially distanced world where often introductions are made online, it’s more important than ever for you to develop a digital presence that visually sets you apart from your competition and draws the attention of your most likely supporters.
Through our partnership with 99designs, we can match NationBuilder customers with Pros who can help you develop your online presence. Here are some branding essentials you can consider for your website design and more.
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1. Show (as well as tell) people who you are.
One of the most compelling elements of your organization—and a must-have for supporters to get close to you—is your story. Having the right words for how to tell it is important, but you also want to give site visitors more than one way to “read” about you. Visual storytelling is all about making your brand digestible for as many possible audiences as you can reach, and sometimes this means breaking down your story into quick, snackable bites. Think about how that can play out on your website and make the most of bold design elements like numbered lists, animated gifs, and thoughtful infographics. Select your most powerful photography and let images do some of the talking.
Vote Run Lead's NationBuilder website makes powerful use of video to encourage more women to run for office.
2. Make your color story meaningful.
Another powerful lever you have at your disposal is your use of color. And particularly in 2020, sticking to a monochromatic scheme that embraces many shades of the same color can keep your site feeling both on-trend and easy to comprehend. Departing from the black-and-white approach to monochrome in favor of more unique color families can give you (or your trusty designer) room to play with variation, contrast, and interest, while still keeping a sense of balance and unity.
As for what type of color family you choose, be thoughtful about the colors most likely to move your audience, which will make your site feel warmer and more personal. How can you carefully place color to convey feeling? To use an example from 99designs, “Think about the strategic shade of red in the logo and branding for the American Heart Association… The color creates an emotional connection with the viewer, emphasizing the overall importance of the design."
The website for Clean Slate, created on NationBuilder, sticks to shades of blue with plenty of white space and contrasting white text.
3. Keep things clean and simple.
To put it simply, make it as easy as possible for visitors to your site to go where you want them to. Consider site navigation that’s purposefully minimalist—the less a potential supporter has to think about how to move around, the more they can immerse themselves in what makes your organization special and why your mission is so important. As noted in tip #1, you can also save text (and cognitive overhead) by letting impactful, large-scale photos and videos speak for themselves. It’s important to note that minimal doesn’t have to be boring, so don’t be afraid to experiment with surprising shapes and playful uses of negative space.
The European Campaign Playbook's NationBuilder site incorporates subtle video under bold text to draw attention to its message.
4. Whatever you do, make it consistent.
Once you arrive at a design style and voice that feels true to your mission, the best thing you can do is stick to it—always. While using very different creative approaches for different campaigns might seem fun as you create them, too much variation too often will be confusing to your audience, which can keep them from recognizing or remembering your brand. Consistency creates trust—and trust is what helps people rally around your mission.
Whether supporters encounter your organization via your website, emails, texts, or social media, they should know that they’re hearing from the same group of people. And if you get bored with the same tone, message, or color scheme, remember that even if you’ve experienced that combination hundreds of times, your audience hasn’t. To keep your whole team on the same page, document the choices you’ve made about color, fonts, word choice, and any other essential creative elements in a brand style guide.
When made with intention, even the smallest decisions about the look and feel of your website can have a major impact—and get supporters closer to what’s most important to you.