April 25, 2018

Why your nonprofit needs brand guidelines—and how to create them

Filed under: Branding — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 5:13 pm
Why your nonprofit needs brand guidelines

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

I work with many nonprofits in Chicago, and one of the reasons they choose to work with me is because they need help bringing consistency to their branding and marketing materials.

For an established organization (or even a new one), branding can start to become diluted over time, with marketing materials using multiple versions of logos, colors and images that are not on-brand, and messaging that is not targeted or audience-focused. This is where brand guidelines can make a big impact.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines (also sometimes called brand standards, style guides, identity guides or graphic standards) provide a detailed overview of your organization’s branding—from the graphic look and feel to the overall voice and tone. It assures that everyone in your organization—as well as outside partners and vendors—are expressing your brand consistently and accurately.

Since many nonprofit leaders or managers handle most (if not all) marketing tasks internally, having strong brand guidelines can make marketing and promotion of your organization much easier as there is always a reference point. Plus, it keeps everyone inside and outside the organization on the same page (literally!) And most importantly, it allows you to focus on what you do best—sharing your mission and serving others.

Why your nonprofit needs brand guidelines

  1. Consistency: It keeps your branding and marketing consistent across all print and online media.
  2. Efficiency: When you have a reference point for your marketing pieces, you can create them more quickly and efficiently.
  3. Professionalism: When all of your marketing materials are consistent and on-brand, it helps to emphasize your experience and competency
  4. Convenience: When everything is in one place, it helps your partners and vendors (such as graphic designers, photographers, writers and print vendors) do their job faster and easier
  5. Budget: When design elements and other brand-related files are easily accessible, projects can be completed faster and more economically.
  6. Accuracy: When brand details are easily accessible, it helps to avoid costly mistakes such as using the wrong color or font on a printed piece.
  7. Timing: When everything is in one place, necessary brand assets (i.e. logos or brand colors) can be easily accessed when needed and project delays can be avoided.
  8. Onboarding: New employees (and vendors) can get to know your organization quickly and easily, so they can get to work faster. It also provides them a constant reference as they get acquainted with their new job and assures that they are sharing your message accurately.

What should be included in brand guidelines

A good set of brand guidelines will assure everything people see and experience related to your organization is an accurate expression of your brand. So, what should be included?

Before getting started, think about how your organization will use the guidelines:

  • What types (and channels) of marketing do you use? (i.e. print, digital, social media, in-person events)
  • Will your in-house team mainly use them or will you share them with outside vendors?
  • If you work with outside vendors, what types of work do they produce? (i.e. brochures, flyers, advertising, email marketing, social media, video)

At the very least, the following should be included in brand guidelines:

  • Mission statement and vision statement: including verbiage about how they relate to your overall brand.
  • Logo usage: including sizing requirements, clear space (the space around the logo that separates it from other design elements), logotypes and icons, logo lockups (i.e. if the logo should always appear with another element such as a tagline, date or URL). It’s also a good to include misuse examples, for example: the logo should not be stretched disproportionately or used smaller than ¼”.
  • Taglines: including when and how to use the tagline, and where it should be placed in relation to the logo.
  • Fonts and typography: including allowable primary and secondary fonts for both print and online usage. Optionally, include examples and/or suggested usage for headlines and body copy.
  • Color palette: including primary and secondary color palettes for print (Pantone, CMYK) and digital or presentation (RGB, HEX) usage.
  • Imagery: including suggested types of photography and illustration that should be used, as well as when images should be used. May also include recommended website for purchasing stock photography or illustration and/or image guidelines for in-house or contracted photographers.

Depending on your organization’s needs, you may also want to include:

  • Voice and tone: including writing guidelines for print marketing, as well as digital marketing such as blogs and social media outlets.
  • Sample layouts: including commonly-used marketing templates such as business cards, stationery, flyers, print ads and social media posts.
  • Social media/content marketing guidelines: including an overview of how your brand will be expressed on social media or content marketing (if available, include an overview or links to the organization’s social media/content marketing strategy and editorial calendar)
  • Guest author guidelines: including guidelines for writers who will contribute articles to the organization’s website, blog or social media.
  • PR reference: including organization blurbs (several versions ranging from a 5-word blurb to several paragraphs), staff bios, headshots, and other materials that may be needed for PR opportunities. Include filenames and shared drive locations for easy access by all staff members and contractors.
  • Email signature: what should be included (logo, name, title, email, phone number, legal verbiage, other relevant links) as well as the specified format (text, HTML). Have a template handy on a shared drive to supply to new employees or contractors.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it can be as simple or complex as your organization needs.

And enlisting the help of a branding designer can make it much easier. Believe me, it will all pay off in the end. As a designer, I know how frustrating it can be to search for logos, color specs and other necessary design elements when working on a project.

Want to see examples?

Sometimes the best way to get started developing brand guidelines is to see what others are doing. A good place to start is by Googling “nonprofit brand guidelines”.

Or check out this roundup of 80+ brand and identity guidelines from various organizations and brands around the world.

If you need help developing your org’s brand guidelines, reach out to me—I would love to help!

December 18, 2017

Instead of “to-dos” make a list of “dones”

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — lidia @ 1:03 pm


As a natural listmaker, I’m always busy making my to-do lists throughout the year. So it’s nice to take some time at the end of the year to reflect on what was accomplished, instead of what needs to be done.

As I mentioned in this 10-Minute Marketing post, I keep a running list of “monthly highlights” as the year goes by. Specifically, I track client and sales growth, number of leads or prospects, press mentions, and events I participate in. This helps me stay focused on my goals as the year goes by.

But I also jot down what I like to call “Success Stories”—positive feedback and project outcomes or other accomplishments that can be shared with my clients or used as personal inspiration throughout the year. For example, a few of my success stories were being invited to be a judge for print communications (for the second time) at the IAPD/IPRA Agency Showcase Awards, as well as hosting my first Branding 101 workshop for local nonprofits and small businesses. (P.S. I was easily able to reference and copy/paste this information from my Monthly Highlights doc)

As 2017 draws to a close, why not set aside your to-dos and make a list of “dones” to reflect back on. Create a few easily quantifiable categories that relate to your organization’s goals, such as increase in donors or members, increase in funds raised or attendance at events, increase in social media reach, or number of press mentions. And think about creating a doc (in Evernote, Google Drive, etc.) that you can update throughout the year. It will help you stay focused on your goals—plus it’s always encouraging to see your list of “dones” grow as the year goes on.

Plus, once you have all that good stuff written down, it’s great reference for your marketing materials, content marketing and website. Increased your membership by 20%? Share it on your membership brochure to inspire new members to join. Great turnout at your gala event? Share it on social media to encourage potential donors, attendees, and local media to support future events. Clients, supporters and prospective partners love to hear about all the great stuff you’re doing and how you and your organization are making a difference.

Speaking of, here’s an infographic that shows my business highlights from 2016. (Stay tuned for this year’s version!)

October 7, 2016

10-Minute Marketing: Make your holiday card mailing list

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — lidia @ 11:50 am

10-Minute Marketing: Make your holiday card mailing list

It’s that time of year… are you sending a holiday card? Ive been sending my friends, clients and vendors a New Year card and calendar for several years now. Whether you send a print card or an e-greeting, it’s a great way to thank the people who support you and your organization throughout the year. TIP: Include a handwritten message of gratitude for a personal touch.

Sending a holiday card is a great way to keep in touch with clients or prospects you haven’t heard from in awhile. I always get at least a few “I was thinking about contacting you for this proejct and then I got your card in the mail…” emails after sending my cards. And nowadays, it’s just nice to get something fun in your mailbox.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Write down your holiday card mailing list. TIP: If you are using a previous list, check if names or addresses have changed since last year.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

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September 16, 2016

10-Minute Marketing: Make your “Top 3” to-do list

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , , , , — lidia @ 11:19 am

10-Minute Marketing: Make your “Top 3” to-do list

I’m a major list maker. I love making to-do lists and I especially love checking things off my to-do lists. However, because of my creative, spontaneous brain, I tend to make my to-do lists very long and detailed (don’t even ask how many side projects I’m working on). This can cause me to lose sight of the more important tasks.

That’s why I start each day with a “Top 3” to-do list: 3 things I must accomplish in that day. I jot these down on my calendar and refer to them when my creative brain starts to wander. BONUS: you are almost certain to check them off, i.e. get that great feeling of accomplishment!

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Make your “Top 3” to-do list.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow the series here.

February 19, 2016

10 Minute Marketing: Create a Project Status Sheet

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — lidia @ 10:00 am

10-Minute-Marketing-create-project-status-sheet

As a creative-minded person I’m drawn to multi-tasking, moving from task to task as inspiration strikes. However, I’ve realized that trying to do too many things at once—without a plan—is detrimental to my productivity.

project status sheet exampleI decided to create a Project Status Sheet, a simple Excel spreadsheet that details my current projects, tasks and due dates. Now, I can see at-a-glance which tasks need my attention first and which can wait.

TIP: if I have a really important task, I also jot it down on my calendar so I don’t forget!

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Create a Project Status Sheet. Update and refer to it daily.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

August 28, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: create a daily marketing schedule

 10-Minute Marketing: create a daily marketing schedule

As a creative person, I often find myself jumping from task to task throughout the day as inspiration strikes. Though creatively-freeing, it’s not always the most productive way to work.

Which is why I bought myself a whiteboard and started planning out my daily marketing activities.

My weekly marketing calendar

  • Monday: Social media: posting, scheduling
  • Tuesday: Blog: writing, commenting, outreach
  • Wednesday: Prospecting: research, outreach, follow-up
  • Thursday: Portfolio: updating, photography
  • Friday: Invoicing/accounting

Now granted, I don’t always follow this schedule. But, having the structure—especially in a visual form—makes it easier to stay on track.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Create your daily marketing schedule. Post it prominently in your workspace.

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

August 14, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: follow up with 5 clients

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

10-Minute Marketing: follow up with 5 clients

As they say, it’s easier to make a sale to an existing customer than to find a new one. Are you regularly reaching out to your current clients or organization members/supporters? They probably want to hear from you.

I keep in touch with my design clients on a regular basis through my email newsletter, however I also email them in-between projects to let them know Im thinking about them and most importantly—that I’m available to work on their next project. (I find sometimes that when people don’t hear from you, they assume you are too busy)

TIP: having trouble remembering to follow up? Put reminders on your calendar or use a spreadsheet to keep track.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Follow up with 5 clients

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

July 22, 2015

6 tips for an engaging organization newsletter

Filed under: Marketing & Promotion — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

6 tips for an engaging organization newsletter

One of my favorite ways to keep in touch is through my newsletter. Every time I send one, I inevitably hear back from a client or prospect that has been “reminded” of me.

Would you like to have this same effect with your organization’s newsletter? Read on for my tips for a more engaging newsletter.

  1. Write for your target audience: The first thing to consider when writing a newsletter is: what do your members or supporters want to hear about? What are their questions, pain points or interests?
  2. Keep it short: The days of long newsletters are gone. There’s more inbox clutter nowadays, so you have to keep your message short and to the point.
  3. Create a simple and flexible email template: I highly recommend using one of the online email newsletter services (I personally use and love MailChimp). This allows you to create a template that can be easily adapted for each issue.
  4. Develop a basic editorial calendar: Having a schedule for your newsletter not only helps you stay on-track, but your readers will begin to expect to hear from you (out of sight really does become out of mind!) It can be a simple as an Excel file with monthly send dates and newsletter topics. Hint: make things ever easier and plan topics a few months in advance. See an example editorial calendar.
  5. Keep a file of topic ideas: One of the biggest blogging complaints I hear is: I have nothing to write about. Once you’ve considered your target audience (see #1), the ideas should start to come easier. Now, create a file where you can store all these great ideas (I use the app Evernote).
  6. Send it consistently: Readers tend to engage more with a newsletter that is familiar to them rather than one that is infrequent. I send mine monthly, however depending on your organization (say, if you host weekly events) you may need a more frequent schedule.

So there you have it… you’re on your way to a more engaging newsletter.

Have you put any of these tips in practice? Let me know, I would love to know how it works out for you!

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June 19, 2015

10-Minute Marketing: write an email newsletter

Filed under: 10-Minute Marketing — Tags: , , — lidia @ 10:30 am

10-Minute marketing: werite an email newsletterI often hear people tell me they dread writing and sending a email newsletter. I, on the other hand, love them. Why? It’s an easy way to stay in touch with clients (I always hear from someone or receive a new project after sending a newsletter).

Also, I have the process down to a system: short lead-in article that links to a blog post, a few callouts about recent newsworthy items.

It wasn’t always this easy for me. I used to spend hours preparing (or agonizing over) a newsletter. Now I can knock one of these out in a half-hour!

Having a clear strategy for what I was trying to accomplish, paired with a simple editorial calendar made all the difference. With that in mind, before you start writing your next newsletter, review your marketing strategy (who are you trying to reach and why) and you’ll find writing so much easier.

This week’s 10-Minute Marketing task:

Write an email newsletter.

Need help creating an editorial calendar? Download my simple template here (Excel file).

 

10-Minute Marketing is a weekly series featuring short, easy-to-accomplish marketing tasks. Follow along with past posts here.

January 23, 2015

Keep track of your days in style—and make your mailbox happy! [freebie]

Filed under: Featured Design Project,Time Management — lidia @ 11:57 am

2015 calendar freebie

Every year, I design a mini-calendar to send with my New Year greeting to clients. Well, this year I seem to have over-ordered…and would love to share the extra calendars. This handy calendar is small enough to tuck in your bag or post on your office wall.

Email me your mailing address and I will drop one in the mail.

Happy 2015!

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