Who do you think you are?

Joanne Roberts explains why it's important for small charities to find and communicate their brand identity.


You know the popular programme that takes celebrities on an emotional fact-finding journey through their family history?

Well, the process of finding and expressing your brand identity can be a bit like that. You start with an idea of who you are and what you do as an organisation. But you need to reflect on your past inspiration and draw on your experience to inform and explain why you do what you do.

This is a challenge for both new groups just starting out and established organisations that may have gone off the track, or haven’t kept up with the changes happening around them.


What is branding?

When we think of brands, we normally think about products – Apple, Nike, DKNY, McDonald’s. More specifically, we think of logos. But logos are only part of it. It’s about your personality, how people see you, feel about you and put their trust in you. For charities it's especially important, because you are about more than products; you're about social value.


Why is branding important?

Branding has become more and more important for charities over the past two decades. Here are three reasons why:

Power shift: With a constant stream of images, information and messages coming at us, we as consumers are becoming more selective. We have more of a say in what we think and feel about charities and those views matter more. Charities need to work harder to get their messages across in a genuine, consistent and trustworthy way.

Austerity cuts: Deepening cuts to local budgets is having a major impact on voluntary and community services, with some services having to close. At the same time the expectation of the sector is that they will be delivering many of the public services that are being cut. Organisations will need to be innovative, collaborative and competitive. You will have to prove our value to funders and commissioners even more. Having a trusted profile will play a major role in helping you do this.

Going mobile: With an increase in the use of mobile technologies and rapidly changing social media trends, charities will need to keep up with different ways of presenting their information and raising their profile. You will need to think of using different ways to get your messages out there quickly and in an engaging way.


Can we afford to invest in brand development?

The question is, Can you afford not to? While larger organisations have the budgets to invest in developing their brand, for smaller organisations this isn’t possible, or necessary. But it is possible to do this on a smaller scale – even on a limited budget. Making an investment now could raise awareness of your cause and could result in increased income. It’s definitely worth starting the journey.



Joanne Roberts is VAL’s Communications and Publicity Officer, and has experience of developing and refreshing charity brands. She will be leading an introductory workshop, Branding: who do you think you are?, to help small charities and groups to understand the role of branding in raising their profile on 12 February 2015. It’s designed for directors, trustees, and those responsible for promoting a project within an organisation.