Reflections from the #NonprofitSTRONG Summit

Drake Strategies Nonprofit Strong Summit

Here at Drake Strategies, we believe in empowering nonprofits and others who aim to go good throughout the world. As part of our story, we are committed to sharing our knowledge with others so that all nonprofits and NGOs, regardless of size and budget, are able to apply best practices to their work and create measurable impacts in their field.

Last week, our mission took us to Raleigh, NC to speak at YNPN Triangle’s #NonprofitSTRONG Summit. Our focus? Visual branding for impact. Whether you’re a team of 1 or a team of 100, our belief is that a strong communications strategy, coupled with consistent branding and imagery, will create the impact you need to do more good.

1. Data

Communications should begin and end with data. Whether you are examining your Google Analytics, social media + email analytics, donor database or programmatic data, it all matters. Your data will tell you what resonates with your audience and what falls flat. Pay attention to your message failures so that you can change course and spend that energy on messaging that works and gets the results you need to expand your misson.

Looking at all your data sets together also helps you spot trends. You can get a better picture of your audience through your data and learn how they prefer to hear from you, what moves them to action and what may have prompted them to get involved in the first place. Once you know this, you are equipped to map out a stronger, more effective communications strategy. And don’t forget that everyone on your team has data - from programming, success stories or creative brainstorming sessions, collaboration is key to a stronger, more unified message.

2. Design

Now that you have your data, what do you do with it? Graphics can make your data more compelling. For example, if your nonprofit treated 2,400 people last year you can make it more moving by saying that every day, 7 people walked through your doors. Then visually show that with a door and seven people icons.

Branding is important too. Whether you have a large budget allocated toward branding and marketing, or a small one, it's important to remain consistent. Have a set font, color palate and writing guidelines. You want your organization to look, sound and feel the same across all communication platforms so that your supporters can recognize you in an instance.

3. Visuals

While understanding your data and having a consistent brand are important, you still need to move people to action. What better way to do this than through imagery? Photographs and video are the most effective way to get people to stop and pay attention to your story. Using quality images that tell your story will create inspired action.

As a word of caution, be sure that you are empowering others through imagery and telling a powerful story that you would be proud to be part of. Thankfully, most nonprofits agree that using imagery to manipulate others to give is outdated and wrong. The focus should be on coming together and lifting one another up. 

In the end, whether you have a budget for brand development or not, any organization can achieve a cohesive, powerful brand by understanding its data, using consistent design elements and telling a story through imagery. Your passion for the work you do deserves a brand that moves people to action. These simple best practices will put you on the path to expanding your influence and achieving the mission you set out to do.

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Stefani is a strategy consultant + speaker with over a decade of experience working in the US government, international NGO space and with nonprofits. Currently on the UNDP's Roster of Communication Experts in Subsaharan Africa + certified in Google Analytics, Stefani is an analytical thinker and thoughtful storyteller who works with nonprofits + humanitarians to define who they are, elevate their influence and broaden their impact through strategic communications, branding + advocacy. Stefani lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, twin girls and rescue dog.