Brand Checklist

Create this checklist and submit it to your Board of Directors for approval.  Any future creative work that does not fall within this Checklist must be submitted to the Board for approval. Smaller non-profits may not need to produce a formal Checklist. Instead, follow the steps and incorporate your learnings into the main page of your website; then ensure all your other communications pieces are consistent.images-3

What is a “brand”?

Everyone has a different definition for what a “brand” is.  Non-marketers may think a brand is what the marketing department does.  While marketers think of a brand as your reputation.  Your brand is the bundle of attributes that define the value you give clients.  Your brand is built by your website and publicity but these are just symbols or expressions of your brand.  Your brand is maintained by your performance that your clients experience by your front line staff.

Why make a Checklist?:

  • solidifies your brand.   It makes you pay attention to what you and your Board of Directors want your brand to be.  It is a vehicle for obtaining consensus.  A checklist summarizes the key points you need to communicate and it keeps all external messages consistent.  This Checklist combines a summary of the marketing strategy with a typical Style Guide (colours, fonts)
  • protects your brand.  Is the biggest threat to your brand external?  Or is the biggest threat internal?  For example,  decisions made in a hurry, competing visions, new employees that want a change to make their own mark, employee turnover which loses “institutional memory”.  Use your Checklist as a measuring stick to help you evaluate new ideas.
  • saves time when orienting new staff, volunteers and suppliers.

What to do with this Checklist:

  • Perform an audit on all promotional material from your nonprofit and alternate providers.  Review the consistency of your message and your look.  Identify what items need to be redone and when they are due for a reprint.
  • Keep the Checklist handy.  Think of it as a memory-prompt to avoid the “ooops we forgot” when you are approving any creative.
  • Give to any new suppliers/consultants as part of their orientation.
  • only select the points from the Checklist that are relevant for the audience of each creative.  For example, if you are sending a piece to donors that love your cause, you do not need to clutter up the item with information justifying the importance of your cause.  They get it.  Instead, focus on why your non profit is doing a great job alleviating the cause.
  • See how to interpret the results from a case study.
  •  Identify opportunities in the next year (press releases, newsletters, direct mail, etc).  Consider making a calendar of events to visualize if the timing of the activities fits with your needs.  If you are planning any advertising, write a Creative Brief.
  • Identify upfront what tactics will be used to monitor success for all opportunities.  For example, a press release may increase incoming telephone calls, a social media effort may increase website traffic, etc.  Remember to track the effects.
  • Pause at year end to review.  Celebrate your successes and learn from your non-successes.
  • Add new learnings.  This Checklist is a living document that needs to be refreshed.
  • Give the “elevator speech” (see below) to all employees and Board members to say when speaking about your non-profit.
  • View your non-profit as a newcomer.  Does your receptionist or call staff exemplify your brand reputation?  Does your physical workspace support your brand reputation?  Does the face you show on social media comply with your brand?
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Your Objectives:
Increase awareness of your brand, increase awareness of your cause, increase donations from existing donors, retain existing donors, acquire new donors, acquire volunteers, acquire clients? Specify what are your objectives and what are not your objectives.

Who is your audience
Donors:  Review your database to describe your donors based on gender, age, life stage, where they work, where they live, income level if you have their postal code,  donation patterns (monthly, annual), donation size, payment type (cheque, debit, credit), ethnic group, education, family status, own vs rent.
Service recipients: demographics, life stage, interaction preference
Volunteers: demographics, life stage, motivators
Members (Associations):  business priorities

What is your compelling reason?
Find a compelling reason for donors based on your cause;  health non profits “help save lives”, social services non profits “help at-risk youth”, etc.

Your message
What are the key points that differentiate you from alternate providers?  This is your Unique Value Proposition.  Include both the features and the corresponding benefits.  This has an external focus and is different from your mission statement (which can have an internal focus and include industry jargon).

Elevator Speech:
A few sentences that describe the who/what/where of the non profit and the main benefit.  Communicate using easy-to-say and easy-to-write phrasing.

Tag Line/Theme Line:
A short sentence or phrase that summarizes your brand and is included in your masthead or logo.  Tag lines include: active verbs, encapsulates your benefit, conveys your uniqueness in easy-to-say words.

Emotional and Visual Feel
Pick a core graphic theme that will work in all your communication pieces:  print, website and mobile website.  Consider:

  • modern vs traditional, edgy vs calm, fun vs serious
  • use of photos vs text vs white space
  • colours.  What are your primary, secondary, tertiary colours?  Be specific about the shade of each colour? Are your colours sufficiently different from alternate providers? Does it work as well on coated vs uncoated stock?  What % colour for screens that are used as background?
  • symbols, icon, variations on logo design and placement
  • font style
  • role of celebrities.  Role of staff spokespeople.

What donors look for in every non profit
Tell donors what they want to hear.  Include the key facts that support your claims:

  • How efficient you are
  • The amount of good you are accomplishing
  • How you will use their donation
  • Latest news and developments

Key messages for each donor segment
Choose your preferred donor segments.  Describe what you do in a way that appeals to each segment.


  • thank you for donating to us
  • registered charity so you will get a tax receipt

Call to action
Is it obvious what you want readers to do?  Is there a way for them to opt out?

Words that should not be included
Over time you will uncover features that you offer that will not appeal to many donors.  You can continue to quietly offer the feature, but you may not want to promote it aggressively.

Learnings from marketing experiments
Over time, add the results from your tests… both what did work and what did not work.  For example, “transit ads generate call volume in the winter, but not in the summer”, etc.