In Branding

Design for the Non-profit Industry

Leading the donor through the door

The non-profit industry is a hyper competitive space that is often overlooked from a branding and design perspective. Small budgets and short-handed staff often leave many orgs in a pickle.

First impressions can go a long way in leading a donor through the door, yet on the list of line item budget priorities, branding isn’t often near the top. A solid brand identity and a consistent message are critical to helping build trust and convey a mission; which sometimes begs the question – how can these orgs afford NOT to invest in this arena?

According to an article on non-profit brand differentiation;

“a quick scan of not-for-profit brand imagery on Google provides a graphic insight into the poor standard of brand identity design across the category.”

Big examples


There are some organizations, however, that are setting themselves apart from the sea of competition through incredible design standards and brilliant branding schemes.  Charity: water is a great example – they utilize a timeless, simple design with beautiful photography and messaging. It’s consistent and compelling and they are EVERYWHERE. For charity: water these fundamentals pervade everything they do and they continue to pave a huge road to success. Here are a few others worth noting.

And small examples

Allegory Studios worked with a local non-profit on a complete brand overhaul. “Walking Mountains Science Center” was born from the previously named Gore Range Natural Science School. The company went through an archetypal brand assessment, rejuvenating everything from their mission and belief statements to their brand and materials. Here’s a quick overview and a few before/after photos that reflect the update:

Walking Mountains Science Center Case Study

stafflaunchIndustry Setting

Scientific literacy is declining nationwide as other countries surpass the U.S. in all disciplines. Increasing ability in the sciences and reconnecting children to nature are the goals of Walking Mountains, a Vail Valley non-profit offering programs aligned with national legislation (No Child Left Inside) and state initiatives (Colorado Kids Outdoors).


The brand had limited awareness within the county and was confused with a K-12 school. The rebrand was timed with the groundbreaking of a $10 million campus who sought LEED Platinum certification (which as since been granted).


Staff and board participated in a scientifically-validated Culture Audit that defines brand personality through Archetypes, or universal stories. The Archetypal Profile that emerged included Jester (playfulness), Explorer (innovation) and Sage (knowledge). This profile became the creative blueprint for a new name, visual identity and voice. Validated through surveys, interviews and focus groups, the new brand story captures the joy of learning in nature, the innovation of place-based education and the importance of stewardship. Messages that speak to children, parents, educators and funders are being promoted via a website/blog/Social Media, and through advertising, events and PR.


The new brand reflects their educational philosophy and positions Walking Mountains as a forward-thinking model for science education. Their green campus opened in 2011, and they continue to receive highlights by the Colorado Governor – enjoying broader exposure to media, potential funders and special interest groups.

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