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Brand your volunteer programme
05 March 2007
by Susan Ellis

The corporate world loves to update and rename its concepts and, sooner or later, they filter their way into nonprofit and government management philosophy as well.

A good example is “branding” – the strategy of creating a “look” that instantly communicates an organization’s identity and, hopefully, its valued characteristics. Often this starts with a redesigned logo (now you know why this is the Tip of the Month!), color scheme, tag line or slogan, and other graphic elements. An easy way to define branding is with this formula:

a specific look + key words + consistency of use = branding

The principles of branding can be put to use to raise the image of a volunteer program internally and externally. You may have a great deal of freedom in designing your own materials any way you want. However, if you are part of an organization that has already developed a visual presentation for itself as a whole, you will need to collaborate with those in charge to carve out a “sub-brand” for the volunteer program. For example, can you select one or more colors from the color “palette” defined in the brand and apply it exclusively to the volunteer program? Can you take an element in the organization’s logo and incorporate it with a graphic twist into a symbol specifically for the volunteer program?

Whether you are starting fresh or working within an existing brand, here are your goals:

To present an image of volunteer involvement that is modern, positive, and avoids stereotypes such as age or gender (for example, you will probably want to avoid the color pink).

To immediately identify “this is being done by a proud volunteer in this program” – both for those looking on and to instill pride in the volunteers themselves.

To distinguish volunteer program materials from other documents prepared by other departments.

To capitalize on the goodwill of the volunteer program’s reputation.

To catch the eye of those in a position to support the program, whether top executives, funders, the press, or anyone in the community at large.


The basic tools of a branding campaign are:
A name (maybe have a contest to name the volunteer program!)

  • A logo
  • A color scheme
  • Other graphic elements such as font or type style and color


Once you have these key tools designed and available, you use them everywhere, all the time (and make sure all volunteers do, too). For example, consider the wide array of printed materials you generate during the course of a year:

  • Letterhead, business cards, memo forms
  • Recruitment materials
  • Volunteer application forms
  • Orientation materials and training handouts
  • Newsletters
  • Blast e-mails
  • Any postal mailings
  • Sign-in sheets
  • Thank-you notes

Make a banner you can use in recruitment presentations and at recognition events. Consider making buttons or t-shirts for volunteers to wear. Incorporate the logo and/or your colors into recognition gifts.

Finally, make sure your branding is recognized and used by the public relations/marketing department and the development/fundraising department whenever they are representing you to the public. For example, the look should be consistent on the volunteer program page of the organization’s annual report, on the Web site, or in outreach to financial donors.