Branding For The Cause: Promoting Nonprofits & Arts Organizations

In this day and age, with the level of sophistication in marketing rising to dizzying heights, it’s easy to be overlooked in any field no matter how good your product is. Whether its paper media on the subway, digital advertising, a website or an app, it had better be eye-catching or folks will be on to the next thing in two seconds.

For the most part, the ads, logos and sponsored content that reach our eyes and ears are paid for by wealthy corporations, but of course, the arts and nonprofit sectors are in their too keeping culture and philanthropy alive and well.

Corporate vs. Nonprofits and Arts Organization

Obviously, corporations have huge budgets for branding and advertising and whole divisions dedicated to capturing the public’s imagination. For outfits with fewer resources, this imbalance can be frustrating. Nonprofits and arts organizations also tend to have an uneasy attitude towards corporate culture, they could definitely stand to learn something from a marketing perspective.

The prevailing attitude in certain organizations is that they shouldn’t have to advertise aggressively or “play the game”, that the fundamental goodness of the project will somehow sustain it. However, in a volatile economy where money is tight, convincing people to support your organization rather than buy a new iPhone or take a vacation is difficult.

The Branding Strategies

To keep the arts scene and progressive charities alive, it is necessary to develop a robust branding strategy to attract potential donors or clients. By enlisting talent from within your own staff or hiring a boutique design studio like to come up with a logo and develop a general aesthetic, it is possible to achieve this goal.

For the remainder of this post, we’ll discuss a couple different kinds of projects and how they might generate revenue with the help of strategic marketing:

Theatre Companies

If you’ve been to a play lately, you may have noticed that a lot of the patrons were older adults. Young people nowadays – with the exception of a small niche – are not too likely to spend money on theatre tickets, let alone donate money to a theatre company.

Factory Theatre in Toronto is an example of a company that is doing exciting work and generating interest through themed seasons along with striking, recognizable advertising. The Metropolitan Opera Company in NYC has clean, simple signage and offers discounted tickets to anyone under forty on Fridays to get the younger generations interested.

Factory Theatre Branding Strategy


Folks are more likely to pay money for an experience, rather than giving to a charity in exchange for a warm feeling, so grabbing their attention with a good logo and slogan is only half the battle. Hosting a cool event with a theme or activity that reflects the cause is a way to generate interest. Another strategy is to contextualize a donation is finite terms: if you donate x amount of money it will teach a child to read or buy a goat for a village in Sudan.

Whatever it is that you’re trying to promote, the story is always the most important thing. People respond well to a meaningful narrative, but first you need to hook them, and for that – whether or not you like it – you need good branding.

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