The visual foundation of your nonprofit brand

Excerpted from my new book, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving

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If you want a striking visual experience, visit an Eastern Orthodox church and check out the icons.

Their eyes seem to gaze back at you. The rich, saturated colors seem to produce an atmosphere that surrounds you.

Religious icons have a specific function: to forge a connection between the viewer and the event or person depicted. The artistic techniques that have been developed over the centuries are expressly for that purpose.

There’s another type of image that can boost fundraising so dependably that it’s a key part of any strong nonprofit brand. I call it the fundraising icon, because it shares many characteristics with religious icons.

A fundraising icon is an image that captures the essence of your cause in the minds of your donors. It instantly reminds them what you do and why they care. It bypasses the chattering, rational left hemisphere of the brain and connects with the side that makes all the decisions — the right hemisphere.

Finding and using a fundraising icon is the most important visual component of an effective nonprofit brand. Color palettes, font choices, and other design techniques are the window dressing of a visual brand. A fundraising icon is the heart.

A good fundraising icon is memorable and recognizable. When a viewer sees it, she knows what your message is “about.” Your icon telegraphs the core of what you want to say to her in a way that’s meaningful and persuasive.

A fundraising icon isn’t simply an excellent photo. It’s a photo that paves the way to action in viewers’ minds. Most images don’t do this — and that includes many of the beautiful, emotionally resonant, technically perfect photos that we’ve all learned to recognize and respect.

Religious iconographers spend their lives perfecting their craft. Your fundraising icon won’t be nearly so difficult. It’s a matter of finding it, not creating it. In fact, I’d bet a nickel or two your fundraising icon already exists. You may have used it in your fundraising before. You only need to recognize its special role in your brand and start using it consistently.

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand is available at:


Comments

4 responses to “The visual foundation of your nonprofit brand”

  1. Jeff,
    I love your stuff – have several of your books, and just bought The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand. And, for the most part, I buy what you have to say in this post. However, many people in my audience of supporters are visually impaired or blind. Our iconic “image” must be in words. Any thoughts?
    Regards,
    Michael
    Development Director
    The Iris Network

  2. Jeff,
    I love your stuff – have several of your books, and just bought The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand. And, for the most part, I buy what you have to say in this post. However, many people in my audience of supporters are visually impaired or blind. Our iconic “image” must be in words. Any thoughts?
    Regards,
    Michael
    Development Director
    The Iris Network

  3. Michael, I’d say your best bet is vivid, theater-of-the-mind copywriting. Images can live in the mind as well as on paper!

  4. Michael, I’d say your best bet is vivid, theater-of-the-mind copywriting. Images can live in the mind as well as on paper!

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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