How to prepare your nonprofit for a brand assessment

Brand assessment is a process that allows nonprofits to evaluate the effectiveness of their branding. It involves looking at loyalty, brand recognition, marketing methods, and other aspects related to the organization’s overall brand image. 

What you will gain from this article: 

  1. Why your nonprofit should conduct a brand assessment 
  2. Steps to adequately prepare for a brand assessment project 
  3. Ways to create operational efficiencies for a brand assessment project 
  4. Our helpful download: brand assessment preparation worksheet

Why conduct a brand assessment?

With a comprehensive brand assessment, your nonprofit can create strategies for improving client and donor satisfaction, growth in loyalty or preference and increasing visibility. As your organization evolves, your brand image should remain aligned with those changes. When notable changes to programming, operations or mission are made, your brand must follow. From your messaging and visual representation to the experiences you provide, it should all be connected and represent your organization’s core essence in unique and meaningful ways. 

Stages to prepare and carry out a brand assessment

The following are preparation stages for a brand assessment you can follow to effectively and efficiently carry out your process.

Examine your existing objectives

To begin, your nonprofit must revisit its objectives associated with the existing brand. In this stage, key questions you should ask when evaluating branding objectives include:

  • How do your objectives align with your organizational goals?
  • Who took part in developing your objectives?
  • Which objectives have been achieved, which haven’t and which are in progress?
  • What messages, visual elements and experiences result from your objectives?
  • Has the measurement of your objectives been reliable to fairly assess?

From these questions, analyze your responses to determine the cause for the state of your objectives. Write down key findings and considerations for your organization’s upcoming brand assessment.

Assess research and documentation

Audience and market research are important to strategic branding. So, your nonprofit should gather and review past brand perceptions along with competitor and environmental research that has influenced your brand’s image and position. An organization’s history and any previous attempts to change or update its image can give further insights into challenges and opportunities for your nonprofit that might lie ahead in a brand assessment. 

Your organization’s latest strategic plan will be a key reference document as well. It will provide organizational priorities—operations, growth initiatives, etc.—that might need to be considered in the process. 

Inventory your assets

One of the most important steps an organization can take prior to a brand assessment is to ensure that all existing materials, from marketing campaign assets to branding guidelines, are collected and located in an accessible place.  

Many nonprofits move quickly through this stage, but you must take time to research all the places your organization exists on and offline.  You must gather visual assets (like logos, graphics, video and image files) as well as document key messaging (like content, taglines and headlines) that exist. Putting in the work to collect these assets during your preparation process will save time later. 

Prepare board and staff members 

Brand assessment can be a daunting task for any nonprofit. To ensure your initiative is successful, it’s essential to prepare your staff and board for the process.

To get started, someone should clearly communicate the objectives of the brand assessment and how it will impact the organization. Explain to staff why they should care about the results of the assessment and make sure they understand that their participation is vital to achieving success.

Your organization should also provide its staff and board members with an overview of what will be involved in the brand assessment. This includes discussing any research activities such as surveys or focus groups that may take place during the process. Outline any expectations for your staff, such as taking part in interviews or providing feedback on proposed changes.

By preparing your staff and board members for the brand assessment, your organization can ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards a successful initiative. With the right preparation, staff members will be empowered to provide input into the process and help create valuable recommendations. 

Select external stakeholder   

To do a comprehensive brand assessment, your organization needs to engage with external stakeholders to understand their perceptions and attitudes about your nonprofit’s brand. It’s never too early to determine the stakeholder groups that you want to engage in the process, and once you select the groups (i.e. donors, clients, volunteers, etc.), you can identify participants to invite. 

The participation rate for interviews is around 25-35%, and surveys range from 10-20% on average, so a list should include three to five times more participants than desired. These lists can take some time to create, so starting this preparation stage early is recommended. 

Research and setup software  

Your nonprofit will most likely need to use a research tool, like SurveyMonkey, to efficiently send stakeholders a survey and evaluate the results. So, take time to secure an account for a research tool (if hiring a consultancy, it’s likely they have a survey tool license in place) and learn about it before it’s put into practice. 
A meeting scheduling tool, like Calendly or Doodle, is a great way to efficiently book meetings with internal and external stakeholders in your process. Most of the scheduling software is free to join, and they cut down on meeting coordination time drastically.

Evaluate agency / consultant support 

If your organization plans to seek outside help for a brand assessment, begin to develop selection criteria during your preparation process. From experience, it’s important to evaluate an agency’s:

  • Past branding assignments
  • Research capabilities 
  • Experience with nonprofits
  • Team organization
  • Recognition and awards 

By considering these criteria, your nonprofit can make sure it finds the right agency for your needs.

Establish support capacity 

The brand assessment process can last two to three months, and it requires that your organization’s leadership is involved during key activities. To conduct a brand assessment, your nonprofit should assign a dedicated project manager that will be responsible for coordinating information and meetings with consultants and/or internal team members. Key responsibilities of a project manager during a brand assessment preparation process include:

  • Developing and manage project timeline 
  • Gathering resource information and brand materials/assets 
  • Coordinating research participant selection and outreach process
  • Being lead contact and gatekeeper in the agency selection process
  • Guiding next steps after brand assessment recommendations

From our experience, a typical brand assessment requires at least five hours of project management a week to be effective. Good candidates are typically a part of the communications or fundraising team, and it’s recommended that they have at least a year of experience at your organization. 

Create a feedback loop 

There are typically a lot of people involved in a brand assessment process—including staff, board members, external stakeholders and an agency partner. With such a large team, your organization should determine the best way to obtain feedback in your preparation. 

Consider allocating time to report on the project during scheduled weekly or monthly meeting times. If your organization uses an intranet, it might be useful to create a project page that allows for updates and Q&A.  

Note: If key internal stakeholders feel connected to your project from the early stages, they will be much more likely to advocate and evangelize for any branding updates later on.

Determine a timeline 

Your organization should determine a rough timeline for your process during preparation. If there’s a special event or mission milestone that strategic recommendations or rebranding developments should be delivered by, your process must align with it.  A rough timeline with key dates and deliverables will greatly reduce stressors later on. 

The brand assessment process includes several internal and external stakeholders, so facing varying schedules and demands is common. Therefore, it’s best to give a two to three-week buffer period for any delays that most likely will occur.

State the non-negotiables 

Even before the recommended path forward is determined, it’s important for your organizational leadership to determine any non-negotiables related to your brand. Non-negotiables might be elements like a logo or name, or less significant features like a core color or word in key messaging.

If the team has a consensus on the non-negotiables early on, it will help the entire branding process go efficiently by eliminating wasted time discussing elements that cannot change. 

Is your organization ready to get started preparing for its brand assessment? We created a comprehensive worksheet that follows the steps outlined above. It’s a great tool to keep your organization on track throughout the process. 


Reach out to us and we can answer any questions you may have.