Internal Branding for Non-Profits
Recently, my colleagues and I met with representatives from a real estate transaction, development, and project management company that focuses on the non-profit market sector. During our meeting, we started to talk about various workplace and interior design topics and, in doing so, I raised the issue of internal branding, and how important it is for non-profit organizations. Upon my saying this, the people we met with seemed intrigued and asked me to explain further.
In essence, the point I tried to make was that as non-profits spend so much time, money and resources on external brand management and strategy (i.e., branding targeted towards donors, sponsors, etc.) in order to raise funds and awareness of their cause, some portion of that should be given to internal branding (i.e., branding targeted towards employees and volunteers) and how this is reflected and/or incorporated into the design of the organization’s workplace and its various components. Good, bad or indifferent, many non-profits operate under the impression that they should not or cannot spend money and resources on themselves for things, such as office space, furniture, equipment, and/or technology, and simply make due with old furniture and equipment, tired-looking paint, carpeting and fixtures, and less-than-optimal office space (i.e., low natural light, too many columns, low ceilings, poor layouts, etc.). But, if non-profits followed their for-profit brethren then they would realize how the design and branding of a space can play an integral role in employee/volunteer productivity, morale and well-being, as well as how external people view the organization.
Look at the images below (top is the Tucson, AZ office for Habitat for Humanity, middle is the Australia office of The Red Cross, and bottom is the Hong Kong office of World Wildlife Fund). The branding found in these spaces speak to each organization’s wanting to impress upon employees/volunteers and others their brand’s persona (mission, values, cause) and being modern, functional, sustainable, efficient, etc. None of these images project the stereotypical non-profit and rightly so (see article: Hey, Nonprofit Office. 1985 Called and It Wants Its Taupe Walls Back).
If any one of these organizations were to have a potential donor, sponsor or board member, for example, come to visit the office versus the stereotypical non-profit office, which would make the more favorable impression? Exactly!
Although non-profits operate under different functional and financial goals, objectives, and agendas, as compared to for-profits, they still need to recognize the value and importance of internal branding and how it can eventually translate and filter down to the bottom line.