RSPCA branding by JKR

Why branding is more vital than ever for charities

Having a strong brand is essential for charities hoping to connect with new audiences. But in the era of brand purpose and short attention spans, should they also be looking at consumer brands as their competitors?

For a long time, brand was considered a dirty word in the charity sector. This was certainly the case when Dan Dufour joined homelessness charity Shelter as brand manager in 2004. “I was told on my first day of the job at Shelter that I couldn’t use the word ‘brand’ as it was toxic,” he says. “I really had to do a charm offensive to explain to everybody internally what a brand was and what it was for – if more people were aware of Shelter and understood what they stood for, then more people would be likely to use their services and ultimately support them as a charity.”

As one of the first brand managers working in the charity sector, Dufour has seen a huge shift in attitudes towards the role of branding over the last two decades, noting that most medium-to-large charities now have a brand manager or at least somebody responsible for brand. Since becoming an independent brand consultant in 2018, he has also helped orchestrate major rebrands for the likes of Parkinson’s UK, Mind and RNID. “There are still people that are going to equate brand to name and logo without a doubt, but I think broadly over time understanding of its value has improved,” he says.

Top: RSPCA rebrand by JKR; Above: Barnardo’s rebrand by The Clearing