Association Branding

A guide for associations and nonprofits

In many ways, association branding or nonprofit branding is no different than branding a product or service. A good association brand should highlight what makes the association unique, identify what audience it serves, and convey the purpose of the organization. Seems clear enough, right?

However, there are some dynamics in association branding that require special attention and consideration. For example, the purchase process for professional associations often entails considerable information gathering and perhaps even a trial engagement/experience. It’s rarely an impulse decision, especially if membership costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so brand engagement needs to take that into consideration.

Furthermore, while there are many associations that are well-known around the country (AARP, American Bar Association, NRA), bear in mind that the connection of these association brands to their members or potential members is far more important than their name recognition among the general population. In other words, an association should aim for complete relevancy and clarity of purpose and message to its prescribed audience—no matter how small or specialized—instead of broad popularity. A podiatry association doesn’t need to worry about how its brand is regarded by chiropractors, surgeons, or dermatologists.

In the end, any association or nonprofit needs to fully understand itself and the expectations of its leadership, board members, membership, and other stakeholders before it can undergo a thorough branding or rebranding effort. To gain this insight, it’s important to embark on a self-discovery process that gathers perceptions on what the association is doing right, where it’s falling short, significant opportunities and threats, etc. Some sample questions for a professional association could include:

  • Are association activities in line with the association’s core values?
  • Are educational programs in place for members to work toward raising industry standards?
  • Do accreditation programs rigorously test members’ abilities and encourage them to upgrade their skills to meet industry standards?
  • Does the association make top quality speakers and/or experts available to educate and motivate members?

For more information on how to make the most out of the branding process for your association, download this free eBook.