The Discourse: How to Leverage Brand to Build Trust – Social Impact (Part 2)
Written by The Discourse
Our ‘Design for Good’ ethos is at the heart of what we do, it’s what drives us as a team and has had a huge influence on our business. We’re very proud to say that we’ve been working and collaborating with charities for nearly 5 years now and we’ve learnt a lot along the way.
In Pt.1 of this series, we delved into green technology and how branding can be used by tech startups to build visibility and increase awareness. Now our focus shifts to the organisations working tirelessly to achieve positive social change, and how branding can be used to build trust, establish emotional connections and help your organisation to make a positive impact in the communities you support.
Behind most high profile charities and nonprofits are a team of people working on their brand and digital platforms in order to support the incredible work they do. This is reinforced by the fact that online giving is growing year on year, with the 2021 Charitable Giving Report by Blackbaud saying that online giving has grown by 42% over the previous three years, across the whole charity sector. By establishing trust and building a wider awareness of what you are doing, you are giving your organisation the best chance of being seen and supported – whether that’s by individuals, partners, philanthropists or grant funders.
We understand that dedicating time and resources to your branding, website and digital marketing may not always be feasible or the top priority for all charities. However, in today’s digital-first world, a strong brand is crucial for building trust, scaling impact and communicating your purpose to the world. There’s a lot to consider here, so we’ve compiled our top tips to help you maximise the effectiveness of your brand, website and content.
Show don’t tell
It’s essential to communicate trust and credibility through your brand. Encouraging support and donations for your cause is one thing; achieving it can depend heavily on a brand and marketing campaigns that strongly communicate your purpose and mission. In the UK only 53% of people saw charities as generally trustworthy (UK Giving Report, 2023), so it is essential that as a charity you are able to demonstrate this through your actions and the consistency of your brand communications.
Developing a brand identity that reflects your values and your mission, prioritising quality over quantity with your content and establishing clear brand guidelines to help maintain consistency across different media platforms will set you on the right path. This last point on consistency is essential, as you never know which interaction could be the one to spark a donation. One of the leading CRM platforms estimate that it takes 6-8 marketing touch points to generate a sale (or donation in this case), so the combination of a strong brand identity combined with meaningful and consistent content are key areas to focus on in order to maximise the effectiveness of your brand and marketing.
Frank Water kept this in mind when we collaborated on their marketing campaign for the Big Give 2022 appeal. Embracing their existing visual identity, bespoke illustrated content was developed to bring the campaign messaging to life. The visual assets maintained consistency across their website and social media platforms, helping to establish trust and showcase the evolving campaign prior to the launch of the appeal. The result was a unique series of posts, images and marketing assets that helped Frank Water to surpass their target of reaching over £40k in one week, with an impressive £21k raised in just one day!
“The artwork produced by the team at The Discourse really elevated our appeal and helped our comms stand out from the crowd. The materials they produced were simple, clear and on brand yet eye-catching enough to stop people mid-scroll and spur them on to donate.“ Claire Allen – Communications Manager at Frank Water
Celebrate diversity and inclusivity
Putting yourself in your audience’s shoes is a smart marketing practice. However, when it comes to charities and nonprofits, there are various shoes and sizes to consider. If you have a diverse spectrum of users, it may be a challenge to identify and meet all of their needs. Nonetheless, there are some general rules of thumb that can help everyone to feel that you recognise and care for them.
An image is worth a thousand words – Numerous studies and research efforts have explored the impact of communicating information through visuals. This helps to explain the popularity of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.
Photography, imagery and illustration serve as an effective and accessible way to communicate your message within your branding because they can convey complex ideas quickly and engage audiences visually, making your message more memorable and relatable. They can also help to communicate your brand story which can inspire support and action. Try to use original photography where possible, as stock photography can look inauthentic and often not include much diversity.
Embrace user-led design – It’s important that your brand and website works effectively for your organisation, but it’s arguably more important that it works for your users. Clear website navigation and signposting ensures that users can find the information they need quickly, if you have a large website then install a search feature, and consider using colour to symbolise the different user groups and services you offer – for example yellow for children, blue for business etc.
Move beyond ‘one size fits all’ – Each social media platform appeals to different types of people and users. Instagram, with its predominantly under-34 audience, thrives on visually engaging content, high quality imagery and short-form videos. Facebook, on the other hand, fosters a sense of community and engagement, making it ideal for sharing personal stories and promoting discussion within a wider network. Understanding these platforms and all these nuances is important for tailoring your brand and messaging to connect authentically with diverse audiences.
WECIL are an awarding DPO (Disabled Persons Organisation) and supports a variety of users from children, to adults, to businesses, and everything in between. They offer a wide range of services which support a variety of different people, so it was essential for them to use imagery that made people feel represented, effectively signpost users to the right information on their website and tailor their marketing content with specific groups in mind.
Their strategy focused on creating a bold minimalist aesthetic that uses original photography and illustration to truly represent the people in their community. For each different service area, thorough user testing was conducted to understand each users’ goals, with page content being customised to support their specific needs.
“We now have a brand and digital platforms that connect with our community of users and truly represent the quality of the work that we do. This has been instrumental in establishing WECIL as the leading provider of support services for Disabled people in the region.” Dominic Ellison, Chief Executive Officer @ WECIL
There’s a time and place for modesty
Whilst humility is a quality we admire, there’s no need for modesty when it comes to showcasing the incredible work you do. It’s essential to shout about (or at very least highlight) your impact and achievements, as it will captivate your audience, build trust and inspire them to take action. Embrace your success, celebrate every win and don’t hesitate to share impact data, testimonials, case studies, and press coverage across your website and social media channels.
These activities serve as powerful reminders of your organisation’s work and will establish credibility, keeping your brand at the forefront of people’s minds and encouraging them to support your cause. Unfortunately, at times, people hesitate to donate because they think, “I’m just one person, what can my contribution really achieve?” Therefore to address this barrier your brand needs to showcase the substantial impact even one effective donation can have.
Although they are not a charity, the work that Ecosurety is doing in sustainability is unquestionably having a positive social and environmental impact. Ecosurety are on a journey to accelerate change towards a sustainable world – their mission is to help businesses and charities to reduce the environmental impact of their products and packaging.
We worked with them to create a vibrant and confident impact report that captured the essence of who they are, what they’ve done, and what they hope to achieve in the year ahead. Full of data, the document is a celebration of their incredible impact on people, the planet and the community. This included awareness campaigns, volunteering programs and work to deliver on their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy.
“It was an absolute pleasure to work with The Discourse on our sixth annual impact report. Their expertise in design and communication allowed us to showcase our achievements beyond compliance and our commitment to a sustainable future in a clear and concise way.” Mma‑tshepo Grobler, Communication and PR @ ecosurety
Applying the advice in this article is a great way to leverage your brand to build trust. While we appreciate that partnering with a design agency is not feasible for everyone, we encourage you to try and develop some of these skills internally and if need be look for support from the local pro-bono community.
For example, our Design for Good grant programme runs annually and provides one charity in Bristol and the South West with up to £20k of creative support. You could also reach out to the volunteering team at the UWE or the Quartet Community Foundation who support local charities and Supporting disadvantaged communities in the West of England.
At The Discourse, we’ve been crafting impactful brand identities for over 5 years, and we’ve witnessed firsthand the long and short-term success that the advice above can bring. If you have any further questions please contact us, we genuinely love hearing about the amazing work happening within this sector.