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Jastine Lumbres
by Jastine Lumbres

5 Guidelines For Your Nonprofit Logo

What makes a good logo? 

In today's highly visual world, donors need a little help differentiating you from other nonprofits. One of the best ways to do that is through designing a creative logo for your nonprofit. As a large part of your nonprofit brand, your logo will be the sign donors use to identify you and support you. But what makes a good logo? Below we offer some guidelines to help you answer that question and foster some clever and out-of-the-box thinking for your own nonprofit logo.

1. Identity is the heart. 

Sounds like a broken record, but putting your cause/mission at the center of this entire process is absolutely integral to creating an eye-catching and productive logo. What is it that you want to communicate through your logo? Do you want to portray seriousness, urgency, hope, fun?

Do your homework and put together a list of logos you like and dislike; this will give you an idea of both the competition (what colors and images they are or are not using) and the elements you would like to use and avoid in your own logo. The last thing your nonprofit needs is for potential donors to be confused or put off by your logo.

Find the right graphic designer who will listen to your concerns and put them into action through producing a relevant and creative logo. An inexpensive logo design company we recommend is Logo Nerds with pricing starting at $29.

2. Abstract? Literal? Symbolic? 

No matter what kind of tone or voice your nonprofit has, you will always reach the logo crossroads of whether to be abstract, literal, or symbolic.

Let’s say your nonprofit rescues dogs and then finds them loving homes through adoption. Taking the literal path would point to creating a logo that might include an image of a dog, a dog’s head, or its body, along with the name of the nonprofit. Taking the abstract path may include a logo that only includes text (the nonprofit’s name). Still, there is another option in between, the symbolic path, which may turn out a logo with the nonprofit’s name and the image of a dog collar with a metal name tag on it, indicating the adoption aspect of the nonprofit.

There isn’t a rule that states that your nonprofit has to use an image, text, or a mixture of both.

Take a note from WildAid’s logo, shown below.

Wild Aid

WildAid’s logo only uses text, its name. The font for both “wild” and aid” is the same, but by bolding the word “Wild,” their logo emphasizes that the type of aid they offer is specifically for animals. This differentiates their nonprofit from all other aid organizations from the get go. Additionally, by keeping the words together and using black lettering, WildAid’s logo depicts an urgency and gravity about their mission, “Working to End the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Our Lifetime”. This is effective as it carries on throughout their website as well, which uses the same muted template with a black background and white lettering.

Or consider One Drop's logo: 

One Drop Logo

Their mission: “providing access to safe water while inspiring behavioral change towards water and proper hygiene practices by creating a lasting understanding through social arts…to ignite a spirit of involvement and ownership. This allows people to feel enabled, energized and empowered.”

With their focus on water, using the color blue in their logo was a no-brainer. They made use of their One Drop name by creating the number 1 that turns into a drop of water, emphasizing the effect their nonprofit wants to have on clean water distribution and attitudes toward it. Their nonprofit’s name drives it home with its bold white letters standing out against the dark blue backdrop. One Drop shows that even a literal logo can be dynamic.

For a symbolic route, take a look at what Acorns Children’s Hospice did with their logo.

Acorns logo

With their mission of “Providing care, support, fun and laughter for children with life limiting or life threatening conditions and their families,” Acorns created a logo that isn’t as straightforward as our previous examples. The symbolic use of the acorn suggests the growth and development of children, like acorns that grow into an oak tree, according to their website. By ditching capitalization and even using an image of what appears to be a hand drawn acorn, their logo emphasizes their mission of laughter and fun.

This is only made stronger with the use of the color orange, which invokes cheerful feelings and friendliness, showing that a logo (and even a nonprofit’s name) does not have to be so straightforward but can be a mix of color, text, and images.

These examples show that when you are able to incorporate your nonprofit name within your logo, you increase your chances of leaving a lasting impression on donors. When it comes down to it, nonprofit branding impressions are integral to gaining exposure and securing donations for your nonprofit.

3. Color. 

The importance of color to your nonprofit logo cannot be overstated.

According to ColorCom, “people make a subconscious judgement about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.”

Users will make a judgement about your nonprofit based on what colors you use (or even don’t use) in your logo. Above all else, make sure the colors you use in your logo are appropriate; users also include in their judgement whether or not the colors used in a logo are fitting. Before taking into account words or images, users will be first drawn to the colors displayed on your logo. That being said, your nonprofit should create a logo that makes a positive first impression within those 90 seconds and is eye catching enough to encourage a second look through the double-take effect.

It seems overwhelming, the idea that color can have such an impact. But if done just right, it will bring in benefits for both your brand and your nonprofit overall with an increase of 80% in brand recognition.

4. Seriously, color. 

So what does that mean for your nonprofit logo? First, we suggest your start with the Color Emotion Guide below. This goes back to what we discussed earlier on what kind of tone you want to set for your logo, what you want to communicate. Each color evokes some kind of emotion that you can use to your advantage.

Color Code

5. Streamline and ensure adaptability. 

Minimalism seems to be the present trend in logo design, but you may have already decided that this might not be the approach most suited to your nonprofit. Trends are, by definition, things that are always in passing. What still stays true to logo design is simplicity. Streamlining your logo means being straightforward with your logo design and keeping all colors, texts, and images balanced.

Make sure your logo is flexible and can be used across all mediums used by your nonprofit, this includes (but is not limited to) emails, newsletters, your website, posters, flyers, t-shirts, cups, pens, and bags. Your logo should maintain its clarity despite what platform it is being displayed on and when it is photo copied or faxed.

Side note: Ever heard of Google's nonprofit program?

Did you know Google provides nonprofits with $10,000 per month in free advertising credit? This program is known as Google Grants and it's available to almost every 501c3 nonprofit organization. Learn how we can help you get the most out of the Google Grant program. Click below to get started!
There's a smarter way to do Google Grants.

Jastine Lumbres

Jastine Lumbres
Jastine is Elevate Click's first content writer. She received her BA in English from UC Riverside and Master's in English degree from Claremont Graduate University. She currently lives in Rosemead, CA with her family.

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