Six steps to changing your charity’s brand without losing your supporters (or your marbles)

Although not for the faint-hearted, changing a charity’s name, look and offer can be exactly what’s needed to broaden your reach and impact. Michelle Doyle Wildman, acting CEO of Parentkind, shares her top tips for leaders.

I am terrifically proud to be the acting chief executive of Parentkind. We champion and support all the ways parents can participate in their child’s education and school life.

Until two months ago we were known by a different name, PTA UK. For 60 or so years we have been the UK’s leading membership body for parent teacher associations. And while this remains at the heart of what we do, we needed a new name to reflect the support we also offer to parents and schools as well as signal our ambition.

Doing a branding ‘full monty’ of new name, new branding and new strategy isn’t for the faint-hearted. So if it’s something you’re contemplating, here are my six top tips:

1. Take time to listen & learn from your beneficiaries and staff

My number one tip is to take sufficient time to bring your key stakeholders with you. It’s clearly not always feasible to consult ahead of big changes but it’s vitally important that your supporters, beneficiaries and staff are given opportunities to provide feedback and see this reflected in how the ‘shop window’ of your organisation changes. Imposing new style guidelines from the top can work in the short term but can lead to obsessing about a logo (and the cost of redesigning it!) rather than relationships and outcomes you wish to achieve.

2.Set up a trustee and staff brand taskforce

Trustees and staff need to be completely on the same page when it comes to a change of this magnitude. We set up a task and finish group made up of three suitably skilled and experienced trustees and three key members of the staff team. This ensured our trustees were able to steer the strategic direction, see that charity funds were well invested and reassure the full board with timely updates.

3. Articulate your aims early doors

Trustees and the executive should take the time to set out the change they wish to achieve through a brand refresh in a statement of the charity’s vision, mission, values and work areas. And this should happen before you’ve even thought about getting designers, copywriters or other creatives on board. It’s natural (and healthy) that not everyone will agree at first but the discipline of articulating why we are changing helps build a consensus and will save time and tantrums down the line. And crucially this becomes the touchstone for your messages to the wider world when you go live.

4. Assess the risks and the opportunities

Not everyone embraces change with open arms. Applying a risk assessment framework to a brand project might sound a little worthy but it’s hugely helpful in getting all the reservations and fears on the table, identifying how these can be lessened and providing reassurance and confidence in the direction of travel. This can also, surprisingly, bring out angles and opportunities you hadn’t previously considered.

5. Find yourself buckets of patience and attention to detail

When you think ‘brand’, perhaps trendy glasses, hipster beards and black roll-necks come to mind. And although it is a creative process, successful rebrands are all about detail; capturing what has been agreed at meetings, clear and timely communications between team members, meticulous project planning. So if you don’t have in-house resource to do this, appoint a suitable project manager who can take that burden off your or others’ shoulders.

6. Don’t forget to celebrate!

When you finally go live with that new website, supporter magazine or advertising campaign, it’s so important to celebrate with your staff and trustees. Everyone’s hard work needs to be recognised and morale bolstered before the REAL work begins. Take a confident tone with your supporters and celebrate the change with those you wish to benefit.

Parentkind went live as planned on 20th February 2018 achieving a vibrant new look and a much clearer offer to our members, beneficiaries and wider society. Of course a new name, logo, colour palette and office sign do not build a complete brand; our journey on this has only just begun. Everyone has been very positive so far and we are optimistic for a future that sees parents of all kinds really leaning into their child’s education to help them thrive and reach their potential.

Michelle Doyle Wildman is Acting CEO of Parentkind.


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