3 Nonprofits that Successfully Rebranded--and How They Did It

There are many reasons why organizations choose to rebrand themselves. Outdated logos, mergers, and misperceptions of an organization’s mission are all compelling reasons to reinvent a nonprofit’s image.

Here are three nonprofits that survived the rebranding process thanks to planning, strategy, and forward thinking.

1. YMCA of the USA

 In 2010, the YMCA underwent a huge branding rehaul, launching a new logo and framework focused on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.  

Why they did it: The YMCA was seen in many communities as a cost-effective place to exercise–but not much else. Organization leadership wanted people to “better understand the benefits of engaging with the Y,” says Kate Coleman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of YMCA of the USA. “We [simplified] how we describe the programs we offer so that it is immediately apparent that everything we do is designed to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve health and well-being, and support our neighbors and the larger community.”

How they did it: The YMCA launched a new logo–its first redesign in 43 years– with bright colors intended to reflect the diversity of its communities and activities. The YMCA also started calling itself the “Y,” echoing how the organization is often referred to publicly. Finally, the Y’s new framework demonstrates the organization’s broader programmatic focus for individuals, families, and communities.

Why it was successful: By tapping into its nickname, the “Y,” the YMCA affirmed itself as a cultural institution that is here to stay. It also refreshed the public perception of its mission and programs with a framework that engages a new generation of members: kids. The YMCA spent two years conducting analysis and research for its rebranding effort–which clearly paid off.


2. Families Moving Forward

In 2015, two organizations serving homeless families in Durham, NC realized they had shared goals–so they decided to merge and combine their areas of expertise. Genesis Home and the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network (DIHN) are now Families Moving Forward.

Why they did it: Genesis Home, an emergency shelter, wanted to move families more quickly into permanent housing. DIHN, a network of faith-based institutions, sought a site to conduct its work and leverage its strong volunteer base. Their new organization, Families Moving Forward, now has greater capacity to serve families’ needs while they stay in the shelter and to provide aftercare that helps families from becoming homeless again.

How they did it: Both organizations spent several months discussing and finalizing the merger. When Families Moving Forward launched in late 2015, the organization unveiled its new name, logo, mission, and website via a press release, newsletters, and strategic communications to volunteers, donors, and the public.

Why it was successful: Both Genesis Home and DIHN were well-established organizations that had served the community for decades, so reminding people about the Families Moving Forward merger is still an act in progress. “It’s really hard when you have two organizations that have been operating for 20-25 years and everyone knows those names,” says Aubrey Thorlakson, Development Associate for Families Moving Forward. The organization knows that it must continually communicate its new mission and name–for as long as it takes. “We’re doing different things, including a special new dinner event, to get our name out to volunteers, donors, and the greater Durham community,” she says.


3. Pledge 1% Colorado

 In 2014, the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado co-founded Pledge 1%, a global platform designed to inspire early-stage corporate philanthropy. Two years later, the Foundation rebranded itself as Pledge 1% Colorado to better align with its well-known platform.

Why they did it: Rebranding allowed the Foundation to strategically coordinate with the Pledge 1% platform and simultaneously unveil new programmatic offerings.

How they did it: The Foundation sent announcements via email, social media, newsletters, and its website to the hundreds of companies participating in its network.

Why it was successful: The new Pledge 1% Colorado logo and website perfectly mimic the branding of Pledge 1%, tying the two together visually. Because the rebranding took place only two years after the launch of Pledge 1%, there was sufficient time for both brands to grow together and for participants and the public to begin associating the two.