Aligning strategy,
identity, capacity, and facilities
with mission, vision, and values.


The fundamental issues involved in developing an institutional or corporate identity are strategic, rather than simply marketing- or design-based. No successful identity program for a nonprofit can be developed without a clear understanding of mission, values, and strategy, on the one hand (the identity of the institution), and communications through actions, concepts, words, design, and architecture (the projection of identity through brand definition) on the other. Identity is who you are; brand is how you are perceived.

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Today’s marketplace is highly competitive for current and potential stakeholder attention and for charitable giving. There is little tolerance for anything less than a highly compelling brand identity to open the door for a more substantial span of attention. New organizations have to establish their identity; any institution of long standing accumulates layers of individually sensible decisions that gradually begin to erode the clarity of its perceived identity. From time to time any institution must step back and re-evaluate, refresh, and renew its brand identity.

Once a strategic foundation has been established, an institution should be prepared to approach the issue of identity from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Brand identity encompasses not just logos, letterhead, signage, and marketing communications, but organizational structure and clarity, program and service planning and naming, master planning, architecture and interior design, and communications.

Institutional brand identity development involves:

  • articulating clearly the mission, values and uniqueness of the institution (the identity concept: this is the essential, yet often least developed, aspect of identity),
  • developing a framework of standards, procedures, and guidelines for systematizing the expression of the institution’s identity (the identity plan), and
  • imbedding the identity message in all of the means through which the institution presents itself to the public (representation of identity, which establishes the brand).

Synthesis Partnership has worked on identity issues with many clients, often with prompt and substantial business benefits.

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