It's easy to find examples of bad branding. Much rarer are examples of brands that get it right. Which is why I applaud Changing the Present, a brand that scores close to a perfect 10. What's even more impressive is that Changing the Present is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. In my experience, charities frequently fail to understand and implement good branding practices, usually because their staffs worry that "good design and communication" equates with "needless expense." Not so. Take a look at how Changing the Present does it:
Concept: Changing the Present didn't invent the "choose how you donate" model; Kiva and DonorsChoose, among others, use it too. Changing the Present is implementing it in a more global and comprehensive manner that gives donors plenty of options. It's a smart strategy that acknowledges donors' desire to control their charitable donations and see tangible results.
Name: An elegantly intuitive double entendre. Changing the Present allows donors to give gifts that make a difference: by changing the nature of gift giving—allowing people to donate medical supplies, Internet access, livestock, safe water— it's changing the way people live now. Some institutions resist "long" names; personally, I think this three-word name is exactly right: it's memorable and pronounceable and requires less explaining than, say, "Kiva."
Tagline: "The thought that counts" takes a cliché no one feels sincere uttering—"It's the thought that counts"—and by eliminating one word makes it a powerful statement of fact. When you donate through Changing the Present, your thought truly counts toward improving lives.
Logo: Clear, well balanced, meaningful. Note how the logo doesn't just say change, it embodies change through the shift from blue to green. The stylized bow on the package suggests the X on a ballot: you're using your gift as a vote.
Advertising: I learned about Changing the Present through a commercial I saw on the basic-cable channel TLC. The ad appropriates all the tropes of luxury-gift marketing: the unctuous voiceover, the soft-focus camerawork, the sentimental "because you love her" message. Maybe he's going to give her a car, you think. Or a diamond ring. And the denouement? As they say at MasterCard: priceless. (Watch the two CTP commercials here.)
Domain: Let's say you're impressed, as I was, by the CTP commercial but remember the organization's name as Change the Present instead of Changing the Present. Do you get a 404 error message when you type "ChangeThePresent.org" into your browser? You do not. You get a variation of the Changing the Present home page, with videos of the two TV commercials. I can't overemphasize how smart it is of Changing the Present to anticipate this mistake and turn it into an opportunity; too few website owners do it. Registering the additional domain (or maybe multiple domains) is cheap and easy. The tough part, the part many organizations don't bother with, is putting yourself in your customer's shoes and asking what might go wrong. And then making it right.
Web design and copy: The site is easy to use and a pleasure to read. You can choose the way you want to give: by cause, type of gift (wedding, teens, Valentine's Day), or price range. Photos have been chosen for maximum meaning; they aren't simply random space-fillers or spots of color. There's enough white space to convey a sense of calm but not so much that the design looks unbalanced. Instead of forcing all the copy to fit within artificial word limits, the designer has allowed for clickthroughs that provide all the information you need to make an informed decision.
I tried hard to find fault with Changing the Present's brand implementation and found only this (and it's pathetically nerdy, I know): I'd like to see a more careful and consistent use of hyphens in compound adjectives such as "solar-powered." But really, that's it.
There's clearly a lot of brainpower and clout behind Changing the Present. And a ton of brand savvy, too. Changing the Present is partnering with WellGood LLC, a marketing and consulting agency that applies business principles to philanthropy. That's also the premise of a new book by Dan Pallotta, Uncharitable, and I'm guessing it's the direction many nonprofits will be taking. (Listen to an interview with Pallotta here.) In the case of Changing the Present, the strategy clearly works. Well done and bravo.