Core Value For Nonprofit Marketing

Core values are a severely underrated tool for nonprofit marketing. Here’s a quick guide on how to use them.

Here’s why finding a core value is important: it takes 5 to 7 brand impressions, on average, before someone will remember your brand.

Yeah, 5 to 7 impressions. The keyword here, however, is on average.

While it will likely take multiple impressions for someone to remember your brand, there are many ways to speed up this process. In fact, the whole field of marketing is based on this very process.

A great way to speed up this process, as a nonprofit, is by discovering your core nonprofit values and objectives. What is the value that your nonprofit is dedicated to? What is the one word that can define your entire mission?

Core brand values help you target your marketing and build brand loyalty, which is essential for nonprofits looking for volunteers and donors.

Basically, core brand values are super important.

This image is meant to show focus/meditation, which are based on focusing on yourself. This relates to finding a core value, since a core value will depend on a nonprofit focusing on themselves.
Photo from Sean Stratton on Unsplash

What is a core brand value?

Your core brand value is the guiding path for your nonprofit. What is it that makes your nonprofit tick?

A core brand value should be very simple. As famous marketer Luke Sullivan says, brand = adjective. Brand values should be short, one-word values for your nonprofit. They should encourage loyalty through donations, volunteer work, and other forms of support from supporters of your charity.

Your website can have multiple values, but you should choose one core value. Emphasize this specific value throughout your website.

Maybe your core brand value is sustainability (more on how to find a core brand value below).

Focus your marketing campaigns around sustainability. Use the color green in your logo, website, and marketing materials (more on how to use colors here).

Emphasize sustainability through your blog and newsletter. On your website, emphasize sustainability in as many pages as you can.

In other words, use your core brand value everywhere.

Why is a core brand value useful?

This was discussed a little before, but core brand values are very useful, especially for nonprofits who rely heavily on “customer loyalty” for volunteers and donations.

Donors and volunteers will likely be more willing to support your nonprofit if their core values aligns with your nonprofit’s values. Not only does this build brand loyalty, it also helps you target your marketing.

Take the sustainability example from before.

By knowing that your ideal supporters will be people who emphasize sustainability, you can focus your marketing efforts on this target market. Assuming that your core value is sustainability (note: try to align your nonprofit values with your personal values), you and people similar to you are your “target market.”

You and your team personally know the behavior of your target audience. These insights will be very useful in your marketing campaigns. This allows you to easily identify the best ways to attract your target audience.

Another benefit of your core brand value is that (assuming your core brand value reflects your personal values) you and your team become more passionate about your nonprofit. This is a great way to have intrinsic motivation about your nonprofit.

Having passion for your nonprofit’s mission means that your work feels less tedious and more satisfying.

How can I find my nonprofit’s core value?

Hopefully, reading through this article has given you some ideas for your nonprofit’s core brand value. If not, don’t worry.

Your core brand value should reflect you and your team’s personal values. Think about what all of you have in common, and think about why each of you decided to advocate for your nonprofit’s mission.

Maybe it was because each of you cared about equality and acceptance in your community. Or maybe it was because you wanted to use technological innovations to make your community a better place. Whatever it is, find a one-word adjective that can sum everything up. 

And that is your core brand value. 

To give you some inspiration, let’s look at some famous companies and nonprofits, and how they successfully used core brand values.


While Apple has a few core values (luxury, quality, and many others), one core brand value that many associate with Apple is security. After all, many people view Apple products as invincible, which is why iPhones, iPad, and Macs are often associated with security.

In Apple’s case, this core value of security has helped differentiate Apple products from their competitors. Many Apple customers choose Apple over Android and Windows due to the perceived security that Apple devices bring to the table.

Apple has even semi-admitted that its core brand value is security through the increase in privacy-based marketing campaigns from Apple.


One of the most important, yet highly understated, brand values of Starbucks is productivity. While it isn’t something that comes to mind when we think Starbucks, productivity is a hidden, subconscious brand value. Many people go to Starbucks to get coffee for work, collaborate with others, and make use of free WiFi.

This case is a perfect example of a subconscious brand value. As mentioned before, while productivity isn’t something that immediately comes to mind when we think of Starbucks, it is a critical factor of the company’s brand strategy and marketing techniques.

charity: water

Let’s look at a nonprofit example now. charity: water is a rising nonprofit dedicated to increasing and improving access to clean water. The charity is famous for many things, but in the marketing world, they are known for their wildly successful marketing campaigns. By emphasizing the focus on water, charity: water was able to generate $470,000 in annual recurring revenue and had a 5x return on ad spend.

These numbers are crazy.

This dedication to water has helped charity: water identify their target market and use the core brand values of their nonprofit to create a significant impact on the world. You can also see their dedication to water on their website (insert link), where blue is common throughout the website. Blue is used in the donate button, subscribe to newsletter button, and in their website graphics.

charity: water also serves as an example of a nonprofit where values are not adjectives. Water is related to the mission of the nonprofit, rather than a differentiating characteristic of the nonprofit. Both types (adjective and non-adjective) can work, though most marketing experts recommend using adjective core values in the business world.

Final Word

Hopefully, my emphasis on core brand values throughout this article has convinced you that your nonprofit desperately needs one. And I hope that this article has helped you plan out and define your core brand values, and that this article has shown you how to use core brand values in your marketing technique. Remember that core brand values should reflect your nonprofit’s activities, your mission, and most importantly, your beliefs.

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