6 Differences Between Church and Business Branding

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 18 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

Branding for a church or non-profit does not always follow all the same rules as branding for a business. If you work for a church or non-profit, you might even feel hesitation about totally adopting words like “branding.” You want to keep your identity distinct and don’t want the values you stand for to get too confused with the need for revenue.

Church vs Business Branding Differences

When it comes to church vs. business branding, or non-profit vs. business branding, what differences can you pinpoint? And how can the right envelope help you out?

Identity vs. competition

Church and non-profit vs. business branding begin with recognizing that, unlike businesses, you’re not in competition with other organizations like yours. For you, branding is about knowing and making your identity and central vision known.

It’s not, “How do you stand out among your competitors?” but rather “How are you gifted and equipped to serve the community you are serving?” Your brand should be communicating both levels of this awareness: the “big picture” values you uphold, and your specific place in carrying them out.

With direct mail, for example, you don’t need to go for what’s going to catch the eye first. You simply need to provide a clear indication of who you are and be upfront about what this piece of mail is. Basic business envelopes with a subtle logo do well for this.

Specific vs. “targeted”

Like a business, you have to know who you’re here for. Except you may not want to think of them as an “audience,” and might shudder at thinking of them as customers! So how can you understand the importance of reaching who you believe you’re supposed to reach?

The difference between focusing your identity and targeting an audience is simple. Both priorities seek to serve, but in churches and non-profit organizations—and especially in churches—your doors are open to whoever walks in. Whoever comes in your door: that’s your “audience.” Your brand stays true to your vision, but in staying true to what you’re meant to do, your brand can actually remain essentially the same, while its significance changes according to the groups who come under your organization’s care. Businesses use bait; you’re casting a net.

Clarity vs. priority

The goal of church and non-profit branding is clearly expressing, in a nutshell, why you do what you do.

The goal is not to make branding a priority. Branding sometimes needs to be a major driver in the life of a company, but not so with you. You’re always driven by an ideal rather than the need to turn a profit. Businesses turn profits, and that’s OK. And the best businesses operate under noble ideals. But that pressure is off of you, and so the pressure of branding is off of you, too.

This also means that, as you develop mailing campaigns, not to get too worked up about them. Do your best, but it’s not your main purpose to “wow” people. Your main goal is to reach out, connect, and establish trust. Keep your image honest, clean, simple, and dependable. (Letter Jacket can help you out.)

Inspiration vs. strategy when making a logo

No one on your volunteer staff or vestry is going to be very impressed if you tell them in the next meeting, “I found three great blogs on why blue is the hottest new color for religious logos!” With a business, you might start with trends or known strategies in mind, but it’s far more in line with the integrity of a non-profit to vision-cast first, discussing, contemplating, or even praying about designs, logos, colors, messaging, and the general “feel” of your branding, based on your identity as an organization. Then use strategy to guide your direction.

Many organizations have an inspirational story for how they developed their logo, and even use that story to help introduce people to the organization. Your logo can hold deeply significant visionary value and ancient religious symbolism. Take advantage of that! And make sure you’re using envelopes, whether for mail or donation collections, where that logo stands out nice and clear.

Solid vs. watertight

You might want to be careful that your brand is not so fine-tuned, or fine-tuned in the wrong way, that it starts turning people away. It needs to be solid, recognizable to people in need, but not watertight to the point of feeling “corporate.” People can be sensitive about the way that religious organizations handle image, knowing well that image-handling costs money, and that sometimes a super-shiny image might be trying to replace a robust spiritual commitment, healthy operations, grassroots volunteerism, or authenticity. Simply be aware of this.

You may also want to test new branding efforts on friends and family willing to be honest with you about whether it “Looks great!” or “Looks great, but feels fake.” People’s “Fake-O-Meter” can be far more sensitive with churches and non-profits than it is with businesses.

Personal vs. online

All organizations strive to prioritize staying personal. But especially for churches and non-profits, there is no online or automated replacement for 99% of what you do. And this affects where you focus most on building your brand. The substance of your work is to nurture personal and in-person connections toward a particular end. So your priority in marketing will be to share and build a brand in places that lead easily to those types of connections. Business cards, clean and clear signage, and a website that’s easy to navigate and makes it simple to figure out how to contact staff—these are all examples of where to zoom in.

For more consultation on how to get your mail and envelopes looking just right to reflect your mission, give us a holler at Letter Jacket. We love helping churches and non-profits get their “mail” on! And with dozens of affordable, fully customizable options, we’re experts at making even the simplest envelope shine.

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