Branding — or rebranding — isn’t a quick nor simple process. If you’ve contributed to the deep thinking, investigation, articulation, or collaboration involved in creating an honestly reflective and unique reputation for your nonprofit or independent school, then you know; even when you enlist expert consultants, branding projects take time and energy and investment.
And that exciting work gets even more exciting when you prepare to introduce your community to the new brand. You’re thrilled to begin bringing your new brand to life until, at a staff meeting, someone asks, ”Does the Board have to approve this?”
A chilling silence ensues. All eyes turn to the Executive Director or Head of School (and maybe that’s you) as everyone holds their breath and crosses their fingers.
The good news is — at least in this dramatization — you’ve seen this moment coming and know the right answer to this question.
The short answer is no.
Under the direction of board chairs, boards of trustees set direction, make policy, and liaise with the executive director. They don’t make decisions about staff, programs, or day-to-day operations — and that includes marketing. Those types of duties are the responsibility of executive directors and heads of school and their staffs.
It’s true. Check your by-laws. We’ve never seen a set of by-laws that requires board approval of any marketing activities — and branding, renaming, visual identity work, web design, and other digital strategy activities all fall under the umbrella of marketing.
These marketing decisions may be weighty, fraught, or navigate sensitive historical issues, but they’re still marketing. That means that the final say about what goes public falls to the staff leadership and the board doesn’t get to claim the right of approval on brand work.
Just because there’s nothing in the by-laws that stipulates that your board or its chair gets final approval on a rebrand or a new name doesn’t mean you should leave them uninformed and uninvolved. An effective, successful branding process is inclusive.
So if the question is, “Does your board have to approve your brand”, the answer is, “No, but wouldn’t it be better if you had their considered input anyway?”
You want your board behind you, supportive of your direction, and cheering on your execution. The final say is yours — but if that say is backed by a chorus of approval, that’s cause for celebration.
As you begin a branding project, invite thinking from board members, front line staff, and even those external folks who are deeply engaged with your work (such as funders, volunteers, or constituents). You can solicit input in a group session, through a series of one-on-one interviews, or — if your organization has a large number of stakeholders — via a carefully worded survey.
By doing this, you’ll get the input you need to accurately understand your current reputation and to identify which assets are worth amplifying. You’ll keep your board and your marketing committee engaged in the work as it develops. You won’t need to cross your fingers and hope your board doesn’t hate the new brand when it’s done, because they will have been consulted all along the way.
The time to think about who needs to be involved in branding — and to what degree — is at the start of a branding project. Setting clear expectations will facilitate your journey to a successful conclusion.
Between your allies, your confidence in your brand, the input you’ve sought, and some clear leadership boundaries, your trustees should be cheering as you confidently present your new brand. The work you’ve overseen will make the lives of board members — and staff — so much easier.
But the decision to clarify and implement your new brand? That’s all yours.
Sarah R. Moore, our Director of Brand Strategy, joined Mission Minded from a career that has spanned both the private and nonprofit sector.
See all posts by Sarah Moore