TOOLS YOU CAN USE: Nonprofit Branding: Get Noticed, Get Funded

By Katy Moore, WRAG’s Managing Director of Corporate Strategy

One of the most common questions I receive from nonprofit executives and development officers is how to apply for grants from foundations and corporations who don’t accept unsolicited proposals. The unfortunate answer is: you don’t. Some funders, especially small-staffed foundations, don’t have open grant rounds simply because they can’t handle the volume of proposals. They truly don’t want you to spend time writing a proposal that they don’t have the time to read.

How then, do these funders identify the nonprofits that they invite to apply? One way is by talking to their fellow funders. The funding community is small and well-connected, especially in the Greater Washington region. Program officers, foundation executives and corporate philanthropy folks all talk to each other. And, you can bet that when a nonprofit is rocking their mission, they share!

My best advice to those of you who want to be invited to apply to closed grant rounds is to GET NOTICED. And, how do you do that? Well, it’s definitely not by keeping your head down and staying quiet about how awesome you are! If you’re not shouting your accomplishments from the rooftops, racking up social media followers, and vulnerably and authentically connecting supporters to your organization’s challenges, opportunities, and the issues you care about, you’re getting lost in the crowd of the thousands of other nonprofits in our region doing “good work.”

As nonprofit professionals, we know that communications, branding and marketing are important. We know that visually appealing information garners the most attention, followers, and clicks. We know that professional-looking communications and visuals are viewed as mirroring well-run, dynamic organizations worthy of philanthropic investment. So, why then, do we put communications and branding on the back burner or outsource it to summer interns? Why do do we accept outdated marketing materials, lackluster PowerPoint presentations, and bland social media posts? Well, I say, no more!

We here at WRAG know that hiring a graphic designer can be expensive. That’s why we’ve upped our visual marketing game using (mostly) free online resources. Below are just a few that we like. I’d love to learn about others! Please share in the comments or email me at

Design tools

Easily design beautiful flyers, social media images, infographics, emails, newsletters, videos, and more.

PowerPoint Templates

Never give a boring presentation again!

Royalty-Free Images

You don’t have to worry about copyright infringement when you use these free online image banks.


Even when your graphics are beautiful, boring typography can make them seem uninspired.

As you think about how to raise your organization’s profile in the community, you may want to have a brainstorming session with your team to generate ideas and set goals for yourself and your organization. For example, do you want to seek out opportunities to serve as a speaker and panelist showcasing the expertise you and your staff have about your particular cause or issue area? Are there opportunities for you to write blog posts, LinkedIn articles, and/or media op-eds highlighting your work or speaking out on a timely topic? Do you need to begin gathering inspiring stories of your organization’s impact?

Whatever you decide, know that being visible and creating buzz about your work and mission is one of the only ways to secure that invitation to submit a solicited proposal.

Katy Moore is the Managing Director of Corporate Strategy at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG), a powerful network of more than 100 of the largest and most respected philanthropic institutions in the Greater Washington, DC region. She is also the founder and director of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility, a six-month professional certificate program for CSR practitioners offered in partnership by WRAG, Johns Hopkins University, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Follow her on twitter at @CapitalGrits@Institute4CSR, and @WRAGTweets.