(Editor’s note: This is part one in a three part series on branding your nonprofit)

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics there were 1,406,820 charitable organizations in the United States as of October 2013. Wow! How is your nonprofit supposed to stand out?

Branding is the answer to separating your nonprofit from the others, and here are five reasons why:

1. Cohesion

According to Harvard University researchers, Nathalie Kylander & Christopher Stone, your nonprofit will be most effective when your organization’s internal identity aligns with external perceptions. If there is a gap between what you want people to believe about your nonprofit and what they actually perceive, your mission is at risk.

2. Capacity Building

When brand identity is cohesive across all audiences, internal and external, then your organization is able to be more effective in advancing your mission and expanding your resources. Kylander and Stone say, “A strong brand elicits trust and trust attracts talent, financing and authority.”

3. Discernment

Branding your nonprofit according to strategic goals and objectives helps you to avoid distractions and is a filter for your decision-making. Heath Shackleford in “Why Fast, Cheap and Easy is Killing Your Nonprofit’s Brand,” says that good brand strategy can help you “evaluate the various parts and pieces of your marketing effort.”

4. Increase Impact

Efforts to build a cohesive brand with realistic strategic goals and objectives will not only guide your decisions and capacity building but it will significantly improve your social impact. An organized nonprofit brand has a much greater chance of effecting change than one that’s scattered.

5. Differentiation

Schackleford encourages nonprofits to brand themselves strategically because, this “is how you set yourself apart and stand out from the competition. It ensures you don’t look, sound, feel, and act like everyone else.”

How has branding helped your nonprofit?