We’ve recently been in conversations with two different faith-based clients — one long-time, the other one brand new — about establishing a communications plan for the year and setting budgets and priorities.

Both times it was hard to have a discussion because of the elephant honking from the center of the conference table. What was all the noise about? Logos. Both have logos that no longer meet their needs.

Each organization has compensated by dropping the logo from their website and hiding it on the back cover of their printed materials. “Is this the right time to change our logo,” they asked us, “especially when our funds are so limited?”

Obviously, when an organization is new, visual branding has to be a top priority. But as organizations grow and change — what then?

Here are three ways that you know it’s time to circle back and invest in your visual branding.

1. It’s time for a change when your logo ceases to match your mission and vision 
One of our clients, Saint Luke Institute (SLI), achieved international recognition for its healing ministry to clergy and men and women religious. It has become a trusted resource for Church leaders on issues that require special expertise and sensitivity.

The Institute had reached a point in its development when its success outgrew its visual branding. Print materials had no unified message or approach; online capabilities were limited and outdated. SLI was preparing to launch a new institute to expand its human formation services, e-learning resources, and counseling centers. It was time for an overhaul, and there was energy and readiness for change. 

In this case we recognized that the original logo had an earned value that should be used instead of discarded. We suggested a logo refresh instead of a complete redesign. Be aware that this approach sometimes can be more challenging than creating a totally new look. The “refreshed” logo, however, is a successful blend of old and new that clearly reinforces SLI’s Catholic identity and builds on its core values of compassion, respect, and healing hope. 

2. It’s time for a change when you find yourself saying, “It’s good enough.”
Almost universal access to design software has shifted branding towards do-it-yourself solutions. Logos are no exception. We’ve seen a steady decline in the quality of visual branding as more and more organizations opt to use materials created by administrative or evelopment support staff instead of design professionals. Maybe this sounds like sour grapes coming from a communications firm, but think about it. Effective design simply doesn’t exist without a basis in strong marketing practices and fundraising strategies. “Good enough” just isn’t good enough when the competition for attention and donor dollars is so fierce.

3. It’s time for a change when you really want to lead the online conversation.
Another client struggling with the logo question recently said, “Do we even need a logo? We don’t print letterhead anymore.” The value of a strong visual brand is more important than ever today. Try to establish a compelling page on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a blog without one. The list of online marketing options is exploding and so is the need for good, solid branding. 

We realize that budgets have been slashed. You’re expected to do more and more with scarce resources. But the visual branding of your organization is foundational. And there are additional benefits. Working through the visual identity development process will help you take an honest look at how you’re perceived, clarify your organization’s unique value, and provide a powerful set of marketing tools to help you tell your story. If you start with the right visual brand, you’ll be amazed at how other marketing and fundraising decisions and actions fall into place.