The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Branding Budgets

This is how much organizations of different sizes should plan to invest in branding.

By Deroy Peraza, Partner at Hyperakt

There is a stunning lack of clarity out there around how much nonprofits should invest in branding. Quick searches online yield results that are all over the map with estimates over-indexing for small nonprofits. This is not without reason — according to Guidestar, 84% of nonprofits are small, with operating budgets of less than $1M. But this presents a drastically distorted view for the 134K nonprofits with larger — sometimes much, much larger — operating budgets and more complex branding challenges.

A colorful illustration of a person in a spacesuit standing on a small planet, holding a map. Three rockets in red, yellow, and blue are flying in different directions through a vibrant starry sky. The scene is whimsical and imaginative.

Illustration by Merit Myers

Equally, the definitions of what constitutes a branding project can be wide-ranging. Most easy-to-find estimates represent the cost of logos and basic visual design system rather than thinking about branding more holistically as the combination of brand strategy, verbal identity, visual identity, digital, and brand rollout.

In Request for Proposal (RFP) processes, neither party likes to show their cards, for fear of underbilling or overpaying, but both need more information to know where they stand. Yes, talking about money is awkward, but the alternative is feeling like you’re in the dark when embarking on a critically consequential investment for your organization. It's really hard to make a business case for a rebrand if you're missing that critical bit of information.

Over the years, Hyperakt has priced hundreds of projects for nonprofits of all sizes. We thought it would be helpful to unpack what we’ve learned and to provide a framework for thinking about your organization’s rebrand budget.

Not All Rebrands Are the Same

Let’s start with some basics. There are a few common-sense variables that have the greatest impact on determining the budget of a rebrand:

  1. The size and complexity of the organization. A relatively young organization with a staff of fewer than 20 is very different from a well-established organization with a staff of hundreds. With the latter, there is more history to make sense of, more people to align, and more risk to mitigate. Facilitating, executing, and rolling out a rebrand successfully requires more effort for larger, legacy organizations than for smaller, newer ones. Operating budget tends to be the easiest proxy for determining an organization’s complexity.

  2. The degree of change the rebrand is trying to communicate. A complete strategic repositioning and brand transformation is a much more involved process than a brand refresh intended to more accurately reflect the promise and personality the organization’s staff already know to be true. A rebrand to communicate a new mission, new approach, or a restructuring of program areas is more involved than a rebrand with the primary goal of establishing a flexible, well-documented design system. The extent of the real-world change at the organization greatly impacts the effort and the deliverables involved in a rebrand.

  3. The reach and ubiquity of your brand. If the functional needs of a brand are to communicate with a focused audience in a few specific channels, you will need a less complex set of branding tools and assets than if your brand has a large public presence across multiple channels.

To estimate projects, we use Candid’s Guidestar to identify the operating budget of each new organization that reaches out to us. This helps get a quick read on their complexity. Then, we ask qualifying questions to identify how big of a shift the rebrand represents and how extensive the brand needs to be.

There are an infinite number of permutations of these three variables, but they are useful in establishing some general budget ranges for reference, which are much more realistic than oversimplifying nonprofit branding budgets in a monolithic way.

Generally, more people, more legacy, more change, and more channels means more time needed to wrestle with the fundamental questions at the heart of an organization’s brand. More time means more money.

Operating Budgets As a Reference Point

Operating budgets are the go-to measure for establishing capacity and budgets for organizations of different sizes.

If you lead a nonprofit communications team, you might already be used to thinking of your general marketing budget in this way. Larger organizations typically set aside 5%–15% of their total operating expenses for marketing. If your annual operating budget is $50M, that’s $2.5–$7.5M. Smaller organizations might set aside a higher percentage: about 10%–20% to be able to cover basic marketing needs. If your nonprofit has an operating budget of $100K and you only set aside 5% for marketing, you’ll find $5K won’t get you very far. The baseline costs of even DIY branding, websites, and collateral will likely cost you more than that. If your organization has a still relatively small operating budget of $1M, you’re probably spending $100-$200K on marketing. This percentage can vary widely depending on the size, mission, and stage of growth of the organization, but it’s a pretty good guidepost for reference.

Operating budget is also a good shorthand for staffing communications teams. According to the 2024 Nonprofit Communication Trends Report, smaller organizations with annual budgets under $1M devote on average 21% of their total staff to communications, which translates to about one staff member. Midsize organizations with annual budgets between $1M and $10M devote 10% of their total staff to communication, which translates to about two staff members. Larger organizations with annual budgets above $10M devote 4% or less of their total staff to communications, which translates to four staff members for a $20M nonprofit and 10 staff members for a $100M nonprofit.

We tend to think of branding efforts as capacity building — your brand provides the infrastructure for your communication and marketing efforts. So it’s illuminating to think of branding not as a marketing line item, but rather as a capital expenditure that should yield a significant return on investment. For some organizations, branding budgets might come directly out of their marketing budgets; for others it might come out of their reserve funds or from their board.

Regardless of the funding source, we’ll use operating budgets as a proxy to establish costs for rebranding projects.

Budget Guide for Rebranding

Before we dive into the numbers, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • These numbers are informed by the budgets we’ve seen in the hundreds of incoming nonprofit branding RFPs we’ve reviewed over the years, as well as by conversations we’ve had with clients about projects we’ve competed for or won.

  • For context, we’ve also included the number of organizations for each range registered with the Internal Revenue Service with 501(c) nonprofit status according to Guidestar in 2024. This should help in situating where your organization fits and how many other organizations are operating at a similar scale.

  • The fee ranges for each operating budget level are agency fees only. It’s important to recognize that rebranding efforts require a lot of engagement from your organization’s staff. The cost of that time is not included in these fee ranges.

  • These fees assume the scope of a rebranding effort can include brand strategy, verbal identity, visual identity, an updated organizational website, and preparing your team to roll the new brand out, but the depth and complexity of these deliverables increase substantially with each level of operating budget.

  • The low to high ranges at each level reflect how big of a shift the rebrand represents and how extensive the brand needs to be. A brand refresh might not need to address the full range of deliverables above, while a brand engaging in a deeper repositioning and transformation might require more deliverables. A brand with limited channels might be on the low end of the range, while one with broader reach and more channels to consider might be on the high end of the range.

  • Foundations and philanthropies, which can have very large endowments in the millions or billions of dollars, might have relatively low annual operating budgets. This puts them in a position to invest more heavily in branding than their operating budgets might suggest if there is a strategic imperative to do so.

Without further ado, here’s our Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Branding Budgets:

Nonprofit Annual Operating Budget

Number of Nonprofits in the US

Agency Fee Ranges for a Rebrand

Average Timelines

Under $500K



1–3 months




3–6 months




3–6 months




3–6 months




6 months–1 year




6 months–1 year




1 year–2 years

Over $100M



2+ years

There You Have It

After digesting these budgets you might be thinking “This makes total sense! This is so helpful.” Or you might be thinking “Dang, rebranding is expensive!” There’s truth in both.

What the table above hopefully makes clear is that your investment should be in scale with the size and scope of your organization, with the amount of change you need to communicate, and with the extent of the reach you’re aiming to have.

If you’re investing in branding above your organization’s means, there should be a very clear strategic and financial reason for doing so. If you’re investing below your organization’s means, your brand might actually be creating friction rather than momentum on the path to fulfilling your mission.

Another thing to consider is that branding projects for organizations at different levels of operating budget require different agency partners. The partner who is well suited to work with you on a nimble $5K rebrand for a small startup nonprofit probably won’t be well set up to tackle a $200K rebrand for a large, complex organization, and vice versa. These challenges require different kinds of expertise and approaches. Here, it’s not so much a question of size, but one of experience. To give an example: At Hyperakt, we’re a small team of fewer than 10, but our skillset and our decades of experience navigating the dynamics of nonprofit teams and how they fit into the ecosystem of social change, make us particularly well suited to work with more complex organizations like the Ford Foundation, NYCLU, or The New York Community Trust. We recognize that while at other points in our history, we were better suited to work with much smaller organizations, there are others who are better suited to do so now. Like nonprofits, creative agencies also have specific roles to play in the ecosystem of change.

Rebranding is a big deal, with big payoffs for your team and for your organization’s mission. If you suspect your organization would benefit from a rebrand but are overwhelmed by these estimates, I would urge you to consider what it’s already costing your organization to not invest in a rebrand so you can begin building your business case for doing so.

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