It might have originated in the business world, but branding is now as vital to the charity sector as it is to business. And at a time when money is tight and set to get tighter, the importance of having a well-known brand that gives out the right signals has rarely been higher.
Although it might seem charity brands are less likely to be affected by events and the eddies of popular opinion that hit some companies, as was the case with BP, this year's Charity Brand Index shows there's plenty of change in how people feel about different charities from year to year.
Last year, for example, Macmillan Cancer Support topped the Charity Brand Index - but it has slipped down to fourth place this time, leaving Cancer Research UK, last year's runner-up, to claim the top spot.
Ian Barrow, director of charities and public sector at Harris Interactive, the market research firm that conducted the research for the index for Third Sector and PRWeek, says CRUK has improved its activities in several ways since the 2009 survey.
"It rose to the top of the rankings with the support of its TV advertising, built around case studies and giving the positive message 'together we will beat cancer'," he says. "The style of these adverts fed the need for rational messaging to explain the need for giving, while tapping into the emotional drivers, creating resonance with the viewer and allowing the advertising and the cause to be seen as relevant."
Other charities also made big gains. The Royal British Legion has made people more aware of its work in the past 12 months, which has contributed to its rise from number 19 in the brand index to joint seventh. Another forces charity - SSAFA Forces Help - made the biggest leap, jumping 14 places to joint 46th in the brand index ranking.
Breast Cancer Care performed well- it was joint sixth on questions of distinctiveness and rose 10 places in the listing. "It is striking that it has a ranking equal to the NSPCC on distinctiveness," notes Barrow.
There have also been big falls. The National Deaf Children's Society dropped 31 places, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, which rebranded this year, dropped 24 places to end up at number 57, and Christian Aid fell 20 places to sit at number 52.
This year also saw some new entries to the brand index, which now covers 125 charities, compared with the 100 examined last year. The highest of these was Help for Heroes, which has established itself as one of the country's top 20 charity brands.
As well as assessing individual charities, the brand index highlights some wider shifts in how the public sees the sector. Looking at the averages for the 125 charities included in the brand index, it appears that they are increasingly trusted, but fewer people think they spend their money well.
There is also a decline in the average percentage of the 3,203 people surveyed who say they will donate to the charities in the index in the next 12 months - from 39.15 per cent in 2009 to 36.3 per cent in 2010. And fewer people say they care about the charities' causes: the average percentage agreeing with the statement "I care about this charity's cause" was 40.12 per cent in 2009, but fell to 38.71 per cent this year.
The index suggests, as it did last year, that charities connected to the royal family are viewed as more trustworthy by the public. "The charitable organisations that score most highly on trust in the index are those that have 'royal' in the title or support the armed forces," says Barrow.
Indeed, the two most trusted charities in the brand index, which scored equally well, are the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign and SSAFA Forces Help.
In contrast, international aid charities performed less well this year than they did in 2009. Of the 12 aid charities that appeared in last year's brand index, only Save the Children and WaterAid managed to improve their positions, while the rest fell. As well as falling 20 places in the overall index, Christian Aid is now the third least trusted charity out of the 125 - only Muslim Aid and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society scored lower.
Barrow says such poor performance could bode ill for any hard times ahead: "What we at Harris have learned from the consumer and corporate sectors is that strong brands find it easier to ride out recessions and retain their trust and customer base."
The full list of the Charity Brand Index top 125 will be available on 7 October. Visit www.charitybrandindex.com for the rankings.
The Charity Brand Index is an annual research report, produced by Third Sector, PRWeek and Harris Interactive, that gauges the public's views on the top 125 charity brands. A total of 3,203 UK adults took part in the survey.