In a recent e-Gazette Q and A column, I screwed up. A member asked about how they might change the national logo for local use. Attempting to keep things simple, I ignored (actually, I just forgot) a relevant National Resolution. This column will re-visit and clarify the rules for everyone – I hope! – as we think about how the public views the Society locally and beyond.
Some people believe that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is just the parish or thrift store down the street, having no idea that we are a nationwide, much less global, organization. Others see us only as a major nonprofit and forget that we are a collection of usually parish-centric groups of their neighbors helping neighbors. Identifying marks, or logos, can clarify or confuse this situation when we use multiple versions of the same design. When we choose very different logos to represent the same organization, we certainly confuse the public when they venture from one city to another or from state to state.
This was recognized in 2006 when our National Council adopted National Resolution 11 at its Annual Meeting. Here is most of its wording:
- The name and the Logo of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are protected and the exclusive property of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council of the United States.
- Use of the name and the logo can only be approved by the National Executive Director, who is the designated agent for Council of United States in this matter.
- The Dimensions, Shape, Color, Font Style, Copy and Placement of the logo and the name are governed by specifications determined by the National Council.
- The approval and authorization to use the name and or logo can only be secured through a written request and provided by a written response. Properly established Conferences and Councils are permitted to use the Society’s name and logo consistent with this policy.
Okay, so what this means is that if your Council or Conference wants to replace the word “U.S.A.” at the bottom of the national logo with your local city, you need the written (email is fine) permission of the National CEO to do so. This is required to maintain our trademark consistency and legal rights to protect our marks against fraudulent uses by others. Believe me, after nine years of battling other groups who have used our name and images for non-Society uses, even for good purposes, I can testify just how important this protection is for all of us in the Society. Others highly value the brand of the Society in our ability to raise funds, collect and sell used goods, and to be recognized for many types of charitable works.
Note that this Resolution was created before the current tax exemption policy for the Society. Therefore, another element needs to be considered, that of the “controlling” tax exempt status of the requesting Society group. For example, if a District Council wants its own version of the national logo, and it is organized under a Diocesan Council, then it also needs the permission of the Diocesan Council to avoid local confusion. The same goes for a Conference under its higher Council/s.
Any change to the national logo, whether it be temporary wording for a special event, or a color for a special day, or additional design elements that touch the existing design, changes the trademarked work and damages our ability to protect our rights are discouraged. All of us have a shared responsibility to maintain and protect the design as it is, and to change it only with specific permission as described above. I promise to help you navigate any questions you may have on logo permissions. We also have branding and logo specifics to help you under the “Resources” tab of the Members page of our national website. Click here to access now.
We will delete the Q and A entry from our archive. I am reminded that one of my roles is “Keeper of the Logo” which sounds like a Marvel movie character. Gee, I wonder who will play me in the next Avengers film?
Yours in Christ,