Listen: Design Guide for Non-Profits

Third in our ongoing series where we discuss some of the issues non-profits organizations face with Jenny and Laura of Alexander | Carrillo Consulting. Listen is the focus of this post.

  • Not listening to the experts you hire.
    Or maybe it is the board not listening to the person running the project. 

We see it in all types or organizations where people are really invested in the process. When a small business grows, the people who used to do all-the-jobs have to let go of control…and that is never easy. 

Remember that you hired someone else because you knew this was not something your organization could do in-house. If you did your due diligence and hired a good fit, keep working at the communication. The best relationships take time, and investing in a team that really understands your mission and vision will pay off in the long run. It can be a good strategy to hire a new team to do a small project first. Get to know them and their process before hiring someone to do a major positioning project fresh out of the gate. 

If your experts are still insisting on a different take, maybe it is time to listen. Their outside perspective may be reacting to something you are too close to see. If you work in phases and agree on the demographic, details and voice, then the specifics really are a matter of opinion. You hired them for theirs. 

Jenny and Laura suggest a few experts your non-profit may need. 

  • Writer. A skilled writer who is also good at interviewing clients, and aware of current issues that matter to your donors/readers. Should your publications be careful about not portraying your clients as victims? Is your writer aware of what the current correct terms are in your field? Do you need to be careful not to alienate part of your demographic?
  • Photographer. While a great photographer is expensive, quality photos really can sell an organization. At the very least, designate someone whose sole job at an event is to take photos. Consider creating a photo guide in conjunction with your creative team, to clarify what photos are needed and how they should be framed. We can’t tell you the number of times we received a nearly perfect, but unusable photo from a client, because the top of a person’s head was cropped off!
  • Web designer and web maintenance package. As Jenny and Laura noted in “Know The Purpose Of Your Publications,”  you should never skimp on your website. Donors will look you up and expect to see why they should give you their money. 
  • Graphic design team. Sometimes this can be the same as your website team, which will streamline coordination.  Your graphic designers know how to communicate visually so that your audience is compelled to participate in your event or fundraiser. Your intern with a Canva account probably does not. We can also help to create a package of tools for your team to use in Canva for quick social media posts and documents that don’t need a professional. 
  • Social Media manager. If you have decided to use social media, it takes time. Who is going to do that? Do they have the time and resources they need to do it right?
  • Marketing/Public Relations 
  • Fundraising Consultant. Take your organization to the next level. 

Jenny and Laura remember with sadness the really great branding ideas that a consultant was paid a lot of money to create, get thrown out the window in lieu of a not-so-great idea a board member had in the shower. Make sure you have set up expectations within your organization so that your opinionated leaders understand they are letting go of control on this. 

Create a small team for approval and input to your consultants. Get general input early on, and create a list of requirements. Do not allow the board to revisit these early decisions once that ship has sailed. Do let your consultants know what is non-negotiable from leadership. For your own sanity, choose your battles and know who you are battling with. 

Look for points of agreement. Beware of the “Kitchen Sink” dilemma where people all want to include THEIR piece of the organization front and center. Every publication has its own function and priority and hierarchy is really important to creating clear, compelling communication with your donors and clients. And finally, never ever do design or copywriting by committee. 

Listen Reminders:

  • Hire people you trust and build the relationship
  • Let the people who are best at the job do the job
  • Get buy in early from leaders higher up.
  • Create guides for in-house teams
  • No design or copywriting by committee