Purpose: Design guide for non-profits

Purpose: Non-profit design guide.

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

  • Not knowing what your publications are supposed to do for your organization.
    You know you need an annual report, but never know what to put into it. 

The biggest mistake we see is that organizations lose sight of who they are communicating with. Each piece of the puzzle has a different audience and a different purpose. You may be “selling” your accomplishments to donors, your services to your clients or your organization to volunteers and new hires. One brochure is NOT going to accomplish all that very efficiently.  When an organization gets really clear on the purpose and audience all sorts of content and hierarchy fall into place. 

Jenny and Laura remind us that “your website is so much more important than it’s ever been. Invest there. Can’t scrimp on the website!” Donors will look there first to see if their money is used well. Make sure it is clear and easy to navigate. Remember it must look good on a phone too. A website is not the place for wordiness and an outdated look is going to reflect badly on your organization. 

Social Media might be useful for your organization, but it might not. If your donors are on Facebook, you probably should be too. It can be a great place to advertise events and get your donors to feel engaged. Remember you don’t “own” content there, so make sure content is tied to your website. Instagram and Twitter reach different demographics. All require time and regular updates. Old information that looks like you just wandered away is worse than not being there at all. You don’t have to be everywhere. 

Your annual report shouldn’t be used for just one-time, distribution and mailing. You use it all year long when meeting with donors. It is your brag sheet! Jenny and Laura have lots of tips. Save money by only doing a limited print run for the top, targeted demographic, plus some overrun for sharing in donor meetings during the year. Add a digital version to your website and send the bulk of them as an email. No need to list all the names of your donors. The inevitable misspelling or omission outweighs the benefits of including the names. Annual reports are a great example of a piece that should have continuity and feel like a collection when viewed together. Remember that in general, an older audience is reading this report, and it probably isn’t the place for your most cutting edge design efforts. (Unless that speaks to your donors.) 

A brochure can be many things, including old-school reflex. It used to be de rigueur to have a brochure, but ask yourself many questions. Where will you leave it? Does it need to fit in a rack in a hotel lobby? Who is it for? Does an email campaign do that better? Is a bookmark more memorable? Are you already producing a publication that does this job? Does your service client really need a brochure or is it really intended for the professional who refers the client? Or really, is your client base secure and you really need a piece to convince donors. Depending on the function it could be a typical informational tri-fold (be sure it is readable!) or maybe this is a place to get creative with a golf related gift that includes a url for the tournament sign up form. 

Newsletters are a great opportunity to update your base, and make them feel like they are part of the solution. Research shows that producing in multi-channels is important, as in segmenting and targeting. Be sure to ask your donors how they want to be contacted. Some may love getting a print piece, but others may think that looks like a waste of money. Perhaps you could try publishing your quarterly newsletter three times in a digital format and only one in print? Test the response because what people say they want isn’t always what works.  Don’t overcommit to more issues than you can reasonably produce. How often do you really have newsworthy content to share? If you are banking stories and photos, you will never have to search for something to say. 

Purpose Reminders:

  • Don’t scrimp on your website!
  • Use your annual report all year.
  • Think about how your brochure will be used.
  • Newsletter doesn’t have to be print or the same format every issue
  • You don’t have to “be everywhere” with social media posts.

Copywriting: Jenni Pagano
Graphics: Julie Ray