Vision: Design guide for non-profits

First in our ongoing series where we discuss some of the issues non-profits organizations face with Jenny and Laura of Alexander | Carrillo Consulting

  • No clear vision about what you need before jumping right into a project. Your publications should be planned out ahead of time.You need to know who you are trying to reach, and what you are “selling.”

Jenny and Laura say that the nonprofit must get clear internally before starting the project. It requires a lot more thinking, planning, and visioning than people expect. On a  concrete level, this manifests as attempting to get started with a new brochure without having written the copy. You will pay for corrections and missed creative opportunities because the designer didn’t know your actual focus.

You can and should work with your design team well before the copy is due. We can help you get clarity on your focus, estimate  how much text is needed, and give you tools to get buy-in from the executive director or board BEFORE jumping into the project. 

Identify your team members. These might be within your organization, but make sure they know their role and have the tools they need. You might contract with fundraising consultants, designers, a copywriter, photographer/videographer. (Julie Ray Creative can help you find creative people!) Or maybe you need a photo guide for your interns to take photos at events. A mobile phone can take great website pictures, if the person behind the camera knows what is needed. 

Finding a design team that fits your organization may take more time than you expect but in the long run will be worthwhile. Do remember it takes work on both sides to create the relationship. Jenny and Laura told us of one client who has fired multiple creative professionals, suggesting that perhaps the problem wasn’t with the designers but rather with the nonprofit not being clear enough. If you find yourself never satisfied with those you hire, it may be time to reexamine your expectations.

Meet with your creative team early to plan ahead. Usually, you know what projects you will be working on during the year, and with a planning session in advance you can start to collect your stories early. 

Laura says, “We tell clients not to wait until six weeks before the newsletter to get stories and photographs – you can’t force that or make it happen on a deadline. Do it all year round.” She calls this “story banking.”

By planning ahead you can save the RIGHT kind of information and take the right photos. No more trying to find a client to get a publication authorization form or realizing that the only photo taken at the event cuts off the featured speaker’s head and now you have nothing for the newsletter. 

Your organization’s materials are probably pretty predictable year after year.  You likely will have an annual report, a newsletter, an event promotion, a few blog posts or social media posts, maybe a fundraising campaign. There is no reason these should surprise you near the deadline. Planning ahead will help you develop more interesting themes and tie events together. At least during the project, plan ahead for all phases since it is much more cost efficient to create similar graphics in many sizes all at one time. If you know you are creating a digital-only newsletter, maybe you will want to include a video or a recorded interview, and you can prepare that early instead of wishing “Ooohhh I wish we had thought of that before the event!”

  • Plan your publications ahead
  • Bank your stories and photos
  • Gather your team
  • Look like you totally know what you are doing, because you DO!

Copywriting: Jenni Pagano
Graphics: Julie Ray