5 Benefits of Good Graphic Design for Nonprofits

5 Benefits of Good Graphic Design for Nonprofits


People see the design of a piece before they ever read it. That’s true for all materials whether in print or online. So the design of that piece impacts your audiences’ first impression. It effects how your viewer processes the information (or whether or not they take the time to read it at all). In short, graphic design matters.

Here are just a few of the benefits of good graphic design for nonprofits.


1. Make the complex simple.

Good design will break down a complex message into something that is easy to understand and communicate.

For example, one of our clients, CASE (Colorado Association of School Executives) originally had a membership flyer where they explained the 10 reasons to join. We found that 10 was too many to really absorb and remember, so we helped them break that down even further into 3 pillars of service: Legislative & Advocacy Services, Professional Learning, and Communications & Networking. Each of those original 10 reasons fit within the 3 pillars. That one additional step in messaging, aided by good design, made it easier to understand and communicate.

Here are the icons:
CASE (Colorado Association of School Executive) pillar icons


And here, you can flip through the overview brochure (by clicking the arrows) to see how we used a spread for each pillar.

You can see the full case study here.


2. Engage your audience.

How many times have you received a newsletter, email or annual report from one of your favorite organizations, but it looks like it will take more than a couple minutes to read, so you put it down thinking “I’ll get back to that”, and that time never came?

You could put hours into crafting the best copy, but if it looks like work to read it, very few will actually take the time. What a waste of time and resources!

Incorporating eye-catching imagery, highlighting facts, and enlarging pull-quotes will help your viewer skim, get interested by a few things, and be enticed to read further. And by making sure to highlight the most important information you want your audience to know, you can be sure that they get your key points even if they aren’t able to come back and read the full piece.

A great example of this is the 24-page magazine we designed for The Center’s 35th Anniversary. Here is just one spread.


See how we broke everything into bite-size pieces?

The idea is that the viewer would open it up and see a headline here, an interesting fact there, an engaging photo with caption there and be drawn in to spend more time with it.

The result? Outstanding.

The magazine was unveiled at their Gala and, unfortunately, the wait staff cleared some of the magazines during the dancing portion of the night. Our client was amazed by the large number of people coming up to her at the event and calling/emailing her in the following weeks asking for another copy! This was a great indication that the content was good and the design was engaging enough to actually make them want to read it. (See the full case study here.)


3. Communicate your professionalism.

People subconsciously look for design to tell them how to think and feel about something before they ever read a word. If your print materials or website look unprofessional or amateur, that communicates to your audience that your organization is unprofessional or amateur. They may really like the cause you are supporting, but wonder if there is another organization that would put their donation to a better use.

On the flipside, if your materials look professional, consistent and well organized, they will think, “Okay, my first impression is that this organization knows what they are doing. Let’s learn more.”


4. Raise more money.

Ultimately, that is what all nonprofits are trying to do. Raise more money, so you can serve more people. And design will impact those efforts in a few ways:


A) Present you as a trustworthy, well-managed and effective organization.

According to a 2011 study by the Colorado Nonprofit Association, trust and knowing that an organization is well-managed and effective were two very important factors in choosing an organization to support.

While, good design is only one of the factors that impact this perception, it can’t be ignored. Reread #3.


B) Drive donations with clear calls to action.

On your website, the donate button should be easy to find, above the fold and in a consistent place as your user navigates your site. (And worth noting, the actual payment process should be fast and easy to use.)

On your print materials, if the goal of the piece is drive the donor to give, make sure the design highlights that ask and gives clear instruction on how to do so.


C) Consistently designed campaigns work.

Great donor campaigns take an integrated approach, using a variety of mediums to touch your audience. The key is that each piece must have a consistent design so that our audience remembers and links them together. They may get your email, then see your post in their Facebook feed, and then receive a direct mail piece. By having a all of these pieces consistently designed, they build recognition and drive action.


5. Set your organization apart from your competition.

There are approximately 28,000 nonprofits in the state of Colorado, with another 15,000 or so having filed for nonprofit status with the IRS as of 2010. (Yikes!)

As a nonprofit, you may not like to think of other organizations as competition, but with so many vying for donor attention, it’s impossible to ignore. So use good design to show the impact you are making and highlight what sets your apart.

Need help using design effectively for your organization? We are design geeks and would love to help. So contact us today!


Jami Fassett

Jami Fassett

I am a brand strategist passionate about using my time, talent and 12 years of experience to help people and communities. That is why I started Up and Up Creative, to help nonprofits use the power of branding to reach more people, raise more money and do more good.

Learn more

Follow Me:

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn0Share on Google+0Email this to someonePin on Pinterest2