DESIGNING FOR NONPROFITS 101

by Gina Ortega

Let’s say that you’re a seasoned designer but have never dabbled in the nonprofit realm. Even though there are 1.5 million tax-exempt nonprofits in the US alone, it's possible you might not have the experience. You may be asking yourself, well, where do I start? How do I approach this sector differently compared to other types I’ve worked with in the past? It’s easy to want to treat it like any other business and fall victim to your own comfort zone, but it’s important to approach it with a different perspective as nonprofits have more limitations than other types of businesses. 

 

While they share some similarities to small businesses and startups in regards to budget, there are other aspects that you will need to consider before plunging head first into a nonprofit design project. Knowing the budget is important, but other factors like knowing their purpose as well as being able to focus on their impact versus competition will help you understand how to design for them.

 

Purpose driven with a people first mindset

 

It’s common knowledge that nonprofits are in the business of people, not products. As a designer, it’s easy to sometimes lose sight of that by only focusing on the end goal instead of the overall impact the project will have. Will your actions have a direct impact on a community? Could it make or break a campaign they’ve been working on? Having that weight on your shoulders is something that can be intimidating, but as long as you consider all aspects of the project and what it means to the people it will directly impact, you will be able to successfully encapsulate the vision they had. Authenticity will be the overall guiding principle to help you convey the vision the nonprofit had when they started this venture.

 

Budget conscious without giving up the vision

 

We know there are going to be limitations when working with nonprofits, but that shouldn’t mean they should have to suffer with lack of quality. Being willing to work for the good of the cause and how you’re positively impacting it will have to be your main priority. Volunteering time, whether it be with projects or actually working with the people to understand their mission can be insightful as well as personally rewarding. Taking the time to work with the people who know the cause best can help guide you when trying to get the right perspective on the project. Additionally, you have to be able to work effectively while staying conservative with the budget. Being prepared to give a little extra by volunteering your time to meet the design standards you’re used to delivering as well as what the client is expecting is going to be the most important aspect you’ll need to consider.

 

Setting realistic expectations is key

 

Speaking of budgets, something to be cognizant of is having the conversation about expectations early on in the project talks. Having a creative brief will be one of the best ways to get this done efficiently and will be able to help answer any questions you may have before starting. Not only will it answer questions about the scope of the project, but also what specific expectations are able to be realistically met based on the timeline given. At the Marketing Orchard, we do our due diligence to make sure that we go over all the details necessary to make the design process as easy and transparent as possible. You don’t want to be halfway into the design process and then be made aware at the last minute of a time consuming addition that could derail the budget and put extra pressure on the production capacity. 

 

Efficiency and authenticity is what will drive you to the finish line with a project to be proud of. As long as you are leading with integrity and honesty with the ability to put people first, your end product will have a lasting impact on the nonprofits present and future. If you need assistance on your next project or know of a nonprofit that is in need of design work, please contact us at the Marketing Orchard today!