How to Handle Your Nonprofit’s Graphic Design Like A Pro
Graphic design is an important component of a nonprofit marketing plan. It can help improve nonprofit communication and reiterate your brand through visual elements like a logo, letterhead, images, brochures, or even your website. Graphic design has the ability to evoke specific emotions that are memorable.
Even if you cannot afford a graphic designer, there are some fantastic techniques out there to help build your brand through graphic design.
Let’s get right into it, shall we?
- What Does Graphic Design Mean for Your Nonprofit?
- 1. Create your Nonprofit’s Graphic Charter
- 2. Choose the Right Tool for You
- 3. Adapt your Design
- 4. Select Images with Care
- 5. Get Inspired
What Does Graphic Design Mean for Your Nonprofit?
The logos and designs you choose for your nonprofit marketing plan should be eye-catching, well-designed, and appropriate for your specific messaging. Additionally, all designs, websites for nonprofits, presentation tools, and even nonprofit email signature lines need to be in sync with your messaging so that they convey what your nonprofit does and what you stand for.
Communication and marketing strengthen the message you want to convey while graphic design brings your message to life with visual elements. One is just as important as the other even if we tend to see graphic design as an expensive luxury. Strong graphic design elements help nonprofits create a lasting impression so people remember your organization.
Here are some examples where you can utilize graphic design in your nonprofit:
Social media posts
Printed materials like brochures, flyers, and solicitation letters
Other marketing materials that you use
Pro Tip: For important materials such as your logo or your website, we highly recommend hiring a professional graphic designer. It is an investment, but the quality of the results will definitely be worth it. You can find freelance graphic designers on platforms such as Upwork, Malt, or Fiverr.
1. Create your Nonprofit’s Graphic Charter
A nonprofit graphic charter is a guidebook for how to incorporate graphic design rules for cohesiveness across all platforms. The main objective behind a graphic charter is to promote consistency between all of your departments.
Having a charter will let you create a strong brand image that allows brand recognition and recall.
Sam is putting together a graphic charter for his nonprofit!
For example, if your team is preparing a fundraising dossier, your charter will help ensure that figures you receive from marketing mirror the look and feel of the separate pieces of information from the volunteer department. A consistent look and feel to all data and presentation materials will keep your team looking like the professionals they are.
2. Choose the Right Tool for You
There are numerous tools that you can use to create powerful nonprofit graphic designs. You can exclusively use one tool or combine other tools in addition to what you are currently using.
Here are some of the best graphic design tools on the market:
The Adobe Suite of programs includes Photoshop, Indesign, and Illustrator. These programs usually are reserved for professional graphic designers and can be utilized effectively by people who are familiar with them. While these programs are best-in-class, they do have a fairly steep learning curve.
If you are in a rush to create flyers and are not familiar with the use of these tools, you may want to opt for something more simple (more on that below). Another important thing to consider before using Adobe is that the cost to purchase and maintain the software can be quite expensive. Before deciding, make sure that you do a quick price analysis to ensure the value matches the investment.
Pro Tip: Adobe may offer a discount for certain organizations. Before purchasing, ensure you scope out their pricing discounts and programs page to see if your nonprofit qualifies.
If you are looking for something that is easier to use compared to the Adobe Suite, Canva for nonprofits is the right tool for you. With plenty of professionally designed templates to choose from, you do not need to have a lot of graphic design knowledge to use it, and use it well! It is extremely simple, super accessible, and a more affordable option as a free plan is available.
Pro Tip: Thinking about moving forward with Canva? Do not forget to fill out the Canva nonprofit application!
Figma is a web-based graphic editing tool that is also a user interface design application. You can create websites, social media posts, designs, and even mobile apps. Since it is web-based, it can work directly on your browser which makes it cost-effective because you do not have to buy software or purchase licenses. Additionally, Figma is a collaborative software which means that multiple people can work on the same project, at the same time! Great for those who have multiple creatives in one team.
Note that Figma has a learning curve, although not quite as steep as Adobe’s. Also, while Figma, unfortunately, does not offer a discount for nonprofits, there is a free version of the software that all organizations can use.
You can use the Prezi free trial offer to create presentations, charts, reports, maps, and infographics. It is very similar to Powerpoint but has unique features and more eye-catching designs. More nonprofits use Prezi because it is easy to use and the results are impressive. Check out this Prezi presentation example to see the site in action.
3. Adapt your Design
Your graphic design principles may not fit all marketing channels. For example, the process of designing a poster is not the same as creating a social media post. You have to keep in mind the medium where you are presenting each design and ensure that it is properly formatted for optimal viewing.
For example, when designing for social media for nonprofits, make sure that the graphic can be seen and properly sized. It also has to be mobile-friendly for people who are looking on their phones.
4. Select Images with Care
The images selected should be tasteful and relevant. Pictures have a way to engage viewers in ways that words simply can’t. Effective branding and images that reflect your nonprofit’s goals and mission will lead to an increase in donors, volunteer base and contribute to your nonprofit’s overall success.
Sadie is feeling good about her graphic design choices.
For images that you use in different marketing channels, consider the use of vector images. Vector icons, which are combinations of geometric shapes like curves, lines, and polygons combined together to create stunning images, are best suited for company logos, banner ads, or other graphics that might require scaling.
When it comes to sourcing pictures, you can hire a professional photographer to take photos, or you can source them through a free image bank online. Here are examples of sites that have free stock images for nonprofits that you can use:
Getty Images for nonprofits
5. Get Inspired
Graphic design and images that you use should be inspiring. In order to come up with touching and emphatic graphic design that will convey your message, getting inspired yourself is the number one step!
Keeping up with nonprofit trends is key to finding inspiration. There is something new every day, sometimes even by the hour. Finding inspiration in trends will offer a newer and fresher perspective.
If you like a nonprofit or a different charities’ design, take a deep dive into how they came up with this aesthetic and seek inspiration for your own organization It is completely okay to look at other businesses’ designs and logos but you should never copy their work.
Looking for additional inspiration? Try other social media sites like Pinterest or Behance. Type in various keywords about what you are looking to convey and let the search results feed your creativity.
You can also get inspiration and tips from the people who are most passionate about your nonprofit, your volunteers! Encourage them to come up with visuals or designs that resonate with them when they think about what they do. You never know if there’s a budding creative within your midst. Your volunteers are passionate about your cause so they are the best sources of inspiration that you can get.
Pro Tip: If you use Canva, they have some great templates, so feel free to use them (but remember to always adapt it to your nonprofit’s identity)!
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