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Helping Designers Help Nonprofits

by Jennifer Stewart | Dec 14, 2011 | AdviceBranding

As part of AIGA’s Design For Good, we and many other designers dedicate a certain amount of time to pro bono projects with nonprofit clients. It can be very fun and rewarding work, but working in this sector creates a common set of challenges that many designers face. So in the spirit of the season, here is a list for nonprofit companies on the best gifts you can give your design company when working on branding your organization. No wrapping required.

Let us work with the decision makers! If you have your designer talk to an intermediary who ultimately has to answer to an executive board then we're just playing a game of telephone and it's a matter of time before "I want this to be yellow" turns into "she wants you to be mellow". Working through rounds of this can be both frustrating and counterproductive.

Hammer out the details in advance. Make sure all decision makers agree on the direction that the organization is going in, what demographic is being targeted, and the personality of the organization. This prevents miscommunication and creates a solid, common goal for your designer to bring to life.

Narrow it down to two people. Nonprofits are usually very inclusive, getting input from everyone, and using their entire board to guide the organization. However, the board was probably not picked based on their excellent aesthetic taste or marketing experience. It's better to let the board run the organization and let one or two key, creative, aesthetic people run the branding process – and give them the authority to make decisions. This ensures a beautiful outcome, prevents delays due to waiting for the next board meeting, and prevents the overload that comes from too many diverse opinions.

Let your designer flex their creative muscle. If you found a designer whose work you love and who loves what your organization does, give them some creative freedom and let them unleash their full creativity on your brand. If the project is pro bono, then the best payment they get is a great portfolio piece, so you can be sure that they'll create something awesome. Plus it's a great way to show them that you appreciate their professional expertise and style.

Make sure you budget for quality production. If you get some great branding for free and then can't pay for quality printing or an excellent web developer, then it's of no use. Make sure you can produce those gorgeous designs otherwise you are doing your designer and your organization a great disservice.

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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We need to defend the interests of those whom we've never met and never will.- Jeffrey D. Sachs