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Graphic Design

Six graphic design tips for nonprofit creatives and marketers to help your ad content stand out

Graphic design has always been important in nonprofit marketing and fundraising, but with the distractions our constituents face daily, it is even more important to make your creative shine and stand out from the crowd. Our six graphic design tips for nonprofit creatives and marketers will help you think differently about your approach to your next project.

If you spend any time on social media, online or even driving around, it is impossible to go any length of time without seeing a graphic of some sort - that’s for good reason! Strong graphics draw audiences in and help organizations make lasting connections to their constituents. But successful graphics don’t just fall into your lap. They require planning, content AND quality art that resonates with your audiences to get the engagement you want.     


1. Define goals and expectations

Before you even start with the creative, you need to consider what reaction you are trying to get from your audience and how you’re going to accomplish it. Some questions to answer include:

What will grab viewers’ attention?

If you are on social media, you have about 15 seconds to attract someone or they will keep scrolling. If you are creating billboards, people are zooming by and don’t have much time to read. Make sure your graphics are eye-catching and dynamic, but don’t deter them with too much copy or awkward, misplaced elements.

What do you want your audience to do?

It isn’t enough to just get the audience looking, you need them to act too. Your message must have a call to action in the graphic. It needs to be simplified to the point where it can be easily understood in the short time you have to hook your audience. Do you want them to schedule an appointment, donate, volunteer, register, visit, etc.?

Who is your target audience?

You need to keep them in mind during ALL steps of creating content, as they will define what the graphics look like and where they will live.

If you’re enlisting the help of a graphic designer, get them involved in the planning and creative process as soon as possible. Give them clear expectations of what you want this campaign to achieve and have open conversations with the graphic designer. They know their field best and will have great industry insights and ideas that are incredibly valuable.


2. Develop a creative brief

Once you have got your goals, expectations and plan of action, it is time to get that information plugged into a creative brief. This document is a great way to keep things organized and allows your team to easily look back on must-know information as the campaign moves forward. It is also a great tool when onboarding new team members because it makes the project and their role easy to understand, defines the campaign or project goal and outlines the strategy.


3. Design for your target audience

Your target audience must be your guiding compass during the creative process. You want to create materials that resonate with your audience.

For example, if you are an animal shelter, the ad copy and content you would create for someone looking for a cat would be totally different than what you would create for a potential dog owner. Or if you are developing fundraising appeals, the content and creative would be different for your donors than for someone who hasn’t given before.

Remember that people have different motivations and interests, so it is important to develop different creative for different audiences. Ask yourself these questions when creating graphics for your target audience:

  • Does your audience prefer bold, colorful graphics or simpler styles?
  • Does strong photography best represent your organization?
  • Do you serve populations that may have limited or slow internet access and have trouble viewing complicated graphics or photos?
  • What online platforms do your audiences use?

Consider testing your designs with certain audiences before you launch your campaigns. Websites like SurveyMonkey have free tools that allow you to gain feedback from audiences to see what designs are resonating. Remember – don’t just rely on what you think looks good. The content isn’t for you; it’s for your audience.

Once you’ve started creating and implementing designs into your campaigns, you’ll get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Keeping that data at the forefront of your decisions and reworking designs based on the information you get is a great way to ensure you’re paying attention to what your audience wants to see.


4. Format your designs for the right media

The creative for social media will look different than the creative for a brochure. Even posting across various online platforms requires graphics of different sizes and type. Regardless, make sure your graphics are high-quality no matter where they live. Here are some tips:

Social media ads and posts:

Adhere to recommended file dimensions when posting across platforms to ensure crisp and clear graphics. Make sure your graphics don’t have too much text and try to include a call-to-action button if relevant. Set your files to RGB (red, green and blue) colors.

Billboards or other large format print:

Follow vendor specs and guides for setting up your files. Less is more with this medium. Copy needs to be concise and easy to read. Use correct image file to ensure picture is clear when stretched to size.

Print materials:

Use high resolution images, vector files and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and key/black) color settings or PMS colors, a wider range of colors than CMYK, if available.


5. Deliver strong, quality content that showcases your unique brand

Think of content as the bridge between you and your audience. Strong content makes it more likely to build strong and lasting connections while weak content makes it harder for audiences to feel connected to you.

High-quality content builds your brand reputation and trust and is a great catalyst for meeting your organization’s goals, including gaining more donors or recruiting volunteers. Make sure your content is relevant and clearly connected to your organization. If you are a local animal shelter, you shouldn’t be posting graphics on lemonade recipes or dates for upcoming concerts (unless these are tools to help raise funds for your organization). Instead, spotlight your volunteers and share stories and photos that highlight the work you are doing in the community. Or feature an upcoming event – anything that shows off your organization in a fun, concise and relevant way.

Use customized graphics to help you build trust and recognition with your audience. Custom graphics establish your online presence and give your marketing efforts the push they need. And, another bonus, you won’t have to share those designs with anyone else. If you have a graphic designer on your team, let them explore and get creative with their own ideas too. This will showcase your designer’s unique talents. 


6: Get inspired and keep learning

Creating solid, successful graphics isn’t a destination, it is a journey. There will always be new trends, tips and tricks to learn as you go along, and that’s part of the fun of graphic design. By paying attention to what’s going on in the design world, you can keep yourself, and your designs, from falling behind or missing the mark.

It’s also important to get inspired by other graphic designers and artists. Feeling inspired is a great way to keep your creative juices flowing and making sure your designs aren’t getting stagnant and unimaginative. Our graphic designer recommends the sites below to check out when you need a healthy dose of inspiration:

Graphic design is an art and can be a bit complex, but it’s a necessary and powerful part of any traditional or digital marketing campaign. Strong appealing designs and graphics can be a great tool to help you reach your audiences and your organization’s goals.

Need help creating dynamic graphics for your organization? Reach out to our team today 😊


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