Great Design and How Nonprofits Can Benefit


Design is a big word, and unless you know what someone is talking about, “great design” makes even less sense. To put it somewhat simply, design is a conceptual form of communicating with a specific function, purpose, or result in mind. The purpose of graphic design is to maximize communication by engaging multiple senses, while conveying an intellectual idea/experience not just verbally, but visually as well.

Graphic design plays a pivotal role in our communication as a society today, even though we may not consciously think about it all the time. Every day we are inundated with information from companies spending millions of dollars on branding and advertising. We’ve certainly all see evidence of bad design: a confusing billboard, an ad with no contact information, a logo that doesn’t connect with the company, or a website that’s too distracting to read. Good design tends to be on the subtle, but by no means less impactful side because it communicates in a way that already relates to our lives, and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

For a nonprofit, swimming in the same pool with the big sharks can feel very intimidating. With a limited budget, and less man-power, how are nonprofits supposed to compete with this caliber of design? Typically, their answer is to settle for what they can afford, and unfortunately, it’s not always very good. But what really does bad or good design look like for a nonprofit? Are nonprofits stuck in a class of design, or is there an alternative?

It might be time to hire a graphic designer. 

What does bad design look like for a nonprofit?

Some of the most basic, design-related issues that tend to plague nonprofits are:

  • outdated, bad, or even nonexistent logos
  • distracting/non-functional websites
  • basic social media presence
  • no visually recognizable brand

These problems lead to confusion with other companies and very little cohesive presentation, which, unfortunately, results in a forgettable encounter with a nonprofit organization. What makes that so sad is that every single nonprofit has a mission to impact the community in some way. When the community isn’t aware of that mission, we’re all missing out.

Now, we understand some of these issues stem from reasons such as tight budgets, shortage of time, or maybe just lack of knowledge/experience. But, here’s what’s important to grasp: little investment in reaching your target audience produces limited growth of your mission. Without having a recognizable brand for your nonprofit, you’re limiting your reach in the community. 

How does good design benefit a nonprofit?

We know there are downfalls to not having good design, so let’s talk about some of the benefits of investing in graphic design for your nonprofit. I’m not going to throw growth statistics at you (that’s another conversation), but I do want to communicate the enormous asset good design can be for your organization.

Remember when we talked earlier about design’s purpose being to communicate on more than a verbal level? Well, when utilized, graphic design evokes a response from viewers. Good design attracts eyes, provokes emotions, sparks interest, leads to a Google search, website visit or phone call, and (hopefully) results in a personal connection with the mission, and partnering in a greater cause.

Investing in graphic design has the uncharted potential to grow your organization’s missional impact on the community. With eye-catching event promotion or direct mailers, you escape the kitchen trash can. A functioning, interactive website engages visitors and leads them to action. Newsletters that don’t go on for infinite lines of words on a page give current partners the opportunity to stay engaged and continue participating. Active social media accounts communicate with today’s generation and spread your name around.

Good graphic design can be such an effective communication tool, why wouldn’t you want to use it?

So, what now?

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s completely understandable that nonprofit organizations don’t always know when it’s time to say “We need a designer.” Seeing limited budgets, current capability, and the real value of hiring outside help can get quite confusing. Here are a few reasons it’s helpful to have outside design help:

  • Perspective really is everything. Someone internal can forget what their organization looks like from an outsider’s viewpoint. A professional designer has the platform to see what the organization wants to communicate, how the target audience will hear it, and how to most effectively build a bridge between those two.
  • A professional designer is uniquely trained, skilled, and prepared with varied experience to bring you the highest quality results possible. 

So, maybe it’s time you start evaluating where you and your organization are and if you’re ready for a change. Just a couple of thoughts to get you started:

  • How’s your logo? Is it clear, recognizable, similar to anyone else’s? Think of what we talked about earlier. Is your logo/brand making an impact? Will people remember and recognize you?
  • Are you clearly communicating what your mission as an organization is?
  • Are you reaching the people you want to reach? Is the community excited to participate with you?
  • Do you have ways to showcase your mission working on the ground? (ie: website, pictures, etc.)
  • Are you ready to grow?

Meeting the Rustic Roots team is where we think all of these challenging pieces fit together and our team can serve your organization. We’re not only experienced in our crafts, but we’re passionate about being a part of something bigger. We have a heart to partner with nonprofit organizations to see change happen in the world. With our video, web, photography, and graphic design packages, we really can become your entire Creative Department for a fraction of the cost it would be to hire equal positions internally.

Hopefully, we’ve laid out some categories that might help you fill in some of the blanks that answer that big question, “is it time for a designer?” We’d encourage you to take a leap and bet on yourself. Your nonprofit has the chance to grow. You have the potential to reach more people. You have the chance to make even more of a difference.

Rustic Roots could be the perfect fit for this exciting new step! We’d love to hear from you, talk through the opportunity to work together, and get to work using our skills, expertise, and passionate hearts to see your nonprofit thrive. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, we’re eager to meet you!

- Khloe Williams