creative juice / personalities

designing for non-profits


nancy_croppedGuest blogger and Allovus UX Designer Nancy Stumvoll has donated countless hours of design work to some great non-profit organizations. If you’re considering volunteering your time and expertise, Nancy has some great tips for you to consider.

The world is a better place because of non-profits—whether they focus on the arts, medical research, humanitarian relief efforts, or education. Working for a non-profit can be a highly rewarding experience—especially because they are made up of people who are passionate about what they do and the causes they support.

I feel lucky to have worked for a number of prominent non-profits in the Pacific Northwest—The Seattle Art Museum, Gates Foundation, ACT, Museum of Glass, Pike Place Market, and most recently the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer. These partnerships have lead to some of the best work and most rewarding experiences of my career. If you’re considering working with a non-profit, here are a few key things to keep in mind that will help provide a positive and fulfilling experience:

pikeplace_1aBudgets are always tight Get creative, this is where you can really shine and help figure out how to stretch those dollars. If it’s a collateral system you’re creating, make the most of a press sheet and max it out. When I helped brand the new Museum of Glass in Tacoma, I was able to get 5 unique pieces out of one press sheet. If addressing online media, make sure a non-profit’s email campaigns, social media, and website piggy back on each other to reinforce messaging and build better brand awareness. And whenever possible, stress the importance of infographics, a responsive website and donation form!

Compromise isn’t necessarily bad There are often compromises that need to be made due to budget, lack of resources, or other priorities. But that doesn’t mean the work has to suffer. Again, this is where your creativity comes into play. Dig deep and see how you can look at a problem differently.

Don’t let poor technology get in your way Most non-profits are using outdated technology and have sub-par infrastructure in place. The only exception I have run into is the Gates Foundation. Identifying and knowing technical issues in advance of a project, means you can plan accordingly and still have a great outcome.

Tap into the generosity of others Everyone loves to support a non-profit, especially other creatives. I once worked with a famous Bay Area illustrator who donated a series of six botanical illustrations for a Pike Place Market promotional piece. Currently I’m working with a writer, photographer, and developer who all have greatly reduced their fees to help create a new website for the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer. The organization helps generate much needed funding for ovarian cancer research with their end-goal being to eventually eradicating this deadly disease.

Take time to be a mentor While people working at non-profits are very knowledgeable about their cause and passionate about what they do, they often have limited marketing savvy and little to no design expertise or resources. So take this opportunity to help educate and empower them.  In return you’ll receive their endless thanks and appreciation.

In closing … I’ll tell you like it is. Nobody goes into non-profit work for the money. It’s just not there. People who work for non-profits do it out of the kindness of their hearts, the desire to better their community, or the need to provide for those less fortunate. Non-profits ask very little but are exceedingly generous and will put 100% of their trust in you. They wouldn’t exist without your help and always appreciate anything you can do for them. My best and most memorable design work has been for non-profits. I highly recommend finding a cause you can get behind and then helping that non-profit get their message out to the people.



2 thoughts on “designing for non-profits

  1. Outstanding Nancy! A great way to “Pay it Forward”. My granddaughter, Sami Nichols, donates time and effort to cats and a horse rescue facility . One hour a week to help cats in need of care and she’s donated 4 horse blankets and 4 bales of hay to Pony Up Horse Rescue. More to come from Sam, I’m sure. You are a great inspiration Nancy.

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