My main ambition for this site is to help improve the way nonprofits connect with their supporters and stakeholders by enabling them to express their brand more clearly and effectively with excellent visual design.
I will be publishing blog posts, examples of my own successful projects, guides to techniques and digital resources to support three key groups:
- Creatives and communications professionals considering a career move to the nonprofit sector
- Designers, typesetters and production managers working in nonprofits looking to better manage their processes, assets, projects and suppliers
- Designers and creative agencies who want to work more effectively with their nonprofit clients
There’s a scarcity of creatively trained production specialists (especially graphic designers) working in-house in the nonprofit sector. I think that’s led to a lack of creative ambition in many charities. You can see it in a lot of lacklustre and tired design and poor longterm stakeholder engagement. So when I saw Jonathan Porritt’s recent D&AD video plea to the creative community to step up and begin working directly on social change I was inspired to refocus my previously unfocused blog to help facilitate creatives to work on social change: not as agency-side consultants but as staff. Only by going in-house can they bring the benefits which visually skilled individuals could offer.
I will try to relate some of the positive and negative experiences I have had while working as both an in-house creative at an international NGO and as a volunteer with various grass-roots charities and community groups.
If you’re a creative disillusioned with the commercial sector (and thinking of moving) I hope some of my experiences will inspire you to make the same move I did.
Designers, typesetters and production managers working in nonprofits looking to better manage their processes, assets, projects and suppliers
As we know, high quality visual design takes time – a resource nonprofits often cannot afford. Working within tight financial constraints for nearly a decade has forced me to refine my production and project management skills to increase our team’s efficiency (so reducing costs) while maintaining our quality threshold.
This blog is the next stage in my mission to improve my professional practise. I plan to share the expertise I have accumulated in design, effective creative project management and production within a nonprofit context. I will share some unique guides to using specific tools like InDesign as well as managing production processes or projects, organising assets and finding great creative suppliers.
Alongside guidance, I will open source a lot of the templates, assets and InDesign files I’ve developed to help improve my practise. Having spent more than a decade gazing enviously at how collaborative and helpful the open source community is, I decided to try opening up my frameworks.
Partly I hope that my frameworks will be beneficial to other nonprofit designers, saving them time and money too. But I also hope that if other designers scrutinise my work, it will help improve my own practise.
My dream is to ignite a community of like-minded creatives who will begin contributing to some sort of InDesign asset framework which we can all use to improve our practise as nonprofit designers and to collectively benefit the organisations we work with. Perhaps we might even eventually even form a regular Meetup group. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in then please get in touch.
The last group I hope will find this site useful are those creative agencies who work on projects for nonprofit organisations. For many smaller organisations without enough funds to hire in-house creatives, the only way they can access professional creativity is to buy it in from external agencies.
In my time, I’ve seen this approach produce fantastic creativity. But I have also witnessed some truly miserable results.
Because the work charities and nonprofits do is so vital. And because they cannot afford to waste precious funds on bad creative outcomes, I want to help creatives, agencies and charity clients make the most of these opportunities.
My hope is that, by sharing my experiences of being a creative gone native inside an international development agency, I might be able to shed some light on what nonprofits look for in agencies or creative practitioners, how they perceive creative agencies and suppliers (or “consultants” as they refer to them).
I think it’s important that agencies learn:
- the unique characteristics of nonprofit programmes staff
- how projects are planned in the nonprofit sector
- what to do and what not to do when pitching
- how to explain creativity to charity clients
- set roles and responsibilities
- manage processes
- manage relationships with your charity clients
- how to facilitate the creative process with a charity
- how charities manage projects
From time to time I also plan to review creative work from other social impact organisations and nonprofits.
Is that it?
Well, not entirely. As a fairly typical “creative” I do have an ego. So publishing a blog can’t possibly be a wholly selfless exercise. I’m also hoping to build a strong reputation in the field: essentially I want to come to be seen as a sort of “Beth Kanter of nonprofit branding”.
A billion extra Twitter followers would be nice too.
In all seriousness, as well as being a platform for sharing my experience, I also hope this site serves as a showcase for my portfolio of successful projects. A few years ago I did think about re-entering education to work on a Masters degree. I changed my mind but did decide I would begin to actively develop my professional practise somewhere I can publish more general perspectives on the state of the design industry and nonprofit sector (hopefully without taking myself too seriously).
If you’re interested, you can learn more about the design and technology which runs this site. And, lastly, if you have any suggestions for topics or issues you’d like me to cover on this blog, please get in touch via the Contact page. I would be genuinely delighted to hear from you. Likewise, if you enjoy this blog and find it useful, please contribute in some way – either comment on one of my posts or say hi on Twitter.