Graphic Design for Nonprofit Organizations

Mary Gormandy White
Contributor: Michele Meleen
Graphic designers reviewing proofs

For nonprofit organizations, graphic design can be an important part of creating an appropriate image. From agency logos to promotional images for special events, graphics provide a quick first look at what you're all about.

About Non Profit Organization Graphic Design

Regardless of the reason an entity exists, creating the right image is essential to success. Logos and other graphic artwork should be well designed, attractive, and send the right message about who your entity is and what it does because they have a direct impact on how you are perceived in the community.

Use of Graphic Designs

Charities use graphic designs for a variety of materials in daily work and special events.

  • Organization's official logo
  • Website and social media design
  • Printed materials like solicitation letters
  • Marketing pieces such as program brochures

Professional Graphic Design for Charities

Because graphic design is so important, it's a good idea even for nonprofits with limited budgets to seek the assistance of a professional when it's time to create new graphic design elements. While getting professional graphic artwork created can be costly, there are several options available to non profit groups who need to keep expenses to a minimum.

Seek Assistance From Student Groups

Many post-secondary schools offer classes that focus on helping students learn real world graphic design skills. Students are required to complete design projects to meet class requirements. You may be able to receive free, high quality design work by reaching out to those who teach students in these programs and requesting help. You'll get a great design, and they'll have professional experience to add to their resume.

  • Contact graphic art and advertising instructors at universities, community colleges, or art schools in your area and ask if they will consider your organization's needs when assigning design projects to students.
  • Interview at least two potential designers to find the person who best fits your needs.
  • Give credit to the student creator somewhere on your website or other public forum.

Request In-Kind Contributions

You may be able to receive an in-kind contribution from graphic design professionals in your area as a form of community service. It's not unusual for advertising agencies, graphic design firms, and individuals who work as freelance graphic artists to donate their time to charitable organizations in need of design assistance as part of how they market their products and services to potential clients.

  • Reach out to newer businesses first because they are often more willing to volunteer their services as a way to drive business.
  • Emphasize what's in it for them such as gaining visibility for the quality of work they are able to provide.
  • Be prepared to share information about the size and composition of your newsletter subscriber list and website visitors to show your reach.
  • Consider offering a sponsorship at an upcoming special event you host in exchange for the company's assistance and agree to recognize the firm in your newsletter, on your website, and in other printed materials.

Tips for Creating Charity Designs

Designing graphics for a nonprofit organization is similar to creating graphics for businesses. However, in most cases charities don't have big budgets and need to both identify with and stand apart from similar organizations.

Frugal Color Choice

Operating with a small budget means nonprofits often don't print materials in color. See if you can create an image that is most impactful in black and white or gray scale. If they want to include color, choose one to pair with black or white and make sure it still looks good when printed without color.

Avoid Trends

The agency's goal is to provide services and help far into the future. Choose images and fonts that reflect a timeless look so the charity won't have to spend time or money creating new graphics every decade.

Keep It Simple

Nonprofits will want to use the images you create on a wide variety of materials from letterhead to t-shirts. A simple graphic that captures the charity's name is memorable, relates back to the organization, and fits easily on different types of materials.

Send the Right Message

Even if you are not able to secure donated graphic design assistance, it's essential to use professional art to represent your organization. The funds you'll spend having a top quality logo and website created will be a wise investment in the future of your group. If you're going to be providing assistance in the community, seeking volunteer help, and raising money, the materials used to represent your efforts must create a positive image.

Graphic Design for Nonprofit Organizations