Design tips and insights for nonprofits and social enterprises.

3 proven ways your brand can increase supporters, donors and clients

Branding | Marketing
05.28.16
3 proven ways your brand can increase supporters, donors and clients

We all know that marketing campaigns can help raise your organization’s awareness, but did you ever think that your brand could as well. Marketing is an important part of branding, it’s how you promote yourself and communicate with your customers, donors, or supporters. Your brand is the core of what you do and why you do it. It should not be ignored, because when it’s done well, people remember you and take you seriously.

Be consistent and have standards
If the collateral and materials you create — from the website to postcards —use different fonts, colors, and style of imagery, then it’s time to get it together. Everything should look and feel consistent, even the tone of voice.

Special events, conferences, or marketing campaign can break this rule from time to time. Think of it as the brand is your personal style of dressing, speaking, the heart of how you are. Sometimes, for certain events, you might dress more formal or casual, but it doesn’t change who you are. Also, please treat your logo with respect. Make sure it’s always visible, and whatever you do, don’t distort it. That screams “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Stay organized
In order to be consistent, you have to be organized. Make sure you have a naming convention for your files, and that anyone who looks at them will know what to use. Using a cloud storage like Google Drive or Dropbox can be a big help. Then you can share files easily with others and access them anywhere.

Be unique
Being unique is probably the most challenging of the three ways. It takes guts to stand out from the crowd. Take a look at your competition. And don’t tell me that you don’t have competition because you do. Who are the organizations working on the same issue you are or have a similar mission? You might not be directly competing with them, but you work in the same “space.” If your brand gets lost in the crowd, doesn’t resonate with your audience, or doesn’t match your organization anymore, then it’s probably time for a rebrand.

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Learning to take risks: 6 steps to creative confidence

Design
05.18.16
Learning to take risks: 6 steps to creative confidence

Trying something new at work or in life can be difficult, especially if you, or your team, is risk adverse. I used to think of myself as a “no risk” kind of person — YOLO is not my motto. I don’t like taking personal risks that much, but I love being creative. What I’ve realized is that on the quest to find new creative challenges, I’ve had to try new things and take some risks. You can’t really have one without the other.

No one tells you that it’s much more than risk and reward
Like you, I heard all those quotes about risk and reward, but they never really inspired me. I always assumed “reward” was money or fame, and that’s not what motivates me. When I started to think about what did motivate me, was when opportunities presented themselves. I shared my ideas and goals with a few trusted people.  Then started taking small risks, which felt HUGE because they were so outside my comfort zone. Some things worked, some didn’t, and those leaps lead to others. I’m actually still working on achieving my “crazy” goals, and I hope to never stop. Which in of itself, is something that would have freaked me out a couple of years ago.

Go from overwhelmed to inspired by practicing risk
I won’t tell you that without risk, there’s no reward. Instead, I’ll say that courage and creativity are muscles and you have to test their limits regularly. Bring more creativity into your organization — how it operates, the marketing, brand, offerings and services — by practicing risk.

  • Create a culture of creativity by talking and learning about it. If you work in a team, you might want to begin this on your own first. Then start talking about it in meetings, at company happy hours, etc. Don’t be annoying, but try to keep it top of mind, share blogs, articles, case studies, etc., that could be inspiring.
  • Brainstorm possible outcome or goals, even the outrageous ones. This might be hard when all you can see is a big red flag. The goal is to find rewards that would be enticing enough for you to begin to think about taking a risk. This can be done in an informal group discussion as well. Be sure to give your team opportunity to voice their concerns or enthusiasm.
  • Pick one and find ways that you might be able to attain it, or something close to it. Start small with low hanging fruit and very little risk, with a short time span. You might fail, but that’s ok. Think if it as risk practice.
  • Now do it. Some goals might require you have someone accountable for the follow through, tracking, and measuring the end result. Again, think semi-painless. Give or find support as needed, and share. You’re more willing to do it if you tell people about it first.
  • What’s the outcome? If it was good, then plan another that stretches you a bit more. If it was bad, then plan another, but see what you can do differently.
  • Repeat, as often as desired or necessary.

I would love to learn about how you boost your creativity. How do you encourage risk when you feel stagnant? Or convince others to get on board?

 

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How to turn a website template into an effective marketing tool

Marketing | Web Design
05.03.16
How to turn a website template into an effective marketing tool

Launching your new website can be stressful

I get it, you’re strapped for time and money. So you found a cool looking template (or theme) that comes with everything you need for your new site. It looked really good on the preview site, and you thought, “awesome,” but now you’ve added all you own content and images and it’s not working. Something isn’t right and you can’t put your finger on it.

Templates are always awkward without some tweaking
You’ve asked for feedback from a few trusted colleagues and everyone confirms your suspicions. There’s too much happening, they’re not sure where to click first, they don’t understand what you’re trying to say. So, what now?

Make your site authentic by putting your audience first
It’s time to take a step back and really think about what your audience needs, what you want them to know, and what you want them to do. Yes, this means that you’ll be making some programming and design changes to the template you bought, but honestly, that’s a good thing. Very few organizations can take a cookie cutter site and make it work for their content. Yes, it makes things a bit more complicated, but it’s better this way. You want a site that people are going to understand what it is you do, how it helps them, and what actions they need to take. If it takes them longer than 5 minutes to figure this out you’ve probably lost them. Why? That’s all the time they can spare.

For a superior website think clear, short and engaging content
People will usually skim a page first to get the overall gist of what you’re offering. So write as clear and concise as possible — think buckets with subheads, and use bulleted lists when possible. Remember not to overwhelm your audience with too much information, or choices.

Your home page should say:

  • what you do
  • what they will gain, or what the benefits are
  • and what action they need to take

How you do this is where the beauty comes in. Crafting sentences that engage, visuals that inspire, and calls to action that excite, takes practice. The beauty of the internet is that you can easily keep tweaking and make adjustments, even to a live site.

So take a step back, reassess your site, adjust as needed, and launch that sucker already. Don’t wait for perfection, he’s an elusive boyfriend.

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Practicing failure through experiments

Design
04.26.16
Practicing failure through experiments

Trying to embrace your weaknesses can be scary, especially if you make it public, and I’m feeling scared right now. I don’t draw type very well and I’ve always been envious of people that can do it. I know everyone has different skills, and that doesn’t make one person better then another, blah, blah, blah. But sometimes I can’t help but feel a bit jealous. So, I’m practicing. I’m working on drawing type and going to post my “not very good” experiments on Instagram for #the100dayproject.

It’s a known fact that the more you practice, the better you get. So, hopefully, I’ll get better. Something else I’m doing for this project is highlighting some of the social issues faced by women and children. Why? Its really what I hope to focus my design business, Studio Civico, on. I spent a few days thinking about how I can merge type and women’s issues into a visual project. My first experiment was this:

It didn’t quite feel right. I didn’t like that the focus was on something ugly and negative. I wanted it be something with a bit more narrative, that could have a positive POV and invoke empathy, not despair. After reading a few stories, and watching a few videos on human trafficking I came up with this:

It feels better. More experiments are coming.

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Open for Business

Social Entrepreneurship
04.06.16

My new design consultancy, Studio Civico, is open and helping mission-driven organizations with their branding, marketing, and web design needs. I use strategy, design, empathy, and storytelling to help them increase their impact and bottom line.

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