The Design Materials Growing Nonprofits Should Invest In

Having worked with nonprofits on a variety of branding and marketing material projects, I’ve often fielded the same query multiple times - what types of marketing materials should we invest in? For any organization that is working to expand and deepen their donor base, it can be tough to know where to start.

When should I invest in design?
This varies depending on the situation on nonprofit. However, my recommendation is when it would make more sense to hire outside your organization instead of doing it yourself - whether that’s for monetary or time reasons. For example, if it takes you four hours to create a document that a designer could design in 30 minutes, it could be a smart use of funds to free up that time for yourself.

I’d also recommend waiting to invest until you have a clear brand vision to guide to process - which includes a strong visual brand identity, brand strategy, and content for the designed materials. This is so you don’t just have gorgeous materials - you have content worth reading once you grad your audience’s attention.

Why invest in design?
Working with a designer provides an opportunity to get a professional opinion on how to attract your audience. Your content could be excellent, but without a visual hook to pull in your audience, there’s a huge chance that they won’t consume the information they need to. We live in a visual world, and having a professional designer create materials that are catering to your audience can make a huge difference.

When you’re just starting out or refreshing your brand, there are a few strategic documents that are worth investing in:

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Trifold or one-sheet on your company and programs.
A trifold or one-pager is inexpensive to print, and can easily be produced in short runs. It’s a no-nonsense option that provides your potential donors with everything they need to know about your organization, and can provide information on where to go for more information on your website.

You can also create one-sheets or or trifolds for several different programs or campaigns for your nonprofit. A brief document like this is easily consumable in a meeting, and is small enough to work well as a key takeaway at an event. A call to action to learn more, donate, or sign up for an event should also be included on this, to create a call to action for next steps.


Donor form and/or remittance envelopes.
Like I mentioned above, with donors can be missed when there isn’t a clear call to action. Attention spans can be short, and you can make next steps easier for a donor by providing a clear path to take.

Donor forms are a way to provide a simple and easy way to increase chances to a potential donor giving to you. If you’re speaking to a group of potential donors at an event, it also encourages them to promise a gift right then. When mailing a donation request, a pre-stamped remittance envelope is a simple way for your donors to give right away.

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Annual Reports (or Annual / Quarterly Donor Updates).
Once you have established a donor base, providing a yearly or quarterly update is a clear way to show the direct impact of their donation dollars. Although this may be a bigger undertaking for a designer because of the length of many reports, it can be a worthwhile one.

Branded folders.
Last but not least, it’s a great idea to have a branded folder to keep these materials together. It can be as simple as including your logo on the front, or could be more personalized to your donors or campaign.