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How Social and Mobile Media is Changing Nonprofit Print Design

May 30, 2013

nonprofit-print-designOver the last two months I have opened more than 200 pieces of nonprofit print materials and 95% of them are in the same format and structure of those that I was writing and publishing  in the late 1990’s. Like press releases, print fundraising appeals and newsletters seem to be taking little account for the rise of social and mobile media and it’s effect upon how donors and supporters consume information. Information overload is real and 2-page front and back 12 point font fundraising appeals and text heavy newsletters just can’t can’t be making the same impact that they were a decade ago.

That said, I am years removed from publishing nonprofit print materials, but all communications and fundraising are evolving in response to the rapid rise of social and mobile media, so why not print materials? For those eager to experiment with new ideas, below are six examples of nonprofits pioneering new ideas in nonprofit print material design and formatting:

1) Less text and larger font.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare
Fundraising Appeal [16 point font]


2. Large photos – and more of them.
Doctors Without Borders :: Fundraising Appeal [18 point font]


3. Use infographics.
Doctors Without Borders :: Fundraising Appeal [18-30 point font]


4. Integrate social media.
SOS Children’s Villages :: Newsletter
Only 3% of nonprofits incorporate social media into their print materials.


5. Integrate mobile media.
FINCA :: Newsletter
Only 2% of nonprofits incorporate social media into their print materials.
If your nonprofit accepts text donations, add your short code and keyword pitch.


6. Incorporate video.
The Nature Conservancy :: Magazine


Related Link:
Social and Mobile Media Webinars for Nonprofits

13 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2013 7:54 am

    From what I’ve seen smaller nonprofits don’t take social media seriously. Partly because the time and effort to set up and maintain a social media campaign is daunting, but there appears to be ignorance about the returns too. Too bad since there are such easy ways to help people connect, like QR codes and shortened URLs. Perhaps the audience is full of fuddy-duddies and nonprofits are catering to a specific market?

    Not good enough. If you want to survive you need to bring in new blood.

    • June 3, 2013 5:22 am

      From my experience in nonprofits, I think the issue is not taking social media seriously, “fuddy-duddiness” or new blood – it’s resources. Since 2008, nonprofit funding has been significantly down, staffing has been cut to threadbare levels and the people who remain are doing the work of two or more people (and paid the same – often without raises because of aforementioned funding issues). It’s simply hard to tackle because of the time it takes to get staffers up to speed and also the time it takes to maintain. And volunteers are hard to find. Long gone are the senior citizens who have hours to fill, and if we have them, many aren’t skilled in social media.

      Some organziations have incorporated social media into their efforts, and many recognize the opportunties there. But there are many hurdles to jump to get there. We always appreciate the donated services of experts and volunteers on this front. I know if a social media expert offered their skills to a local nonprofit, they’d be overjoyed and empowered to tackle their mission in a whole new way.

      I have been lucky to have college age volunteers who manage our social media scheduling for us. Totally in their wheelhouse.

    • June 3, 2013 5:45 am

      I mostly agree with Robert, but I have to add that social media is only good if that is where your target audience is. In a recent “seminar” on social media marketing, the “expert” kept spouting that “you absolutely must drop what you are doing and get on Twitter.”

      While we do have a presence on Twitter, our current target demographic doesn’t go there, and his generic advice was useless to us and to much of the audience he was preaching two.

      Yes, a case could be made that maybe we need to expand our target demographic, and that’s why we proactively maintain a presence on all of the major SM services.

      But while those campaigns continue to rise, right now our bread-and-butter audience is not there. It is very hard to pitch the use of QR codes to upper management when a large percentage of our demographic does not even yet own a smartphone.

    • June 6, 2013 10:02 am

      Hi Robert,
      I’m an old fuddy-duddy recently appointed Exec Director of a non-profit. I’ve invested a fair proportion of our scarce resources into launching and getting trained to grow our social media presence. I’m hoping that when our members and other interested parties visit our website, check out our facebook page, follow us on twitter, or use our mobile app to plan their agenda at our conference, they will be picturing some new-blooded person behind the wheel.

  2. Barbara Casey permalink
    June 7, 2013 4:31 am

    My experience is that many nonprofits are slow to adapt to any real change. They continue to do things the way they have always done them because of the fear that by changing, they will negatively impact donations, which are their lifeblood. They seem to be full of risk averse individuals. In my opinion, the social revolution should be perceived as the best thing to ever happen as it provides an easy way to connect with your constituents and to share your good works with a wider audience – and all for free and within your control (in other words, not waiting for the media to pick up your story)!

  3. June 7, 2013 11:44 pm

    I think the problem for smaller non profits is that they simply don’t have the resources. They have to acquire the skills, and then allocate the time and generate internal support.

    On the issue of print materials, there’s a reason why donation mail doesn’t include lots of external links to things like social media, and that is because encouraging people to go elsewhere reduces response.

    That’s not to say that innovations like bigger pics and larger fonts are not a good thing (they definitely are), but changes to formats need to tested and strategic, not based on fashion.


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