Essential Design Considerations for Non-Profits

March 13, 2020


Amir M

If you’re a designer, you’ll know that no two clients are identical.  

That said, for most of your clients, the end goal is the same: reach the target audience and sell the product. Pretty straightforward, right? But what happens when your client’s measure of success goes way beyond the bottom line?

We’re referring to a certain subset of potential clients: non-profits. These organizations have a unique set of important, altruistic goals, so how do you design a website or digital product with such an important mission to accomplish? It’s all about taking the right approach.

With that in mind, here are 4 essential design considerations when your client is not-for-profit.  

1. Take the time to understand the cause

Just as with any design project – for-profit or not – it all begins with research.

And while you’d normally look at target customers, revenue streams, competitors, and so on, the process is a bit different when it comes to non-profits. If this is your first non-profit project, perhaps the best place to start is to immerse yourself in what the charity or organization does. Do as much in-depth research as you can to truly understand what makes the client tick – and why others may want to help them.

2. Focus on the positive

Here’s something you might discover pretty quickly once you ramp up your research: the non-profit world can be pretty harrowing.

Unlike the super-slick, polished presentation you might be used to from commercial clients, many non-profits work in developing areas of the world and focus on impoverished demographics. This may sound morose, but it’s here where you can find those kernels of inspiration. Non-profits are meant to help people; they’re built to do good in the world. By focusing on the good they do, you can translate their raison d'être into a keenly crafted design message.

What’s more, positive empathy is a really successful messaging tool for non-profit. Show that you understand that, and you’ll be getting off to a great start. 

3. Prepare for a little more scrutiny

If you’re a designer with a few years under your belt, you’ve probably got a pretty thick skin. You know how to handle constructive criticism, right?

Even so, when you’re working with non-profits, it’s important to remember (again) that their perspective is very different from a commercial client. 

What does this mean in real terms? Well, for one, you can expect non-profit clients to really, genuinely care about the work they are doing. As such, they’ll have very high standards and expect the same from you. Likewise, approving stakeholders will be very different people – so prepare yourself for more (or at least a different kind of) scrutiny.  

4. Lean on transferable skills from for-profit clients

Okay, at this point, we’d forgive you for feeling just a little bit daunted about designing for non-profits – but hear us out.

It’s not an entirely different mindset. Sure, stakeholders will differ. And sure, the approval process might be bumpier. But don’t forget that a lot of the same rules apply. Take a look at existing non-profit websites and digital products, and you’ll see the role of design is unchanged: it should engage, inform and delight.

Design for non-profit is a different world, yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to unlearn what you have learned.

Ready to try something new?

Want more expert advice from the full spectrum of design, or perhaps you’re a non-profit looking for the perfect design partner? 

In any case, feel free to get in touch with the Blackcreek team today. Let’s talk about how we can help you reach your design goals – whatever they may be.