One of the most common self-inflicted injuries in fundraising is hard-to-read design. No matter how cool your design is, if it impedes readability, it is bad design.
Here’s some design help from the Hilborn blog, drawing on readability guidelines from The Canadian Association of Optometrists: Make your materials clear for older donors. Please don’t think this is only for elderly readers. Better readability is better for all ages.
- Printed material is most readable in black and white.
- Bigger is better. Keep your text large, preferably between 12 and 18 points
- Leading should be at least 25% to 30% of the point size.
- Avoid complicated or decorative fonts.
- Opt for fonts with medium heaviness and avoid light type with thin strokes.
- Don’t crowd your text: keep a wide space between letters.
- Break text into columns to make it easier to read.
- Use a matte or non-glossy paper to cut down on glare.
Do these things conflict with your brand guidelines or your personal preferences? If so, your guidelines (or preferences) are hurting you. It’s time to change them.
Good fundraising design (the kind that motivates the most giving) is typically corny, old-fashioned, and not terribly pretty. I say that with confidence because I’ve seen it again and again, for years and years. I’m comfortable spreading this word, because I know anyone who takes my advice on this will be happy with their results.
But a funny thing happens when people hear me or anyone else say that about fundraising design. They think we’re saying fundraising design should be bad design — that bad design works better than good design.
Bad design doesn’t work well anywhere. Please, don’t ever do bad design, if you can help it!
Unfortunately, what a lot of people think of when they think “good design” is slick, modern, and pretty. That’s where things get sticky, because that is not the definition of good design.
Let’s define good design. It is:
- Emotionally resonant with the message
- Appropriate for its audience
Take note of that last one. That’s the reason good fundraising design is usually corny, old-fashioned, and not terribly pretty. That’s what reaches most donors.
In fundraising, corny, old-fashioned, not terribly pretty design can be good or bad, depending on how well it conforms with the characteristics above.
But slick, modern, pretty can only be bad. It may nail the other characteristics, but it misses #4: It’s not right for its audience. (There are exceptions, but not many of them.)
Design, like writing, is all about knowing your audience and reaching out to them in the look and language that stirs their hearts. It’s not about conforming to your own preferences.
Roy Williams raises a great point at Mountains and Molehills.
The “molehills” he’s talking about are the logo, colors, and design standards you use in your fundraising:
Customers who buy from your competitors aren’t choosing your competitors because they have better logos. Your problem is something else entirely.
Customers care about things like products and procedures and policies that might affect them. They care about your offers and assurances. They care about the experience you create for them.
Design is a part of that experience, but a very, very small part.
Design matters. Terrible design that’s unreadable and confusing will chase away donors and kill your revenue. But the best design in the world won’t take you anywhere if your fundamental call to action is not interesting to your donors.
If someone tells you they can change everything with a new logo, color palette, or design scheme, you’re talking to a designer — not a fundraiser.
I have a theory (unprovable, but somewhat supported by experience) that your organizational logo can only help you a little when it’s good, but it can hurt you a lot if it’s bad.
Here are some tips from The Duck Call for designing the non-bad type of logo: Don’t let your logo trip you up.
A good logo:
- Doesn’t have to show everything your organization does.
- Doesn’t even have to show anything your organization does.
- Doesn’t have to include an illustrated mark.
- Can turn around a disadvantage.
- Can make people look (and think) twice.