Two Reasons it Makes Sense to Outsource Your Nonprofit's Design

  • by Shala Graham
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One of the consequences of a changing economy is that, at least here in North America, employees from top to bottom are being asked to do more than ever before. That's as true in the nonprofit world as it is in the private sector, where managers and executives are finding that they need to wear many hats in order to save money. After all, every dime spent is one more that can't be put to work directly for the right cause.

Given that nearly anyone can sit down at a computer to type a message, or even take advantage of easy-to-use software packages to generate simple graphics and layouts, handling your nonprofit's design in-house seems like a no-brainer. Why not tap into your own talents and trade a bit of your time for more flexibility in your budget?

Although that might seem to make sense at first glance, deciding to skip a creative team for things like your nonprofit's website, or its annual report, is a great example of missing the forest for the trees.

Here are three reasons why, and how they tend to be interconnected with one another:

1. You and your staff have other things to do.

Regardless of whether you pay your staff or have volunteers, the fact of the matter is that every person on your team has roles and responsibilities. Unless those responsibilities specifically include things like graphic design and web strategy, assigning them to someone almost always represents a net loss.

Why? For one thing, because it means that some other critical area of your nonprofit's operations aren't being taken care of. Whether it's bookkeeping, event planning, administration, or even serving the less fortunate, taking away time means decreasing your effectiveness. That's particularly true if you have hourly or salaried employees, who could be costing you a lot of money to do something other than design your nonprofit's materials...or if you are taking time out of your busy schedule.

One final piece of the puzzle to note is that, if you aren't familiar with the creative process, generating even decent-looking materials can take an enormous amount of time (just as it can if you are a professional). And so, what you think of as a few hours spent away from your real job could easily turn into days of lost productivity.

2. It's all about results.

As important as your time (or the time of your staff) is, the better reason to outsource your nonprofit's design has to do with the result you're expecting. Whether it's more public attention, an increase in donations for bigger programs in the future, or just a fully-attended event, everything you produce has a specific purpose to your organization.

Unless you happen to be a trained information architect, or someone who is very fluent with professional-grade design software and design process, and happen to have the time and energy to devote to creating effective materials, you just aren't going to be able to get the same kind of results that professionals do.

This isn't to put down your abilities or creative instincts; it's just a realization that, when you devise things like nonprofit websites and annual reports every day, it gets easier to find a winning formula and strike the right chord. In other words, you greatly increase the odds of being successful with any nonprofit marketing or fundraising project when you have already successfully completed hundreds of them in the past.

There are other reasons—such as speed, flexibility, and convenience—that we could point to as the biggest reasons to outsource your nonprofit's design communications, but in the end, gaining more of your calendar and a better response should be reasons enough in and of themselves. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do everything for your nonprofit to get the kinds of results you need. The reality, however, is that savvy organizations come out ahead by doing the smart thing and outsourcing important messages to creative professionals.

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