Running a nonprofit organization requires effective communication and visual storytelling to inspire and engage your audience.
One way to achieve this is by partnering with a graphic designer who can bring your vision to life. But how do you choose the right one? How can you know if you are partnering with someone who will be a true asset to your organization?
Let’s walk through some best practices to help you identify the perfect graphic designer for your organization!
Clearly Define Your Needs
Just like a well-crafted mission statement, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your design requirements. Take some time to outline the specific projects you need assistance with, including their objectives and desired deliverables. This way, you can communicate your needs effectively and set the stage for a successful collaboration.
- What do we want to do ourselves, and what do we need help to create?
- Do we want to work with a freelancer, an agency, or hire a designer to join our internal team?
- Do we want editable templates or final design files?
- How much creative and strategic input will be helpful or necessary from the designer?
- Do we also need a copywriter, web designer/developer, and/or social media strategist?
- Are we willing to work with someone virtually, or is a local partner a necessity?
Review the Portfolio
Imagine flipping through a photo album—it’s like taking a sneak peek into someone’s creative world. When selecting a graphic designer, request portfolios to get a feel for their style and capabilities. Most designers will have some items available online, but you may ask the designer to bring printed copies if you are meeting in person.
Look for diversity in their designs, paying attention to the quality of execution and relevance to your organization’s mission and branding. A portfolio review can be an exciting journey, showcasing the creative possibilities that lie ahead. Take notes about what you like (and don’t like) so you can compare and contrast your options later.
- Do we like the overarching style that we’re seeing? Does each item in the portfolio feel the same, or is the designer able to clearly articulate each brand they are working on?
- Has the designer done any projects similar to the types that we will need?
- Would we feel comfortable sharing this designer’s portfolio with supporters of our organization?
Since you're here, don't forget to check out our portfolio to see if we'd be a good fit for your organization!
Evaluate Their Experience Working with Nonprofits
Partnering with a graphic designer who understands the unique needs and constraints of working with nonprofit organizations can be a game-changer. Seek out designers with prior experience working with nonprofits. They will bring valuable insights to the table and can offer creative solutions that align perfectly with your organization’s goals.
- Check each designer’s portfolio and client list for other nonprofit organizations. Has this designer worked with organizations with similar goals to ours… without any uncomfortable overlap or conflict of interest?
- Does this designer have a good understanding of how to work with a nonprofit organization?
We've worked with dozens of nonprofit organizations over the past two decades!
What’s better than hearing from satisfied clients? Go beyond reading the testimonials on their website—check for reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc. When considering a graphic designer, ask for references, preferably from other nonprofit organizations they’ve worked with.
Reach out to these references to gather feedback on the designer’s communication skills, reliability, ability to meet deadlines, the quality of their creative input, and their professionalism.
- How was the designer’s communication style? (More on this below)
- Were you able to count on this designer to come through for you regularly and under pressure?
- Did this designer miss any important deadlines? How did he/she handle that situation?
- Was this designer able to perform any additional creative functions for your organization—writing, editing, proofreading, website design/development, social media services, etc.?
- Did you like working with this designer? Why or why not? Would you work with him/her again?
Consider Communication and Collaboration
Picture yourself in a brainstorming session with your designer, bouncing ideas off each other. It should feel like a friendly game of catch—not a tennis match or tug-of-war. Effective communication and collaboration are vital for a successful partnership. Look for a graphic designer who understands your vision, asks thoughtful questions, and provides valuable input to enhance your ideas.
- Does the designer prefer meeting in person, over email, or via phone calls or video chat? Does that work for you and your team?
- How does the designer handle disagreements or differences of opinions with clients?
- Is the designer experienced enough to push back when necessary and know when to trust your expertise in your field?
- Does the designer need to have every detail “spoon-fed” to them, or are they able to propose solutions and make recommendations based on their expertise and understanding of your brand, target demographic, and goals?
These five areas are a great starting point for evaluating your needs and taking steps toward partnering with a graphic designer for your nonprofit organization.
But wait, there’s more!
Check out PART 2, where I discuss five MORE areas of consideration.