Good Design and Funding a Non-Profit

Business Budgets and Design

Most businesses are more and more conscious of their budgets and how to get the most for their money. As you know, non-profits are not exempt from this. Frequently, they are more inclined to cut corners with their marketing budget, and allocate funds to a more tangible resource. All too often the design budget is one of the first things to go.

I was working on an annual report for a housing non-profit headquartered in Washington, DC a few years ago. They were given proofs of three different concepts. The housing non-profit chose the most generic looking version and asked for modifications to make it look plainer. It made the annual report harder to read and gave a less than professional presentation of the non-profit. They told me that even though all three designs would cost the same, they didn’t want their donors to think they spent too much money on the design.

Good design is partly defined in how it meets the needs of the client, but was this non-profit missing something here? Were they missing donations because they were presenting a less than professional image? Doesn’t a message that communicates your mission quickly and clearly serve any business well, let alone a non-profit?

Design and the California Rescue Dog Association (CARDA)/PetFood Express Fundraiser

2012 was the second year that CARDA, a registered 501(c) charity, has participated in this fundraiser. They asked O’Connell Design to handle the design and production of promotional materials.

CARDA, is the largest volunteer K-9 Search and Rescue Organization in the U.S. They are also one of the most active teams with over 100 certified dogs participating in search operations across the state of California and, when needed, in other parts of the world. They have traditionally relied on donations and dues from members to run this all volunteer managed organization.

CARDA is well known to their customers – CalEMA, Sheriffs, Police Departments, and search agencies. When looking to increase donations through fundraising, CARDA realized they needed reach a broad audience. They not only needed to educate the public as to who they are, but to convey a message of professionalism, safety and trust that the donations would go to a good cause.

In 2011, this one day event involved ten Pet Food Express stores and Natural Balance produced over $18k in donations for CARDA. This represented an over 18x return on investment. This was more than double any previous donation received by the organization. For 2012, based on the success of the previous year Pet Food Express dedicated forty stores making this a much larger event. The donations were more than double the previous year. This will enabled CARDA to do more to get search teams where they are needed and help pay for medical expenses if a K9 is injured on a search.

The design of the advertising, flyers, posters and other promotional materials was essential in presenting this organization to the public. The clean design made the message stand out while the consistency across mediums gave CARDA a professional image. Lastly, the image of the dog communicated the very real function this K9 search and rescue organization performs and as well as helps instill trust.