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Branding for charities and non-profits – creating trust through design

Ed Garrett   |   June 14th 2021   |   @14:32

Trust is essential for any organisation, but especially so for charities and non-profits. Whether it’s raising donations, encouraging people to volunteer, or helping users find the services they need, trust is key to getting people on board with your work.

And it’s not just what you do that helps create that trust. Trust is a feeling, and it’s influenced by aesthetics as well as actions. From your website to your marketing and communications, the right design choices can do a lot for reinforcing relationships with your user, customers and supporters.

Keep it consistent

It’s harder for people to trust you if your branding and marketing material is constantly changing. That’s why it’s so important to keep a consistent aesthetic across your organisation. That includes everything from the typography and colours you choose, to your use of photography, iconography, and the layout of your web pages and marketing materials.

Your branding is how you set out your identity, so consistency helps people to feel more confident about knowing who you are as an organisation. And that’s not all. Familiarity with your design style also makes it much easier for people to navigate your website and find the information they need. 

Brand guidelines are a fantastic tool for large organisations as they help to make sure that internal teams and external creative partners are all singing from the same book. As part of our branding services we offer full support with this and will help you with your implementation.  

Be user led

One of the secrets of good design is thinking beyond just how you want it to look, and focusing also on how your users want and need it to look. It’s about putting them first by communicating in a way they can relate to.

We may be stating the obvious but imagine, for example, you personally like the look of a sophisticated serif font and muted colour palettes. Now apply that to a youth services setting. You’ll have a hard time convincing a lively young audience that what you’re offering is right for them.

When we work with charities and non-profits, we always start with their end user in mind. In our research phase, we collaborate with you to build in-depth audience profiles, pulling together images, cultural references – anything that helps get a broad understanding of who you’re trying to engage with.

The goal is to create designs that speak directly to the user. The more you can do this, the more they’ll trust that you truly understand what they need and how to deliver it.

Familiar, not disruptive

As well as having consistent designs across your own organisation, it also helps to have some consistency with the third sector at large.

That doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing as everyone else. But charities and non-profits don’t need to be shocking or disruptive like, for example, a fashion brand or fintech startup. Your users are coming to you for an essential service, so your branding needs to create enough of a comfort zone for them to trust that you are the type of organisation they need.

That’s why our research phase also looks at visual references from other organisations in a similar space to yours. You still get a visual identity that’s entirely your own, but by using these references as a benchmark, we make sure that your branding reassures your audience of your place in the sector.

Put your values into practice

As a charity or non-profit organisation, you know how important it is to act on your values. Design can be part of that. From choosing clear, easy to read typography, to implementing ALT text for the visually impaired, to ensuring diversity in your images, your design can be a powerful way of letting users know they can trust you to follow through on your values.

When we worked with independent living charity WECIL to update their branding and website, a big part of our goal was to modernise their visual identity and align it with their inclusive mission. The previous typography had lots of sharp corners, so we changed to bolder, soft-edged fonts that felt more approachable and a lot easier to read.

We also spoke to users with learning and visual impairments about the imagery on the site. From their feedback, we designed minimal iconography that reduced sensory overload, while still providing effective visual signposting. And as stock imagery doesn’t have much representation for diversity and disability, we created bespoke illustrations that better reflected the community that WECIL supports.

If you’re looking for branding and website design centred on trust and purpose, get in contactusing the form below or by emailing: [email protected]. We offer a range of pro-bono and discounted services for third sector organisations, and we’d love to know how we can help yours.

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