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Hey, Nonprofits, ‘Usability’ is More Than a Tech Term
by Derrick Feldmann
Hey, Nonprofits, ‘Usability’ is More Than a Tech Term
by Derrick Feldmann
When I walked into Re:build conference last Friday I felt a bit out of the place. The room was full to the brim with boys in skinny jeans, plaid button down shirts and thick-rimmed glasses. Most of them were hunched over their laptops or typing on iPhones and iPads, either taking notes, tweeting or both. As much as I work (and love working) with developers, I tend to stick out like a sore thumb. In case you haven’t guessed it, I had entered a conference about building for the web.
Now you are surly wondering, what does any of this have to do with my nonprofit? Well, even though I am sure you get just as excited as I do over user experience, hover effects and coding with the Twitter Bootstrap, I will not bore you with those aspects of the conference. As your end-of-year campaigns get closer, it is important to take breathers and make sure you are also taking care of yourself during one of the busiest times of the year. I am going to share with you four tips that I found particularly inspiring.
#1 Hire people who look for problems and want to fix them.
More often than not, nonprofits have a limited number of people on staff and therefore hiring can be exciting, yet stressful at the same time. You are most likely looking for someone who can wear many different hats and is an expert in their field, but is also a good communicator, is able to assist person X with their responsibilities, and, and… But one trait that cannot be taught and is a good indicator that a person will thrive in your nonprofit is if they are a “fixer.” Hire people who are bothered by things that don’t work well and want to improve them. Once they possess that skill, many of the other things can be taught.
#2 Naps are a part of my business model
“Why don’t more offices have nap rooms?” This quote comes from Jason VanLue (@jasonvanlue), who is an excellent designer and provided some great advice. I mostly included this tip not because I think that every person should include naps in their workday, but rather to use it as an illustration that there are simple things you can do to improve both your productivity and sanity throughout the day. Whether it be a 5-minute nap to boost your energy level, a brisk walk outside or a quick yoga-stretching session, all of those things improve morale. Think about stepping away from your desk a few times throughout the day to refresh yourself, in whatever way works best for you. In the spirit of full-disclosure, since I live right around the corner from where the conference was held, I did swing by home for a quick powernap mid-conference. It certainly made for more enjoyable last sessions!
#3 You are happier at work if you have more personal relationships.
People make other people happy! This tip was from Willo O’Brien (@willwtoons), whose entire presentation was about how to take care of yourself in the workplace. It seems like such a simple thing to do, but it’s important to do things like company outings, grabbing drinks after work or spending a few minutes a day talking about what you did that weekend. You spend day-in and day-out with these people, so why not get to know them. Have some fun with it!
#4 Find the sweet spot of what you do: do what you love, what pays you well, and what comes easily to you.
Those who work in the nonprofit world typically do not have just one job responsibility – there are too many things to be done and too little resources for you not to take on roles that sometimes you either do not have experience in or perhaps do not enjoy as much as others. Every once and a while it is healthy to take a step back, look at all of the responsibilities that you have on your plate and think about those three questions: What do I love? What pays me well? What comes easily to me? Perhaps the answer will drive you to either re-organize the way the responsibilities are distributed in your nonprofit or think about moving into a new role.
I love learning about web design, connecting with others in the industry and hearing from the movers and shakers in my field, but when came to the end of the conference there was just one quote that really stuck with me. It was from Willo O’Brien and she said, “Life is too short and you are too amazing to not be happy.” I hope that you can take that to heart this week and maybe even implement one or two of these tips to improve both your workplace and yourself.
As nonprofits, it can be challenging to present your organization’s goals in a clear and easily-understandable way. In today’s world, people will not take the time to read a large body of text, but rather want to get the information they need in mere seconds. This can be an obstacle for many organizations, especially when the organization is making an incredible impact, but it does not know how to visually articulate its vision to those around it.
One way to get your organization’s message across quickly is to use infographics to illustrate who you are and how you impact your constituents. The following three examples show a few of the ways that Achieve has helped create clear and compelling infographics to promote local nonprofits.
The first example is Immigrant Welcome Center, an organization that helps immigrants transition to life in Indianapolis and build a supportive community in their new home. The text on the left is where we started from and we took that information to create the document on the right. In this case, it was particularly helpful to visually show the process that an immigrant goes through when Immigrant Welcome Center is first introduced to them. Instead of merely listing the steps a person might take, we created a graph that walks through the initial steps a client takes as well as show the on-going relationship that Immigrant Welcome Center has with the client. In addition, we took the various statistics surrounding the immigrant community and used relevant visuals to build awareness around the issues immigrants face.
Little Red Door Cancer Agency has many different services that impact the lives of those with cancer in central Indiana. Just like many organizations, it can be difficult to explain all of the different ways that the organization is helping its client base. Achieve strategically sifted through Little Red Door’s services and grouped each channel in an easily-understandable way. The chart below explains not only the different ways that Little Red Door can help an individual client, but also shows how many clients the organization touched in 2011 through those channels.
Hoosier Environmental Council is the largest state-wide environmental organization and impacts the community by improving land, water and air all over Indiana. In this case, Achieve took an existing graphic that was used to illustrate what Hoosier Environmental Council is doing in each county and tweaked it to be more clear and engaging. In many cases, keeping the information and visuals as simple as possible will help the reader more quickly understand the message. By using larger titles and pairing the impact in each county with the appropriate icon, readers can understand the basic information without reading the entire paragraph.
Designing infographs is all about understanding the way that that eye travels across the page and knowing what elements will grab the person’s attention first. It is a combination of psychology and art to effectively connect with a person through visuals. These are just a few ways that Achieve helps its clients connect with its constituents and there will surely be more to come in the future!
People love photos. Nonprofits have the opportunity to instantly connect with their audience by posting photos to their website and facebook. Photos give you the chance to engage an individual and create an emotional connection with that person within milliseconds. Once the individual connects with the photo, it will then entice them to read the message that goes with it. However, not all photos are created equal. There is a reason that we recommend hiring a professional photographer for the important things- it will enhance your ability to engage your audience. Regardless, we also realize that nonprofits cannot always hire a professional photographer, especially considering how many events, fundraisers and projects a given nonprofit hosts throughout the year. So when you are given the challenge of playing photographer at your next fundraiser, keep these 4 simple tips in mind:
1) Take a Close Up of a Face
One of the most fundamental rules of good advertising is that people are attracted to faces. More specifically, people are attracted to eyes. Studies have shown that consumers will look longer at an advertisement that has a face in it than one that does not. Think about your facebook posts and website content as mini-advertisements meant to bring attention to your organization. You already know that your nonprofit does incredible work that changes the lives of people everyday, but you need to convince your audience of that as well. Show them the face of the person that you helped today.
One example of a nonprofit that does a phenomenal job with featuring faces (even if they are not human faces) is the Humane Society of Indianapolis. Below is an example of one of their recent posts.
Another example of a nonprofit that does a great job at featuring faces is the Indiana Blood Center. Giving blood is never a fun experience, but if you can see the face of the person you are giving blood to, you are able to personally connect with that individual.
2) Take Action Shots
Nonprofits always have a plethora of events happening, whether it be a community fundraiser, building a structure, hosting a 5K or a five course dinner. A great way for people to visualize what you do is to show them through action shots. For example, if you are a community development organization, show the rebuilding of your most recent project by taking a new photo during each stage. A great way to keep your audience interested is by building a story through your photos over time. If you are a service-based organization, do a follow up story with a person that you had helped previously and include a photo of them playing with their kids or engaging in their favorite hobby.
The Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market is a good example of utilizing photos to its advantage. Not only do they take pictures of produce at the market, but they also include shots of people buying their favorite products. When you see tomatoes like that, who wouldn’t want to shop at the farmer’s market?
3) Take a Close Up of an Interesting Object
Although connecting with your audience on a personal level is the most important things to remember, you also want to think about providing a diverse set of photos. Just like we were all taught to vary our sentences when writing a paper, the same concept is true for photography. A good rule of thumb is to take a broad shot of something and then pick out two or three details that you can zoom in a capture closer up.
Green Bean Delivery will make you pumped to receive your next produce bin when you see the fresh color of home grown green beans. In this case, Green Bean Delivery often uses photos from recipes that it is reposting to its facebook page. If you do not have a lot of photos of your own, link to outside articles that feature a great photo.
4) Think About Color
People are attracted to color! You want your photos to stand out from the mass of information out there and one great way to do that is by choosing photos with rich beautiful colors.
People for Urban Progress does very well at featuring color. From their bright yellow stadium chairs, to their hip 317 t-shirts, there is no lack of visual interest in their promotional pieces. The image below shows a lovely progression of red to orange in the stadium chair colors and certainly catches your eye when you see it.
Always remember that the more you pay attention to the photos you are taking and the more you practice, the better you will become. Be intentional when you are taking pictures and try something new. The advantage today is that we digital cameras, which gives you the freedom to get a little trigger happy. A good rule of thumb is to keep an extra SIM card on hand so that you are sure not to run out of space on your data card.
Now go grab your camera and get shooting!
Creating collateral that is clear and sends the right message is very important for a successful fundraising campaign. Unfortunately, nonprofits are often met with the challenge of limited resources in finding the time and money to hire a good designer. I know that I speak for the entire Achieve staff when I say that we believe nonprofits should invest into a good designer! Especially with something as big as a fundraising campaign, if you do not have effective design you will have a hard time connecting with your audience, which leads to fewer donations.
But with that said, there are certainly times when nonprofits need to create a promotional piece internally, whether it be laying out a newsletter, a thank you card or a proposal. So here are a few basic guidelines to think about when you are using typography (fonts) in promotional pieces.
1) Use a Consistent Font
I am not going to point fingers, so if you are one of those nonprofits that uses six different fonts on one newsletter, there is always room for forgiveness. However, the most important part of using typography is to make it so that your readers can actually read the font. Contrary to common belief, using one consistent font will make it easier for your readers to understand the information. In addition, use the same font for all of your promotional materials in order to maintain a consistent brand identity (i.e. newsletters, postcards, thank you cards, brochures, etc.) Most nonprofits will have one font for print materials and a similar font for web.
2) Use a White Background for Body Text
In general, if you are forced to create a promotional piece internally, keep it as simple as possible. Don’t add background colors or too many graphics and please do not use clip art. It all goes back to readability where if you place white text over a black background the reader’s eyes will strain to gather the information. In fact, if you don’t make it convenient and easy to get the right information the reader will just pass it by.
3) Choose a Font that is Professional
Again, simple is better. Often times fonts that look like handwriting or are too script-like are more difficult to read and your audience will miss the message. Below are a few examples of fonts that are available on almost every computer and are good choices when creating promotional pieces. Helvetica is a classic font that is clean and contemporary and is great for both headers and body text. If you do not have Helvetica, you can use Arial as a secondary choice. Palatino is good to use when you want your text to look a little bit more formal, such as on a flier for an evening dinner fundraising event. Palatino also looks nice in italics, which is shown in the body text below. Having stood the test of time, Garamond is another font that gives a professional yet traditional feel. Trust me on this one, do not use Comic Sans, Papyrus or Lucida Handwriting.