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3 posts categorized "Design"

[Data Viz] How Does Foreign Aid Work?

March 08, 2014

Today's infographic isn't one, per se; it's a Web-based "visual explainer" created by Newsbound, a San Francisco-based design and software company, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that "debunks several prominent myths about foreign aid, including the argument that it is a waste of taxpayer dollars." Part photo essay, part data vizualization, the "stack" (which was included in the foundation's 2014 annual letter) comprises twenty slides easily navigated with a mouse or the arrow keys on your keyboard.

(Click here to view)

Foreignaid_explainer

What do you think? Is the less than 1 percent of the federal budget spent on foreign aid a waste of taxpayer dollars? Does foreign aid work? Or, as some argue, does it do more harm than good? And on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the Newsbound approach to a complex issue like foreign aid? Share your thoughts in the comments section below...

Design or Not to Design? Does It Matter?

February 12, 2014

(Derrick Feldmann is president of Achieve, a creative research and campaigns agency based in Indianapolis. In his previous post, he blogged about the fundraising secrets of internationally focused nonprofits.)

Feldmann_headshotAs the dust settles on another hectic fundraising season, I've been taking some time to sift through the direct mail and e-mail donation requests I received. It seems like the past year was extra busy for many organizations, and there was a lot of competition for my attention and charitable support as the year came to an end.

When analyzing the various pieces, I typically start with design, putting those that stick to a basic black-and-white format and avoid graphics other than an organization's logo in one pile and those that incorporate the latest design trends and National Geographic-quality photographs in another.

I also sort the pitch letters based on degree of personalization. A lot of them start with a generic salutation like "Dear Friend…," which always makes me smile and think: How can we be friends when I don't even know you? Then there are letters that address me as "Derrick" – well, because apparently we're on a first-name basis.

As someone who deals on a regular basis with fundraising campaigns, direct-mail appeals, and e-mail solicitations, I can almost always spot the pieces that were done in-house, as opposed to those created by an agency or outside contractor. In most cases, there's a certain polish to the latter, and you can tell the organization has paid good money to achieve that look and feel.

But does it matter? Do sharp, well-designed pieces lead to more and bigger donations than bland, generic pitches created by an in-house team?

Actually, not so much. As a number of recent studies show, a simple direct-mail or e-mail pitch is likely to raise just as much money as a well-designed piece. Indeed, according to fundraising expert Rachel Beer, A and B testing demonstrates that "something plain, functional, and straightforward will often out-perform something that is beautifully art directed or conceptual."

So if the design of your fundraising solicitations doesn't really matter, what does matter?

Brand. Your nonprofit's brand is what matters.

As the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations' Nathalie Kylander and Christopher Stone put it in a 2012 article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, "Strong brands in all sectors help organizations acquire financial, human and social resources, and build key partnerships. The trust that strong brands elicit also provides organizations with the authority and credibility to deploy those resources more efficiently and flexibly than can organizations with weaker brands."

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The Role of Design and 'Design Thinking' in Philanthropy

December 05, 2012

(Kris Putnam-Walkerly, an award-winning philanthropy consultant, evaluator, and speaker, is the principal author of the popular Philanthropy411 blog, where this post originally appeared.)

At the turn of the twenty-first century, after decades of percolation in academia, the concept of "design thinking" began to appear in popular business literature and conversation. Although finding a clear, consistent explanation of design thinking is rather like asking bridesmaids to agree on the perfect shade of blue, Wikipedia gave it a shot:

Design Thinking refers to the methods and processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring information, analyzing knowledge, and positing solutions in the design and planning fields. As a style of thinking, it is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.

Ill-defined problems. Combining empathy, creativity, and rationality in developing a solution. Sounds perfect for philanthropy, doesn't it? It's no wonder, then, that as design thinking has become manifest in the business world, it's beginning to pique the interest of the funding community.

In a recent conversation with Kyle Reis, Manager for Strategy and Operations at the Ford Foundation, we pondered the question of how foundations might partner with design communities to help them learn how to more fundamentally and intentionally integrate design and design thinking into their work.

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