How to create a visually impactful campaign for your nonprofit?


If you’re planning a campaign for your nonprofit, having knowledge about visual content strategies is the key to success. Arturo Rago, the design education lead for Nonprofits at Canva, shares a few tips on how to get your digital content strategy right.


If you’re looking for evidence that design can change the world, look no further than public toilets.

Back in the 1990s, Amsterdam’s international airport was looking for ways to keep toilets clean while cutting cleaning costs. Men’s toilets, in particular, were the concern.

Changing the behavior of thousands of men transiting through the airport every day is no small feat. The cleaning staff knows this better than anyone. That’s when the design came in.

The airport redesigned the urinals by placing the image of a fly in the bowls. Conveniently placed above the drain but slightly off to one side, the fly looked like a real one. So much so that men just couldn’t resist trying to wash it down.

Designed in the late 90s, the fly is still a common sight across the world’s toilets as new generations of male travelers engage with what they think is an unwelcome spectator to their toilet break. Such is the power of design.

You may be wondering what parallels can be drawn between this case in point and digital content strategies for nonprofit campaigns. As it turns out, quite a few.

The power of design

From spaces and infrastructure all the way to digital products, design is the invisible ingredient that shapes our actions – often unbeknown to us.

Design can be an incredibly powerful tool for nonprofit marketing that, by its very nature, operates in the space of ‘what could be’: whether it be climate action, social justice, or inclusion, nonprofits strive to drive humanity towards a future that doesn’t exist just yet. This takes the ability to win people over, to get others to see and share your vision.

And this is exactly what graphic design is all about: visualizing things, turning ideal situations, goals, and abstract scenarios into something that looks and feels like a possibility, something we can see and relate to.

Defining visual content strategies for your campaign

The picture of a raised fist, a pink triangle, and a sequence of stripes in the colors of the rainbow: these are just a few notable examples of how graphic design has shaped pivotal moments in human history, rallying people around a shared cause and encouraging them to walk the distance between ‘the world as it is’ and ‘the world as it could be.’

The Design Museum even curated an entire exhibition on how graphic design has shaped key moments in recent history, from political elections to anti-terrorism and anti-capitalist movements.

So if you’re planning a nonprofit marketing campaign for change, there are a few steps to unlock the full power of design to inform, engage and move people to action.

1. Set clear goals

The first step is clarifying the vision. What is the change that you want to see? What is the future you want to create? And how is your campaign going to help you get closer to that vision?

Is the goal to raise awareness about your cause, is it to mobilize community members towards a specific action, or is it perhaps to make a change in the legislative agenda?

Once you’ve clarified your goals, attach clear success metrics to them. Whether it be engagement on social media, a donation target, or the number of petition signatures, make the goal as tangible as possible. This will help you stay intentional as you build the campaign.

2. Identify your target audience

The second step is to realize that the campaign is not about your nonprofit. It’s all about the people whose help you’re going to need to reach your campaign goals.

Who are they? Where are they? How do they spend their time (online and offline)? What do they need to know, see or imagine to realize they have a stake in the change you’re trying to make? How is your campaign relevant – or how can you make it relevant – to what’s happening in the world or your audience’s community?

Understanding your audience means understanding both the demographics and psychographics of your supporters.

Remember the fly? Only by understanding your audience can you meet them where they are, decide what channels to focus on, and create a digital content strategy that will resonate with them.

3. Set your visual direction

These days, the way to a supporter’s heart is through their thumb.

According to Domo’s annual infographic, every minute sees 5.7 million searches conducted on Google, 65,000 photos shared on Instagram, and a whopping 167 million videos consumed on TikTok.

Being intentional about the visual direction of your campaign is key to standing out and cutting through the constant stream of online content.

First and foremost, your visual content strategies should resonate with the values and personality of your nonprofit.  Are you a gutsy organization speaking to young changemakers? Or are you a more conservative nonprofit appealing to an older demographic? The messaging and tone of your campaign should reflect who you are, what you stand for, and how you show up for it.

Once you have clarified the tone of your campaign, the next question is: how can your visual content express that tone?

You have two options. The first option is to stick to the core elements of your brand identity – this means applying the colors, fonts, and imagery of your nonprofit brand, letting the messaging be the distinctive element of the campaign.

Macmillan Cancer Support’s ‘Brave the Shave’ is an excellent example of how sticking to your core brand pays off. Made instinctively recognizable by the brand’s colors, typography, and illustration style, the campaign has earned the nonprofit over £22 million since 2015.

The second option is to create a specific identity for your nonprofit marketing campaign. Choosing a distinct color palette, using a new display font for your headers, or going for one particular style or crop for your photography are some of how you can give your campaign a unique visual twist. The challenge here is to strike a delicate balance between creating something that feels distinctive enough while keeping it on-brand.

Depart too much from your core brand identity, and people won’t know it’s you. Being recognizable is the first step towards building trust and engagement in a visual landscape where a fraction of a second is all your audience has time for.

Your brand must be flexed enough to feel like an extension of your campaign rather than an arbitrary deviation – a fresh twist rather than a wholesale change.

Human Rights Campaign for marriage equality in the USA revolved around a fresh interpretation of the HRC iconic logo, which was turned red and pink for the occasion.

The choice was intentional: the campaign’s goal was to flood the web with a red sea of love as people used the new logo to filter their social media profiles. This struck a masterful balance between keeping the brand identity central to the campaign while time flexing it strategically and meaningfully for the audience.

Use Canva for Your Next Campaign

Canva’s mission is to make design intuitive for everyone – whether you have a design team or you are on your own creating visual content for your nonprofit. Canva can help you plan, design, and execute your visual content strategies every step of the way.

Here’s an overview of some of the things you can achieve with Canva:

  • With hundreds of thousands of creative assets at your fingertips in Canva’s template library, you can easily create visual content for social media, print collateral, landing pages, and even videos and work with your team by sharing feedback within the platform.Explore our templates: from climate change and supporting Ukraine all the way to period poverty and LGBTQ+ templates, Canva gives you a leg-up with your visual content.
  • Canva’s brand kit allows you to set up the core elements of your brand identity – your logo, colors, and fonts – and apply them to your assets with just one click.
  • The magic resize feature lets you adapt your assets to multiple platforms without worrying about pixels and platform size specifications.
  • You can also schedule the publication of your visual content across your digital platforms without leaving Canva using the content planner.

If you’re a registered nonprofit or social impact organization, you can apply for a free Canva Pro for Nonprofits plan for your team and join a community of over 230,000 nonprofits using Canva as a force for good every day.

Want to take your design skills to the next level? Canva has got you covered. Check out the Canva Pro for Nonprofits course on Canva Design School – and unlock the full power of Canva for your next campaign.

Come Together with Goodera

If you are looking for assistance to grow your nonprofit, consider a partnership with Goodera. With 50k+ global nonprofit partnerships, Goodera provides corporate volunteers, donations, and knowledge resources to support nonprofits in their cause.

Get in touch with our team to know more about us and be a part of the global community.

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