Interview with Lee Rose: Nonprofit Communications Professional

This week’s Designing for Good Interview is with Lee Rose, the Editor of and Co-founder at MESH Network for Young Nonprofit Professionals in Ottawa.  

DF: As someone who has worked in the non-profit industry, how has design impacted the cause or organization you are involved with?

LR: Design (and a well though-out and executed brand vison and strategy) plays an important role in how my organization connects and engages with its stakeholders, donors, program participants, funders and community partners. It affords us a measure of consistency ‘across platforms’ and ensures that we are ‘speaking from the same song book’ no matter who we are ‘speaking’ to. Well-designed mail pieces bring in more donations. A well-designed and easy to-use website encourages online donations on every single page. A simple logo that can work in a range of situations helps to identify our organization.

DF: What are your thoughts on how your organization would function with poor, default, unthoughtful design and branding?

LR: If our organization stopped paying attention to ‘design’ and our branding, it would have a detrimental effect on our ability to fundraise, promote our programs, engage with our stakeholders and manage our reputation.

DF: Do you feel that non-profits, social enterprises and grassroots initiatives can survive and compete for attention with the visual branding of large companies?

LRAbsolutely. Good branding and design don’t have to cost a lot of money. The best ideas are simple, tied to mission and easy to execute. I would argue that nonprofits, social enterprises and grassroots initiatives are better positioned to design and execute brands that truly reflect their purpose and resonate with their target audiences than larger companies. 

DF: In your opinion, should all designers have some sustainability or social conscious in their practice and philosophy?

LRNo. I am not an advocate for mandated social consciousness or responsibility – doesn’t that negate the entire premise? I would rather see designers do this on their own accord – and build a socially-conscious following that way. It takes one to  lead and then others will follow, when they see the benefit of doing so (benefits can be financial, social, altruistic etc.)

DF: Do you think that a physical storefront (or space or studio) dedicated to offering design services for “good” would be a useful idea?

LR: Yes. However the idea of charging only minimal rates doesn’t jive with me. It’s ok to do good and make money at the same time – despite what the nay sayers might say. By overly-subsidizing services for nonprofits, I think that you will only serve to perpetuate the ‘hand out’ model that plagues the sector. You need to make sure that you recognize the value of your service and price it accordingly – with room to move up or down. Don’t discount the value of your work – if you do it for next to nothing, then it may be perceived as not being as valuable as it really is.

About The Author

Daniel Francavilla

Daniel is a graduate of OCAD University's Graphic Design program. He is the founder of Now Creative Group, and is inspired to make positive change through design and youth organizations like ACCESS and Speak Up for Change. Follow him on Twitter @Francavilla and @NowCreates.

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01 2012

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