Infographics for Nonprofits … the Good; the Bad; the Ugly

in Integrated Multichannel Fundraising & Marketing,Marketing for Nonprofits,Storytelling

Infographics – like any other tool, channel, idea, etc. – have their place when used correctly.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy made a good point in an article about a month ago: Infographics can make data fun and informative.  I agree.

But there’s a catch.

The infographic has to be readable and tailored for the audience. That’s why I decided to share a few points for you and your graphic designer to consider when creating an infographic.

The Good – what I like about infographics for nonprofits

They’re intriguing, partly because they’re relatively new to the communication mix.

They tend to get people’s attention. (But can they keep it?)

They lend themselves to scanning. People can quickly find what interests them the most.

Done right, they can be fun. The graphics – drawings, pictures, cartoons – can lighten the reader’s experience as they engage with your valuable information.

They work especially well for presenting data, statistics, and other mind-numbing figures in a more digestible fashion.

Another possible use is as a story board. With clever drawings (or possibly photos), and the compelling text for each illustration … you could tell an engaging story. Use a child’s story book as the concept for the design.

Two examples:

1) In your welcome package this story board could highlight the history of your nonprofit. Or it could show all the different ways donors make a difference. But I recommend you also have the same info in a traditional letter, pamphlet or other print piece.

2) In an appeal it can outline how donors have helped a specific program grow and why you need them to upgrade their giving for the next need (but you still need the letter).

The Bad & the Ugly – what I don’t like about infographics

Far too much of the information is hard to read.

– Tiny font (even after enlarging the web image; but if it is in print then we don’t even have that option).

– Poor color choices; especially for the copy. For example: white font on a light blue background, or orange text on a black background.

Too much jammed into one infographic!!!!! It take 3 – 6 scrolls to read it all and if printed, it doesn’t fit on one page plus it’s still hard to read (e.g., small print and/or graphic).

Confusing and poorly organized. This is closely related to the previous bullet. Have people in different age groups – unfamiliar with the topic – read your infographic before you publish it. Can everyone get the gist of your key message in 5 seconds or less?

I often think developers of infographics focus on artistic creation instead of how to convey a clear message. This is BAD, BAD, BAD.

One-size-fits-all mindset. You don’t send the same letter to a prospect as you do a 10-year supporter. Nor do you send the same copy and tone in a letter/email to a 30-something as what’s sent to a 70-something. Infographics are no different.

Tailor the design and the content for different segments of your donor or member database. This doesn’t mean an entirely different infographic in every case. But tailored and personalized communications are a must in today’s fundraising market.

Not everyone likes infographics. For critical data, messaging, etc. you must use an integrated approach. Yes you send the info out via direct mail, email, social media, mobile, etc. But here integration also means sending it in multiple formats such as video, audio, readable text, illustrations, and so on. Give people choices on how they “consume” your content.

Infographics have their place. But please don’t risk annoying your donors, members, advocates and other supporters by churning out a poorly designed graphic that can’t be easily read or understood.

That means the fundamentals of clear, compelling, relevant and personalized communication still apply – even to infographics.

Don’t lose sight what the infographic is supposed to accomplish. What is the ONE prime message? What is the ONE thing it must achieve? With that written down, you can proceed to create infographics tailored for all your file segments. Finally, take care to avoid all of “the bad and the ugly” and focus on “the good.”

What do you like or dislike about infographics? Any nonprofit examples to share with us in the comment block?

Related posts:

How color impacts donors and members

What makes a compelling and memorable nonprofit story … storytelling

The risks of letting images dominate your nonprofit messaging

{ 3 trackbacks }
February 7, 2012 at 12:55 pm
6 Copy Tips for Donor-Centric Newsletters that raise money — Karen Zapp - Nonprofit Copywriter
May 30, 2012 at 7:12 am
Cause Marketing and Nonprofit Infographics — Karen Zapp - Nonprofit Copywriter
February 7, 2013 at 7:40 am

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

margie February 8, 2012 at 10:48 am

could you give examples. you always make good points but exampleas would really help. Thanks for all you do.

Bruce Colthart February 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm

This is a great and straightforward review of infographics, how they can be part of an integrated message (when used correctly) and how they can backfire (when not created or fielded properly).

Even as a designer of such things, I still think that to many infographics are self-aggrandizing ad, frankly, too hard to read or comprehend.

Karen Zapp, copywriter February 24, 2012 at 9:39 am

Thanks for weighing in, Bruce! I’ve found that the best graphic designers are those who can enhance the communication with design … without masking the message. In other words – readability and comprehension must prevail. Based on your comment you must fall into this camp.

If you’ve created an infographic that meets our criteria, I’d appreciate the chance to see it.

Karen Zapp, copywriter February 24, 2012 at 10:06 am


Whew! I’ve been swamped lately and didn’t have time to look for examples until today. Here are a few to illustrate what I don’t care for and I have yet to see one that nails it correctly.

1 – … This has faint gray font on a gray background. Contrast is minimal making it hard to read. Also used reverse font (white on gray) for main categories [click on image to enlarge]

2 – … I personally find the first graph on the page a strange way to illustrate the facts (circular image). Yes it’s clever; but how many people are familiar with this style and can grasp it within a second or two? Also the infographic is filled with reverse font. And they’ve really gone crazy with 2 dozen or so different bright colors. Everything combines to confuse and dazzle the eyes; hard to read; hard to comprehend QUICKLY and EASILY. [click on image to enlarge]

3 – … If anyone has partial color blind issues, this RED infographic will be all but impossible to read. Not that it’s easy for the rest of us. Clutter and images all over the place. Reverse font syndrom dominates. [click on image to enlarge]

4 – … Here we go again with the reverse font. Also used pale green font on white background. It’s organized fairly well though – at least in my opinion

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