3 Tips to Make Your Marketing Visuals Pop (Not Flop)

Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words. But a picture that resonates is worth far more.

From our team to yours, here are some tips we’ve honed from creating thousands of print and digital appeals each year. We’ve seen what moves a donor to action and what sits unread. Let’s get into the details—and some examples—of visuals that pop.

Tip #1: Be Authentic

Ironically (or maybe not), this is one of my top tips for 2021 content as well. Share all the colorful, real moments of human connection. A visual that’s authentic does this best.

Use photos of relaxed and engaged donors. Even selfies, like this example above, charms. Who wouldn’t want to join these two on a philanthropic journey?  They clearly care about exploring the natural world.

Authenticity also means representing your full charitable operation: What does a day look like for a volunteer? What’s happening in the local community you serve? Where is the problem the largest? Visuals can help tell this story.

2. Consider Type-Only Design

Type is a good option if you don’t have strong, focused photographs. Type-only designs can stand out in the mail (think postcards) and have big-time impact.

Type Visual That Pops: Montana Tech Foundation

This front of a reply card from Montana Tech engages right away. “You” is always a good word to build into a visual.

Why It Works:

  • It’s succinct. A short, to-the-point question offers a yes-or-no response.
  • It feels like an invitation. The curly font for “Join Us” has a formality, which implies an event or other prestigious opportunity.
  • It literally directs you. Notice the subtle arrow pointing to the back? It’s a helpful indication that there’s more to read.
  • It’s airy. White space (or in this case green space) around the type brings the eye to the call to action.

3. Distill It

Impact stats are a smart, popular way to drive home your nonprofit’s success at a glance. Avoid the temptation to cram all the information—just one more thing!—into the space. Imagine how you feel reading a financial report. That’s how donors might feel trying to sift through too many numbers on a page.

Distilled Visual That Pops #1: The University of Houston

The University of Houston’s cover letter conveys compelling impact stats in a quick, easy-to-digest way.

Why It Works:

  • It uses school colors purposefully. The stats are in school colors; the text is kept black for readability.
  • It layers the visuals. Notice the starburst behind the stats. And the smart yellow bars pulling you in from the top and below. 
  • It’s smart about the color red. “Here We Go” is the only element in red—it’s prominent to signal a kickoff.

Distilled Visual That Pops #2: Save the Children

In this page from their newsletter, Save the Children incorporates one data point that tells the story of the nonprofit’s trustworthiness. 

Why It Works:

  • It’s short. Build organizational credibility and stop explaining yourself.
  • It uses white space. White space (or in this case red space) leads the eye to the circle.


Lacking a great, authentic photo? That’s no reason to shy away from visuals. Try an impact stat or make your text do the heavy lifting. Great visuals make a great and lasting impression.

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