When Brand Guidelines Trump Donor-centricity You Have a Recipe For Disaster

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

When brand guidelines trump donor-centricity you have a recipe for disaster “Make the font smaller!” That’s what the brand police told me to do.
I reminded them that the supporters we were targeting for the CGA lead generation effort were over 70. But they just didn’t care.
“Make it smaller!” they commanded.
I tried again. I sent them information to support my claim that our audience won’t be able to read the promotion. I implored them to change their minds. I sent them data from the American Optometric Association about how people over 60 are much more likely to experience the following (in addition to basic vision deterioration):

  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Retinal detachment
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Dry eye

They didn’t care.
In the end, our campaign failed. I knew the decision to make the font smaller was a recipe for disaster. And, I was right.
Bottom line: Stop trumping your donors’ needs with silly brand guidelines that were probably written by a Generation X’er or a Millennial who doesn’t wear glasses.
If you would like to read more about donor-centricity, click here.

7 responses to “When Brand Guidelines Trump Donor-centricity You Have a Recipe For Disaster”

  1. Claire Meyerhoff says:


  2. Theresa says:

    THANK YOU!!!!

  3. David says:

    LOVE, LOVE, Love!!! This is right on point.

  4. Mike Frising says:

    Brand guidelines are just that, guidelines, not rules for your brand. Certain brand managers take their organization’s guidelines and use it as the be-all and end-all for design and don’t allow for flexibility. I would say that’s the fault of the brand manager not being creative enough to understand his/her target audience (in this example, the elderly), and being able to come up with a solution that not only fits within the organizations brand, but appeals to the target audience. Design should ALWAYS follow function.

  5. My colleagues and I have been fighting this battle for years (at two different institutions, for me). Tiny fonts, reverse-type, colored text on a colored background, etc. All proven to be bad for many in our audience, but SO hard to get the designers and brand enforcers to account for our audience when developing their standards. I agree 100% with Mike.

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