Often when people think about branding, they think about businesses, but it is just as important for nonprofits to have good branding and strong marketing collateral. I recently got to work with Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) to develop a marketing piece for them. The organization is doing great, high-impact work and I really enjoy working with them. After this latest project, I sat down with the organization’s communications director, Kasey Ashenfelter, to talk about what they do and hear a little more about why he chose to have their brochure professionally designed.
Before we talk about our work together, can you describe what it is that THI does?
The Texas Hunger Initiative, based at Baylor University, is a statewide, anti-hunger program. I always tell people, we don’t give food to people, we work with the agencies and organizations that give food to people. There are so many great people and organizations doing really great and important work, but it’s hard for all of that work to be coordinated—those organizations are already working incredibly hard as it is, they don’t have time to do it! So, that’s where THI comes in. We bring people together—state and federal agencies, schools, congregations, businesses, etc.—to help them collaborate and coordinate their work and make it even more effective. Our goal is to find a solution to hunger in Texas and in the United States.
Ending hunger in the United States, nothing major! So, as you’re working toward this goal, what made you want to work with Cedar Gandy?
Well, as you can tell, sometimes clearly describing what we do can be difficult but doing so is important. We needed new marketing material, a brochure or handout that we could leave with people. Like a lot of nonprofits, we don’t have a graphic designer on staff. Most of the time, we just get by with my self-taught design skills! But, after a first draft, I just didn’t feel like we were hitting the mark since this was going to be our centerpiece marketing material. This would be the piece that got handed out most—to prospective donors, nonprofit partners, elected officials—and we knew it needed to be good, so, as is always the case, my first call was to you.
It’s always a great call to get! You said, “as always,” and I know this isn’t the first project I’ve done with THI, but could you tell our readers a little about the work we’ve done together?
This isn’t the first time we’ve hit the limits of our skills! We recently partnered with organizations in Oklahoma as they started a statewide anti-hunger effort similar to THI. We’ve worked together on a couple of reports and knew right away that they needed to be very high-quality. More than just reports, these were going to help launch an effort and would be equal parts informative and marketing material. This was another case where we knew that the return on our investment—working with Cedar Gandy—would absolutely be worth it.
I'm so glad to hear it! Okay, now that we’ve gotten that bit of work history out of the way, let’s go back to the latest brochure. Why did you feel it “wasn’t hitting the mark”?
Well, it’s hard to say exactly—I guess if I knew exactly, I may have been able to fix it myself! It really was just a feeling that our first draft wasn’t engaging. It didn’t look bad, but it didn’t seem to tell our story, visually, the way I wanted it to. I also couldn’t figure out spacing. It felt like I’d have too many words on one page or not the right amount of graphics on another, and we’d move things around but couldn’t quite get it. We just knew, overall, it wasn’t the piece we needed to showcase our work.
Right, I remember the first time we talked about the brochure, you didn’t quite know what you wanted but you knew you didn’t have it yet…
I remember that first time we talked about it too. The great thing was, I was able to be so vague about it and you immediately had specific adjustments that you thought we should make. You started listing your initial ideas and I just thought, “Yes, yes! That’s it! That’s what I’ve been trying to say!”
I think one of the first things we did was change the main color on the brochure…
Right. We had used a golden/brown color, because we’ve liked to have an earthy, grassroots feel to our design elements. You changed that to sky blue—literally in some places the background is an image of a blue sky! And in some places the background is just white. That change completely invigorated the piece; it immediately felt more energetic and engaging.
Another change you almost immediately suggested was adding a more human element to the design. You explained to me how human faces really engage people, particularly with work like ours that is trying to help people. So, you switched our cover image from vegetables to a smiling kid eating fruit—and, of course, you were so right! You look at the cover and into the kid’s eyes and can’t help but be engaged. And, as a side note, I really love that you used a picture of a smiling child who was eating instead of a picture of a sad, hungry looking child. The images you used are positive, inspiring, and show what “success” looks like for us. I really like that.
Once we made those big changes, the brochure came together pretty quickly. I was able to just keep vaguely describing what I wanted, and you seemed to actually understand and turn that vision into a reality.
That’s my job! Ha! But I do really enjoy helping clients turn a vision for their brand or company and into reality and bringing it to life. This was a fun project to work on! Are there any other aspects of this project we haven’t covered that you’d like to share?
Well…I think we’d be remiss not to talk about the one snag we had…the typo…(plus I want to make sure your readers get to know how you handled it!)
Ugh…if we must…
Let’s just say, the back of our brochure has a common phrase on it—a bible verse that a lot of people are familiar with. So, when it went through our rounds of edits, our team would read that verse and their brains would simply fill in the missing word. No one noticed! And I had so many people read it—I even showed it to my mom and sister-in-law to get an outside perspective. We all missed it! But the real reason I wanted to tell this story is for the resolution—and you might not say this yourself! I think I told you about it via email. Before I could even think about next steps, you had fixed the mistake AND were delivering us reprints! I love the brochure, but that level of customer service may have been the most impressive part of the process!
Oh gosh, I can’t believe we all missed that! But I’m glad we got it fixed. And now that I got that unsolicited plug…any parting wisdom you’d like to offer or any plug you’d like to make for THI?
I’ll never turn down an opportunity to make a plug for THI! All I’ll say is that hunger is a very real problem in our state and our country and it doesn’t have to be. I know there are efforts in your community to find solutions to hunger—join them! And reach out to me (Kasey) if you want to know how! We’ve got a great brochure that will tell you what you need to know. :)
Clearly conveying your message is so important to your business or nonprofit. Doing it well is always worth it, hints why we recommend working with you, Cedar Gandy!