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Bur Oak Land Trust of Iowa City

The Impact of Design on a Fundraising Campaign

When creating impactful designs that will compel donors to give, it’s vital to know your audience. The first step Amperage Fundraising Advisers undertakes with a new client is a creative clarity exercise, which establishes the appropriate tone, personality and beliefs of an organization—and most importantly, who is the audience?

Bur Oak Land Trust of Iowa CityAmperage recently created a case statement for Bur Oak Land Trust of Iowa City, Iowa that reflects this organization’s unique mission to protect and conserve the natural areas of Johnson and surrounding counties for future generations. The Trust’s staff, board of directors and campaign leadership enthusiastically embraced the look of the campaign materials in support of the “Conserve. Protect. Grow.” campaign, which went public with an April 20, 2016 campaign kickoff. A case statement exemplifies one of the many key tools Amperage creates during a fundraising campaign.

Coming up with a compelling design that speaks to your target audience is only half the battle. The other half is employing that design in a consistent, effective manner that produces results. Consistency is the operative word here. From case statements, websites and newsletters to direct mail, video, pledge forms and social media, all of your materials should be recognizable at a glance. This includes not just your logo, but fonts, layout and color. According to a study conducted by the University of Winnipeg, 62 to 90 percent of an assessment is based on color alone. Pick a color palate and stick to it!

Want a quick and easy consistency check? Pull a random sample of your marketing and fundraising materials and spread them across a table. Do they have a similar look and feel? Because we often work on individual pieces, the differences don’t become apparent until everything is looked at collectively. Consistent design always wins in the eyes of a donor.


This post was a collaboration between Justin Tolan, Chief Fundraising Adviser, and Tyler Timko, Regional Fundraising Adviser.

Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.