Stories of design across all media


Keeping Hearts Beating on a Budget

As creators, every cross-media campaign opportunity to us instantly becomes an invitation to think big. We need an app, of course, and augmented-reality print collateral where you put your phone here and tap this and hang the expense.

  • website
  • invitations
  • trip reports

But when you’re creating a campaign for a nonprofit that ekes out an existence by tapping the off hours of its volunteers and the few bucks that can be wrung from the good hearted, you must rely instead on a different creative muscle to make it all come together – without emptying those already meager coffers.


Hearts are for Sharing
Medical care has never been fabulous in the Soviet Union; every year thousands perished for want of medical expertise and equipment more widely available beyond the Iron Curtain.

When communism finally began to crumble in 1989, Heart to Heart, an international alliance of medical personnel, formed to help doctors in the former Soviet Union get a handle on treating young children suffering from congenital heart defects.

Of course getting international medical volunteers in and out of the country is an expensive proposition in itself; donations are indeed the beating heart of the operation. Getting those donations requires an awareness campaign with consistent messaging and brand identity.

About six years ago, Heart to Heart approached Joey’s Corner, the nonprofit design studio founded by California design luminary Michael Osborne, for help. They had little in the way of promotional materials, he remembers, and certainly nothing that could be considered a consistent brand.


CDs, Websites and Heart
Resisting the commercial designer’s impulse to experiment with the latest gimmicks, Joey’s Corner decided instead on a cross-media campaign that eschewed trendy technologies such as augmented-reality and USB sticks in favor of more cost-effective materials. One of their projects: a report about Heart to Heart’s work in Russia that went to a number of donors and potential donors, as well as former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“It’s a printed brochure, but we also included two CDs to capture the story featuring some of the photographs of their trip,” Osborne explains. “When the surgeons return from Russia, we do a trip report that documents how many children were operated on, where they went, what the surgeons in Russia learned, and what they’re going to do after they leave. And this is what a donor or potential donor needs to see.”

Next came the website, which Joey’s Corner transformed from a mishmash of text and a handful of photos into a site that neatly dovetails design-wise with the nonprofit’s printed materials. The “About Us” page alone powerfully sums up the organization: a large close-up of a determined young Russian woman, her face touching that of a wide-eyed infant, with a cutline below that begins “A Dream with a Deadline…”

“When I first talked to them about redesigning the website, it was like I was proposing that we take a trip to Saturn or something,” says Osborne. “They were like ‘new Website? New Website?’ But now they’re all over it, and they’ve realized the importance and power of these various communication tools.”


You are Cordially Invited…
Designing for a nonprofit requires you to devote much of your creativity to the one “big score” – one major fundraising event – rather than the scattered publicity campaign most commercial products employ.

In the case of Heart to Heart, that takes the form of the print invitation for donor gala events, says Osborne. “For many nonprofits, these events are the major fundraising effort of the year. Donations can be quite substantial, so these invitation materials are extremely important – they need to stand out amongst the plethora of other invitations a typical donor may receive.”

To encourage additional donations throughout the year, Joey’s Corner leveraged the emotionally charged photos Heart to Heart’s photographers captured during their missions into effective but inexpensive mailings.

“We suggested case-study mailings,” says Osborne. “Simple cards with factoids: what happened on the mission, a quote from a doctor, and one of their amazing photographs. The postcards are short and to the point – two things we know donors like.”

Chances are it’ll be a long while before you find any augmented-reality components in Heart to Heart’s awareness campaigns, no annual reports with 3D covers or the like. Only just enough of a marriage between print and digital to liberate a few dollars from wallets around the world – the price society must pay to keep a thousand tiny hearts beating in a land most will never see.




Author: Aaron Berman

A former writer and editor for USA Today, Aaron Berman is also the editor of PaperSpecs, and covered the newspaper industry for the Newspaper Association of America’s monthly magazine, Presstime.

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