The Union Method Round Up

The Union Method Round Up

If you’ve taken our advice on getting started with your annual report (even though you just finished), great job, you’ve given yourself some time to think strategically and thus be more active about your report for next year.

This week we’re helping you get into the strategic mindset by sharing some posts about our method and how it guides people through their project with ease and purpose.

Intention and intuition are vital values here at Union Design, so it should be no surprise that this is where our process is rooted. Design, like a business, is art and science. The highest goal is finding the intersection between form and function, continually assessing our efforts against our goals.

Becuase we want to see our efforts pay off, we have to get to the core of the problem we’re trying to solve. The dialogue starts there, what’s the specific problem? What are the tangible solutions that we can move forward right now?

Rooting our progress in our values is where the strategic magic happens. Next, we explore the depth and breadth of the project, taking what we understand about the specific problem we’re solving, and then aiming to understand the people we’re trying to help.

After digging deep to get a fresh perspective, we take a look at what already exists and evaluate it in an audit. Once an audit is complete, we move forward with the current project with our strategy, goals, and audience all in mind.

We’re always happy to talk with people during their planning process, the sooner a designer can get involved in the process, the more thorough their understanding of the project is, and the better the final product will be.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Me

Five Questions

Five Questions

Here’s the truth: design alone can’t solve your communications problems. It’s easy to think there is a magic bullet in business, but there isn’t, and treating design like it could solve all of your problems won’t address the need for strategic thinking that gives structure to a design concept.  

If the strategy isn’t there, even the most beautiful design will be hollow.

It may be pretty, but it won’t be effective.

Keep your projects on track by answering these 5 questions.

Why does this project matter?

Check out last weeks post for a succinct punch on this topic.

This question gets to the very heart of the problem that you are trying to solve — not just what the problem is, but why it’s worth solving. What changes for the better when this work is done? 

While business goals are important, it’s also worth asking why your work matters to you, to your colleagues, to your audience, to the people your organization helps. You need to understand who this project will touch, how it will impact them, and why that impact will matter! 

No matter how many times you have done this, you have to know your why. Why is rooted in your values, and when decision making is rooted in values it gives your entire project a powerful emotional foundation and trajectory toward real change. 

Thinking in this way sets your project up for success. 

How does this project fit with our broader business goals?

Once you know the values a project is meant to uphold, you need to compare those values with your more practical business goals and available resources.  Knowing that a project is important and has value is not the same as knowing a project is right for your organization.

Keep in mind the organization’s overall goal and note how this project will move you toward that goal. If it doesn’t align, reframe the project into something that will be more effective.

Who are we trying to reach?

Make your audience real and know who you are talking to. Often when I ask my clients about their audience, they draw a blank or feel that they have to speak to everyone. And if you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one! If you lack clarity, start by identifying who you are not speaking to. Set aside nonessential audiences and then narrow in on your key people. 

Some questions to get you thinking: What do they care about? Who are they trying to become? What do they need from you? What journey are they on? How you can you help them arrive?

What do we want them to do?

Simply: what is your ask?

When someone comes across your annual report or direct mail or brochure, what do you want them to do? Write a check? Refer someone to your organization? A lot of the work we do gets filed under “raising awareness”. While that can be helpful, it’s not specific enough (and it can’t be measured). What do you really want? How can you give your audience what they really need? Your ask lands at the intersection of those two things. Be bold — know your ask.

How will we know if we have been successful?

Don’t forget this one. Define what success looks like. Decide how you will measure your progress.

People can hesitate to define what success looks like, because that makes failure easier to stomach. If you weren’t aiming for anything, it doesn’t matter what you didn’t hit. But you can do better than that!

Deciding how to measure your progress ties everything together — Why are we doing what we’re doing? How does this align with the resources we have to offer? Who will we help? What do we need them to do? What measurable change will we see?

Successful organizations iterate and grow year after year. Knowing what progress needs to be measured is key in being able to expand on what has already worked and strengthen where necessary.

Every new endeavor builds on what is already there, so the more work you do up front with your strategic planning, the stronger every new project will be as you build and grow.

 

Download this worksheet and try it out!

The key here is to write in your own voice, using simple, clear language. Discuss your answers with your team and get everyone to sign off.

With a clear vision, you can do amazing work.

 

fivequestions

 

 

fivequestions

Read Me

How to take your Annual Report from meaningless obligation to impactful tool!

How to take your Annual Report from meaningless obligation to impactful tool!

One word

GOALS!

K! Thanks! See you back next week!

Kidding. Kidding. But seriously, think of it another way.

Have you ever accidentally run a marathon? No? Does that seem like an odd question?

Of course it’s does, because running a marathon takes planning, training and strategy, it’s not just routine (at least not the first one). When something is a routine part of our lives, we can forget to connect to the core purpose of why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Don’t fall into this trap with your annual report.

If you do, you miss a huge opportunity to be strategic, gain accountability and focus on your plans for the coming year. Reporting on your accomplishments and organizational changes are part of the equation that goes into creating your annual report. However, if you’re looking forward as well as backward, you can more clearly articulate where you are right now. You have the opportunity to look forward to the new year and publicly commit to your goals. This can be powerful for accountability and transparency, which are keys to building trust.  

Doing the work to bring your goals for the coming year to your designer as you collaborate on your annual report will pay off by creating a blueprint for your year to come. A strategic annual report can create a wealth of marketing material to draw from for the next twelve months, not to mention continue to grow your relationships with your donors.  

The goals for the coming year can also help inform the theme. Creating a theme that’s cute or catchy may seem like a good idea, but powerful design needs to relay real meaning, not show arbitrary symbolism. The theme, the report, and the overall design all need to strategically align with the goals.

When we start with goals, we have the best opportunity for creating something that aligns with your organization’s values and will resonate with donors who are ready to support your mission.

If you want your annual report to be worth the investment, you need to use it as strategically as possible, and being strategic requires doing the deep thinking up front.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Email or set up a consult to set the process in motion so that you can spend your next year with clear direction, public accountability and stronger relationships with your donor base.

 

Read Me

How to choose a theme for your Annual Report

How to choose a theme for your Annual Report

If you’re reading this – hopefully, you checked out our last post about choosing a theme for your annual report. If not, go back and read it, we’ll still be here when you finish.

So, now you know choosing a theme for your annual report is the way to get people to READ your annual report — you need to choose one!

OK BUT HOW!?

Choosing a theme for your annual report means you need to look at the big picture of the past year. Working with a designer can help you step back and get the perspective you need.

When I am working with clients to develop a theme, here are some of the questions I ask:

  • What did you accomplish in the last year?
  • What successes do you want to highlight?
  • What do you want to focus on in the year to come?
  • What do you want your donors to know?

What will lead to the most compelling story?

Because a theme is just a conduit for the story you will tell.

A theme should make the story active; the reader will become a part of the change that occurred in your organization. Focusing on a definite beginning, middle, and end will help your audience feel the change and growth in the organization.

And feelings motivate action.

How do you want your audience to feel? And what do you want them to do? Choose the theme that motivates those actions.

BUT! Remember: a theme doesn’t have to be literal.

You can also think of a theme as a unifying element, and this might mean it doesn’t tell a story in the traditional sense with a beginning, middle and end.

A theme is merely a way to organize the information you are presenting so that people will better understand your organization. A theme can be:

  • a unifying visual element
  • a repeated phrase
  • metrics driven

It’s easy to talk about your work with people who already know and understand what you do, but you have to remember to bring new people into your audience, and that means meeting them where they are. A good theme can help you do that.

The right theme will help you connect with your audience both in your annual report and in the rest of your content for the year to come.

Struggling to find a theme for your annual report this year? Make an appointment and let’s talk through it! 

Read Me