Jeilan Devanesan is a copywriter with a passion for discovering new and effective ways to engage specific audiences. He is currently at Venngage, an online graphic design tool that focuses on infographics and business communications.
Nonprofits have access to a ton of cause sector statistics, human experiences, and insights into how people can make a difference, all of which can be explained perfectly with visuals—namely, infographics.
Infographics are the most shared visuals online today, according to OkDork’s research. Take a look at the graph below:
Designing eye-catching nonprofit infographics is easy with the right tool. However, making a meaningful and memorable infographic requires a reliable and thoughtful approach.
That’s where infographic outlines come in. As a copywriter, I’ve worked with other writers and designers to produce a number of infographics. As our process grew more structured, we relied increasingly on clear infographic outlines to optimize our work. These consist of four steps that ensure every infographic you produce is original, insightful, compelling, and well-designed.
If you want to get into the infographic game or step it up a notch, then take a few minutes to learn how to create a solid infographic outline.
The Infographic Outline
The four steps to create an effective infographic outline can help you make sure your finished product has all the key ingredients.
1. Consider Your Story
Team Rubicon is an organization that uses the skills and experiences of veterans to aid first responders in disaster relief efforts. Often, the veteran volunteers themselves share their stories online about the work that they do. These stories drive so much awareness and engagement online that it has earned Team Rubicon recognition as an expert at nonprofit storytelling.
Like Team Rubicon, your nonprofit has a story at its very core about people. It could be a story about the people it serves, how people’s lives have changed because of your work, the people that volunteer their time at your organization, or even your staff.
Consider what story you want to tell to connect with your audience. This will determine the kind of data you pull together for your infographic.
2. Compile Your Data
For nonprofits in particular, data can help tell a complex story in a simple way. For example, WaterAid shared an in-depth infographic on the negative impacts of the lack of access to clean water. The data points are shocking and can motivate people to take action, whether through donating, volunteering, or sharing the post. You’ll notice groups of data in the infographic support several facts all pointing to the larger narrative—the importance of clean water:
Once you have your data, list it out simply and clearly in your infographic outline. Be mindful of the story you’re telling and consider how people would read the infographic (most often top to bottom). You don’t have to make design considerations when putting together your outline, but you do need to make sure that your narrative is clear to the designer. That’s the only way your story comes out in the design.
As an example, I created an infographic outline for WaterAid’s infographic. If you compare the two items below, you’ll notice the formatting of the content in the outline mirrors the way information on the infographic is emphasized.
Consider the kind of data you have access to. Do you have statistics about the issue, data about your volunteers, or a measure of the impact your activities have had? If you don’t have the data to tell your story, then it’s time to start collecting it.
Ultimately, for the purposes of this infographic, it’s hopefully data that compels people to care about your nonprofit’s work.
3. Present a Call to Action
While it’s great to raise awareness, you ultimately want your infographic to motivate people to act by becoming monthly donors, making different lifestyle choices, volunteering their time, and more. That’s why you need a call to action (CTA).
A CTA nudges people to get involved with your organization or cause sector. You can encourage people to learn more about a topic, make lifestyle adjustments, or get directly involved as a volunteer or donor. Below is an example from Greenpeace’s infographic on Pacific tuna conservation. The focus is on making minor changes to have a major impact:
The type of CTA you decide to use is entirely up to you. Just remember that once your infographic has drawn in your audience, the right CTA can establish a long-term connection.
4. Provide Design Notes
This last step basically makes sure that whoever works on your infographic understands exactly how you want the infographic to look. If you need logos, have a great color scheme in mind or a style guide for your organization’s brand and relay it to your designer.
Even if you’re the one designing the infographic, the notes will remind you of the required design elements for that particular project. Chances are you’ll be working on more than one thing at a time, after all.
Clear notes ensure that your infographic turns out great on the first attempt. Coming back to the WaterWorks outline, I added several notes to complete it. In my notes, I provided a link to an infographic that I liked in order to guide the designer’s creativity. I also informed the designer I needed two specific things to be in the infographic—logos and a specific color.
With this last step, the infographic outline is done. With the content clearly laid out, and clear notes to guide the designer, you’ll end up with a fantastic-looking infographic that presents quality content.
As a nonprofit, there are many stories to tell with numbers and infographics are the perfect medium. However, choosing the right story or a clear story isn’t always straightforward. An infographic outline helps you bring together good content in an organized manner that’s easy to understand.
Design Basics for Nonprofit Professionals
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