Kate could have been a therapist.

Instead, she became a creative designer and strategist for social impact. But she’s kept her interest in and knowledge of that most loaded of e-words — “emotions” — central as she designs websites, brainstorms infographics, and assembles annual impact reports.

And as anyone who’s listened to this podcast knows, we at BFC Digital find nothing more interesting than emotions. Eventually, this podcast will, mark our words, become a show featuring, every week, a public, hourlong therapy session for one of the many poor tortured souls working in nonprofit technology.

But for now, we do our best to keep up the charade that it’s really about nonprofits and web tech. Will you let us do that, for one more week?

In this episode of the Nonprofit Thrive podcast, Ben Freda sits down with Kate Purcell, the Creative Strategist and Visual Designer for social change at KP Creative Strategy, to talk about designing for emotions. Kate discusses how she established KP Creative Strategy, the importance of psychographics in understanding your audience, and the value of annual impact reports.

Today's Guest
Kate Purcell

Kate Purcell

Kate Purcell is the Creative Strategist and Visual Designer for social change at KP Creative Strategy, a company that helps organizations working for social change communicate effectively and creatively. With over 15 years of experience in brand strategy and visual design, Kate specializes in crafting impactful communications that prioritize human connection. Her expertise lies in creating compelling infographics, websites, and branding, tailored to the needs of executives in the social impact sector.

Kate is also the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Pulse Forward, a boutique branding and design firm for nonprofits and social enterprises. Grounded in a belief in the beauty of humanity and a spirit of generosity, she is passionate about helping her clients amplify their messages and make a difference.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [3:11] What led Kate Purcell to enter the social change space?
  • [7:35] How Kate established KP Creative Strategy
  • [10:26] Kate explains the value of curating what you want your audience to feel on your website
  • [18:41] Why psychographics are just as important as demographics to understand your audience
  • [21:44] Understanding the interplay between the layout, design, and content of your website
  • [23:35] What is the purpose of an annual report in your organization?
  • [28:39] Kate discusses the pros and cons of digital versus printed reports

In this episode…

Designing for emotions involves crafting experiences that resonate deeply with users on an emotional level. By understanding how design elements can evoke specific emotions, designers can create more meaningful connections with their audience. How can we harness the power of emotional design to elicit desired responses and foster memorable experiences?

Creative strategist Kate Purcell discusses the crucial role of design principles in fostering effective communication. She emphasizes the significance of clarity and simplicity in conveying messages to diverse audiences, highlighting the importance of understanding users’ needs and preferences. Kate underscores the value of consistency in design elements such as typography, color schemes, and layout, which contribute to enhancing readability and visual appeal. Moreover, she stresses the need for accessibility considerations to ensure that communication is inclusive and reaches individuals with diverse abilities. Kate’s insights underscore the interdisciplinary nature of design and its pivotal role in facilitating meaningful interactions and conveying information effectively.

In this episode of the Nonprofit Thrive podcast, Ben Freda sits down with Kate Purcell, the Creative Strategist and Visual Designer for social change at KP Creative Strategy, to talk about designing for emotions. Kate discusses how she established KP Creative Strategy, the importance of psychographics in understanding your audience, and the value of annual business reports.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by BFC Digital.

At BFC Digital, we help nonprofit organizations thrive on the web so they can improve the world.

Our team of creative and tech experts understands that an online presence can help foundations and organizations accomplish their missions. That’s where we come in. Over the last decade, we’ve advised our clients on web design, front- and back-end development, and tech support.

We’re committed to supporting a select set of clients who continually inspire us with their vision for a better world.

To learn more on how BFC Digital can assist you in realizing your organization’s mission, visit, email us at, or call 646-450-2236 today!

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:06  

Welcome to Nonprofit Thrive, a podcast where we learn from the humans who are helping nonprofits succeed in the digital world. Now, let’s get started with the show.

 Ben Freda  0:23

Welcome, I’m Ben Freda host of the show where we share the stories of people in the nonprofit space. The human beings behind the organizations, the foundations, the companies that help social change organizations improve the world we’ve had about 10 episodes recorded now we’re still at the beginning of this podcast journey, but check out past episodes. Recently, we had Eric Brown who is a communication strategist from Brambridge Strategies. He said there is no such thing as the general public and if you’re aiming your communications to the general public, you’re kind of screwed. We also had Elise Newman, who is an excellent executive director of Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition talked about an awesome program they have to engage their volunteers, their supporters, where every one of their volunteers adopts a mile of Oregon coast, it was pretty fascinating. Listen to that one, if you get a chance. Before I introduce today’s guest, who is going to be equally awesome, I need to tell you this podcast is brought to you by BFC Digital, which should not be a surprise to anybody that is my company. We help nonprofits thrive on the web. If you work at a nonprofit or a foundation or another type of social change organization. I’m sure you know that unless you’re doing a big old chunky project of 10s of 1000s of dollars, it’s really difficult to get reputable, responsive, friendly, good, high quality web development help for your website. At BFC Digital, we help our clients succeed on the web by being your friendly neighborhood web team. We can help you fix your bugs, get new designs, evolve your web presence, integrate some new donation system, do some analytics, do some tracking and we can do it without ever asking you to fill out a support ticket because we hate support tickets plans start under 1000 bucks to have us help you out what a deal. Go to to learn more. So today I am very excited to have on the show Kate Purcell, who is a creative strategist visual designer. Her job is to help organizations and people working for social change by helping them communicate effectively, creatively and keeping humans at the center. Those are her watchwords. She has her own design studio. And she also works with Pulse Forward, which is an agency dedicated to helping helping social change through design. Kate, thank you so much for joining us.

Kate Purcell  2:44  

Yeah, it’s good to be here.

Ben Freda  2:45  

So you know, I think I met you more than a decade ago. But why don’t we roll it back a little bit further. I always like to start these episodes by just getting an understanding of why people like entered the social change space. And so and you’re a designer, so that probably has something to do with it, too. I did read on your website. Your parents were artists. So can you talk a little bit about maybe your upbringing, or how that helped you kind of get into to the spot you’re in now?

Kate Purcell  3:11  

Yeah, sure. Um, well, it’s funny because I was actually recently working on a project and I was like, you know, when I was 15, I did you ever have mixed tapes? This was in like, the 90s. Right? I remember I was like, super into making mixtapes and I would make the little I love to spend hours making the little package, you know, the little, whatever you call it, the paper that goes inside, right, you said the lyrics on it, do it for my friends, and I cut cut magazines and on a paste anyway. Um, well, recently, I was working on a project. And I was like, this is like the same thing I was doing when I was 15. I have as much fun as I did, then I’m like, super excited about anyway, so it goes way back. And you know, my father is an architect. My parents are both artists, my father’s an architect. And actually, you know, he’s retired now. But through the years of my career, it’s been very similar. He’ll talk about his work, I’ll talk about my work. And it’s funny, just how parallel they are in terms of, you know, being a creative service provider for people that have goals, basically. Yeah. Yeah, but so, so anyway, I studied digital art in college. And I was also at the time tinkering with websites because I thought it was fun. And then after I left, I traveled internationally, and I ended up working for some nonprofits. And at the time, you know, it was in my early 20s, and I was just kind of getting hired in a general communications role, and it just became really quick. So okay, this is early 2000. So like, you know, I was making things and tables and making, you know, do my own, like, Live Journal kind of stuff, right? And then the organization it just became really obvious that like, a lot of these organizations that so it was a lot of environmental organizations. And I just realized like, they’re horrible at like graphics, basically. And so I just sort of picked it up. And it was fun, and I did that For a while, and then a free range, which is wherever you have Free Range Studios, which was an agency in DC at the time, they sort of shifted and changed and ownership. So they’re, I think, different organization now, but at the time, you know, I wasn’t honestly like, I never was really like, thought about my career so much. I was kind of just doing whatever I was doing. And I saw this job. And it was like, oh, working for nonprofits and social change it and creativity with a conscience. So that was the time. Yeah, I remember being like, Is this possible, you know, to do creative stuff for like, right, right. People that actually are doing things that I want to see in the world, and I got the internship, and I ended up being there for seven years doing, you know, websites, visual design, brand strategy. And I loved I loved working there. I learned so much. I love the team, that you guys have clients. Yeah,

Ben Freda  5:54  

I remember that being a really special time because I was I started working with rhinos, moquette. Right. And they did a lot of GMO stuff. I think for you and I met so many.

Kate Purcell  6:03

We’re in the same building the same three storey little townhouse together,

Ben Freda  6:07  

They were in the same three story town. The team at Free Range at that point was awesome. Those people were so cool. You had so many great people like, who was Susan Finkel, per i remember her? She was great. Ellen, I think was there who? I’m forget her last name Ellen Roche. I think anyway, they were like, there wasn’t a you were there. There was like this amazing team of really cool, passionate, creative people there at that time. Yeah.

Kate Purcell  6:29  

Yeah, it was, it was really fun. And I mean, you know, it was also just like the feeling of working with people who were passionate, right? Like, that’s part of it. And, you know, I’ve mostly worked in the social change space. You know, there have been times when I’ve had clients in the for-profit space, like, just throughout my career, like kind of dabbled in that space. There was an agency that was, you know, just like kind of like a business agency that hired me as a freelancer from time to time. And I was like, I just remember thinking how different it was because it was just people didn’t bring their whole selves in the way that they did tell you, you know, to the social change space, like I felt like at Free Range that was the kind of collaboration and ideation that will go on when everyone’s excited and really interested in the outcome.

Ben Freda  7:12  

Yeah, that was really special. That was really special. So you weren’t you weren’t there for 10 years or seven years? And then you went off on your own? Is that what you did at that time in 2013? Okay, and you started Kate Purcell Design, or what’s the name of your studio? It’s Kate Purcell Creative Studio. What’s the well,

Kate Purcell  7:27

KP Creative Strategy is what I just shifted it to. And yeah, so I left to kind of, to freelance. And, you know, I don’t know that I really and to be honest, actually, I, I just had I was gonna stop doing design and always wanted to be a therapist. And…

Ben Freda  7:42  

Like, talk therapist?

Kate Purcell  7:44  

Yeah, it’s always what I wanted to do. Yeah, so I started kind of going down that road, and for about a year, and I was like, I missed it. I just missed it. I missed the creativity. I was like, I don’t want to just talk to people. So anyway. So I had like, a year gap. And then it was, it was awesome, though, because then I was very clear that I, you know, this is like what I’m doing. This is my calling, I guess if you will.

Ben Freda  8:07

That is awesome.

Kate Purcell  8:09  

Yeah, so I’ve been doing that ever since and then, you know, just sort of shifting and growing my work. And you know, you you launched BFC Digital right after, did you do that immediately after leaving? Yeah, were you on your own? Yeah.

Ben Freda  8:21  

yeah. I mean, I BFC Digital was just me for a long time. Yeah. I mean, like, I was just, I was just doing my thing. And then slowly gathered people, we have six people now, but that was that was in fact, that must have been in 2011. I should know the date that I started my own thing. But at the time, it wasn’t really, it wasn’t like one of that wasn’t a big deal to me. I was just doing freelancing, or the main and then it kind of grew out of that. But yeah, 2010 2011 So you know, it’s interesting. What you just said, though, is that you thought you wanted to be a therapist, because I feel like that is a I feel like, in some ways, that’s true of everybody. But for a lot of people that I meet in the space, you know, helping social change orgs helping nonprofits, you know, it’s not that we sort of have a comp, we have some common traits, I feel like I feel like I feel like so many people I meet in the space are like, somehow are sort of helpers or something like it people that are sort of driven, I think, almost in some ways, not almost too much to sort of focus on fixing other people’s problems. Do you know what I mean? Like, I wonder, I wonder if that and and because I, I thought about being a therapist, I mean, everybody that I know, so many people that I know, in this space, are sort of like have that mindset, do you think that’s true? Or do you think I’m, I’m taking that too far?

Kate Purcell  9:33  

No, I mean, it’s interesting. I guess, the way I see the correlation is that I, a lot of my job is listening, listening, and understanding and then there’s also the feelings piece, which I’m like, big on feelings when it comes to doing my work because I think, um, I don’t know, I just feel like it’s a lot of what is being communicated through, especially through visual design, right? Like, is that what do we want people to feel? You know, and I think, anyway, so. So to me a lot of like, working with clients is a lot about listening and a lot about like, good listening and paying attention to what they’re saying and sort of pay attention what they’re saying through, you know, between the lines. But I also think that personally like, and this has probably been over the last five years, I mean, I think for a long time, I was like, I need more data, I need to be more data oriented, you know, as person like, because because people really trust data, you know, but I very much started leaning more into the feeling around because I think so often, and this happens with clients all the time. You know, when I start a project, I’m like, I don’t know, if you do probably do something similar rate where, you know, you talk about your audience, and then I use the no, feel, do rubric, which is like, on your website, let’s say you have like a donor or constituent or a policymaker, what do you want them to know? What do you want them to feel and what you want them to do?

Ben Freda  10:50

Oh, interesting.

Kate Purcell  10:50  

People are usually very strong on the know, what they want the people to know. And they’re very strong what they want them to do. But a lot of times, they don’t really have very much clarity on how they want people to feel.

Ben Freda  10:59  


Kate Purcell  11:00  

And I think it’s a really important and missing thing. Because I think that’s also the very quick thing that people you know, you feel something before, when you get to a website, or even read anything.

Ben Freda  11:10  


Kate Purcell  11:10  

And so anyway, so I’m really I tried to pull my clients along in the feeling realm. And I do feel like that’s the thought of that, like therapist, so.

Ben Freda  11:16  

Oh, that’s so that’s so interesting. So what are some examples of things that you want people to feel on? On a website? Like, yeah, yeah.

Kate Purcell  11:23  

Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, okay. I’ll take the example. Just the, the project that we’re working on together, the organization IGNITE, so, you know, basically, like, they’re working to increase young women’s political agency, right, helping, right, encouraging women, young women to run for office, and all that, right. So, and they have several audiences. So, you know, there’s, there’s different ways you could approach it, you might want some one of your, you might want a young woman to feel maybe like, inspired, right? You might, it might be like, I want to feel good and warm, and like, I can make a difference. But you also, conversely, have a different feeling. You might want someone to feel angry, or indignant, or like, you know what, like, this is not okay, and I need to do something to take an action, you know, or you might want a donor to feel almost like, what’s the word? I want to say paternalistic, but that’s not quite right. It’s like, like, like, in believing belief, right? Like a sense of like, hope that’s the word actually is possible, right? But the sense of hope and the sense of like, righteous indignation, are very different motivators for action. And those are very different colors, and the very different images and all that stuff. So that’s the kind of thing.

Ben Freda  12:36  

I liked that. So hope versus righteous indignation, you would you would design those totally different differently, even if the content was exactly the same. For sure. Yeah.

Kate Purcell  12:44  

Yeah. Well, the content would wouldn’t be the words would be different, too, right. But the point is that like, what you want people to know, which is like we help young women run for office, and what you want them to do, which is like run for office is shaped by very different paths in the feeling well, if that makes sense.

Ben Freda  13:01  

That does make sense. I’m also thinking about because it’s election season, going to be election season soon. And somehow I must have signed up for some person’s email address, because now I’m just flooded with tonnes. And I think a lot of people are campaigning, and I have noticed that at least on for the people that I support, there’s a lot of like fear or terror, where the subject line will be. We are short for a deadline, we have a deadline in five hours. And we’re like short, and Donald Trump has raised 10. I just gave away my political, that Donald Trump has raised 10 times more than us, and we need to catch up and stuff. And so and I always think to myself, I’m not sure if that is the most motivating emotion that terror. You know what I mean? Although maybe it is I don’t know. I mean, are there times?

Kate Purcell  13:44  

Yeah, I think the thing is that I, from what I understand, from what I’ve read and heard from people talk that it is actually very motivating, motivating. Yeah. However, for me personally, like, it doesn’t really align with my morals, and I want to see the world. So I’m not going to, you know, it’s a similar thing with like, the Republican Party, or, like, you know, the oil and gas industry, like, it’s just like, just because it’s affected doesn’t mean I’m gonna do it. And so I think that, like, I do believe that there, you know, we can hold ourselves to higher standards, but unfortunately, yeah. Right. It’s like, a pretty basic fundamental part of who we are.

Ben Freda  14:22

Yeah, to be super anxious and to react in response to anxiety. Yeah, that Yeah. Which is a dangerous. I had I have a friend who’s a psychology, a therapist, as we talked about before, who did a, I’m going to screw this up, but he did some sort of thesis when he was in grad school, on motivation and groups and stuff. And the way he did it was he had somebody go out and collect money for March of Dimes or something like that. I can’t remember the charity, it doesn’t really matter. And they chested out two different scripts. And one of the scripts was they went to a neighborhood and they said, Man, we knock on doors, someone answers and they say, Hey, we’re having a lot of trouble collecting money. We have this deadline that we have to hit blah, blah, blah, and no one else is giving your gift would make such a difference. It would make such a difference, because you’re the only one on the street who’s who’s willing to talk to us. That was script one. And script two was going to knock on someone’s door. The answer you say you say, Man, this street is awesome. Everybody is giving money. It’s just like a party out here. And man, would you mind joining the group, you know, thinking, but subtext of course being your gift is not going to be as important because there’s tonnes of people giving. So he said it was like, and this is just his studies, one study, right? I’m sure there’s lots more of them. And I’m quoting one, I don’t know the history of this. But we found was dramatic, dramatic difference. And that people gave much more often when everyone else was.

Kate Purcell  15:55  

Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, it does. It’s like kind of like I used to remember when I was in high school, I worked at a coffee shop. And I would like stuff the tip jar. And I definitely noticed more people tips, when there was a lot of money that a tip jar,

Ben Freda  15:55  

And you’relike, but you need it less, you need it less, because there’s already money in the car. But that’s not how it works. People want to be part of a group, they want to be part of something that’s already working. And if it’s not working their subjects, or their psychological thing is that it’s not good, because no one is giving to it. So I’m saying that because I do think the way that you make people feel getting back to what you said, getting the way you make people feel when they look at this website, or they look at this report or whatever, is a huge part of what you’re communicating.

Kate Purcell  16:25  

Yeah, I like that too. Because I think, you know, back to the question of like, anger or fear, I mean, rather as a motivator. I mean, there is, you know, evidence that that is a motivator. But you know, how you study these things, what data you collect, and it’s all subject to bias to and and so, you know, there’s other ways we could be like investigating well, how you know, how we can motivate people like your friend, and yeah, explore that. So that’s, that’s really cool. I like that. Story.

Ben Freda  16:52  

I’m sure I butchered it, like 10 million times. And if anybody who goes to find the study, I’m sure I did it wrong. But that was what I remember from what he told me five years ago about it. So let me ask you this. When you, when you’re starting a new engagement, the client, let’s say you have a client like IGNITE or somebody else. And you want to you want to get at that, what do you want people to know? What do you want him to feel? What do you want to do? How do you like start that conversation? Is that like, the first meeting, you sit down with them? You just at the beginning? Is that what you start with? Or do you start with more like who the audience is? Or who you start with more? Who the organisation is? What What’s the usually like the process?

Kate Purcell  17:25  

Yeah, so definitely, always starting with audience. Um, you know, and it’s, I think most people in communications would say that, but it is, it’s always hard for us to do. So starting with with an eye really, again, kind of going back to like the healing thing. I really like the psychographics as opposed to the demographics, right? And really, because even this is like a really small thing, but it’s like, who is your audience, policymakers, you know, like, people looking for homes, when you pluralize it like that, right? Policymakers or people, you already are distancing yourself, and it’s like a group of people. And so I really like to bring it back to like an individual and do some of those audience persona exercises where we say, Okay, well, let’s look at this person who’s looking for home, just use an example, a client of mine who does lending. So it’s like, it’s not just people, it’s a person who wants what do they look like? What’s their neighborhood? What, you know what I mean? And so I’m grounding it in like that direct. Like, this is somebody that I know. Yeah. And so I can think about them when I’m developing my website. And then I would say the no, feel, do stuff that really, to me is when we’re getting more into like, what’s the content? Really? Right? Hmm. So yeah, so always starting with audience and really trying to personalize it to and in fact, when I do my own writing for my own business, I try to, like I have a handful of people that I know that I’m writing to most of them are real people. And I’ll put their name at the top of the document. And then I’ll start writing and sometimes I’ll feel like what am I saying? And they’ll go back up and look, okay, what did they want? Like, what is that?

Ben Freda  19:00  

Yeah, yeah, this is stuff as like a tech guy. This is stuff that like I have never thought about in a serious way. I mean, you know what I mean? Like that, that that right? writing content for my own website, you know, or something. And when we do it internally, it’s always you know, our designer or somebody else doing it. So that’s so you put the person’s actual name at the top and you address it to them almost like a letter?

Kate Purcell  19:21  

Yeah, exactly. Like letter. Yeah. It’s an important thing to do. Like, even when you’re doing Rick, say you’re working on the statement up for you know, a website. It’s like, if you keep bringing it back to like, Candice, yeah, you know, potential homebuyer. It’s like, what language is going to resonate with her? What, what literally, what words are you going to use in the navigation, you know, is it and just keep bringing it back to that because it’s just too easy to like, just beat ourselves and forget that not everybody else is like,

Ben Freda  19:48  

Yeah, that’s interesting. And when you said before, you said demographics and psychographics just for the people that don’t know what that is including any what’s, what’s the difference between the two?

Kate Purcell  19:57  

Well, my understanding is like demographics. is like, how old? Are they? Where do they live? What’s their race, their gender, whereas psychographics are more about their psychology? Like, what motivates them? What are their values? You know, who are they basically.

Ben Freda  20:12  

Right. That makes sense. So you’re doing all this before you even do like a design mock up or anything? Right? Like you’re you’re doing the exercises for personas, you’re doing the exercises for no, feel, do? And then and then you get into wireframes after that, or do you go straight to mock ups usually?

Kate Purcell  20:28  

Yeah, you know, traditionally, we always did site maps, right, figuring out what all the content is going to be. And then, you know, early in my career, I was always doing wireframes with like, dummy text in it, which I almost never do any more. Because it’s like, it’s hard to separate the form from the function. I think there’s actually a nice interplay, you know, I’m not like have a camp of like, you have to have all your content know exactly what it is before you start doing any layout or design, because I think sometimes, frequently, if not all the time, you know, people think, okay, these are the things you want to say, and we all agree, and then you start, you put it in design, and it’s like, you look at it, and you’re like, oh, okay, no, that’s not quite right. Like, that’s too much, or whatever. So I think there’s like a nice interplay between the layout, the design and the content. Um, so I don’t Yeah, sometimes we do wireframes. Sometimes we don’t, I think, ultimately depends on the complexity. If there’s a lot of complexity, a lot of stakeholders, a lot of people involved, I think wireframes are good idea, because lower stakes for making changes at that point. But if it’s a smaller team, and they’re pretty clear on where they’re going, and they’ve done a lot of like, maybe they have a communications plan, you know, they have a team. Yeah, sometimes move right into design.

Ben Freda  21:39

Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And I get what you’re saying with with the real content we’ve had, you know, we do have the final version of the mockups usually done with real content. And because I’m sure you’ve had this issue, where if you’re using Latin or using dummy content, things like how many lines are the are the headlines going to be?

Kate Purcell  21:55

Oh, yes. Great.

Ben Freda  21:56  

And then you, you design it. So they’re one line, you know, because that looks good. And then when you put the actual continents four lines and and bumps down the photo, it’s just yeah, it’s a disaster. So yeah, yeah, try and get some real content. That makes sense. That makes sense. So the other thing I wanted to this is a bit of a different topic. But I know you, we’ve been talking about websites so far. But I know for some reason I know you as the Annual Report person or the Impact Report person. I’m not sure why I know you was that maybe because you posted somewhere. And that sort of became in my brain. Is that true? Do you do a lot of annual impact reports?

Kate Purcell  22:26

I do at this point? I do a lot of them. Yeah. both digital and print.

Ben Freda  22:30  

Okay, cool. So we’ve never actually talked about that on the podcast before. And I want I want to sort of start from the beginning, like, what does every and I think this is true. Does every nonprofit need to do an annual report every year? Is that kind of like a legal requirement?

Kate Purcell  22:42  

No, it’s definitely not. I mean, there are organizations who have charters that they’re required to do something. But usually, it doesn’t have to be designed. I would say that. And honestly, like, I mean, there’s annual reports, there’s impact reports, there are activities, reports, you know, somebody reasonably said, like, their organization just doesn’t report to the community annual reviews. I mean, it’s like, there’s definitely no standard, which I like to tell people, because I think a lot of people feel that there is, I mean, when you start using the word annual, you’re kind of setting yourself up for we have to do this every year? So right, right, yeah, if an organization hasn’t done one before, I kind of would encourage them to call it in an impact report so that you again, you’re not like setting yourself up for like, stress, or maybe we can’t do on this year, and then you failed, you know?

Ben Freda  23:29  

Yeah, that’s true. You’re setting you’re definitely setting yourself up for a standard, if you say annual. So let’s say you have a new organization, you just started something small or whatever. Why would you do an annual report or an impact report? Is that just supposed to wrap up sort of the purpose of what you’ve done over the previous year? Is that kind of the the point of it?

Kate Purcell  23:47  

Yeah, I mean, I think different organizations have different reasons for doing it. I mean, I would say for some smaller organizations, it’s like their main fundraising and marketing piece, it’s like really the only time that they that they will put a lot of effort into something and, you know, I know organizations where the IDI will just like take their annual report around like, it’s a brochure because it’s, yeah, it can make a brochure, but it’s pretty generic. The Annual Report has some good information of what you’ve done for the past year. So in some cases, it’s really their opportunity to do some thinking. But then for some organizations that have a lot to share, it’s just an effort. Yeah, it’s an opportunity. I mean, it is really, ultimately a fundraising piece, usually, to share the wins and some of the data and all of that from the previous year.

Ben Freda  24:30  

And the end the impact, I guess, which is why they’re called the Impact. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So so when you …

Kate Purcell  24:37

Some of it again, like the some of do focus more on impact, right, and literally are measuring their impact, like, you know, Calvert impact partners who I’ve worked with for many years on there.

Ben Freda  24:50  

Maybe we worked on a project together a long time. Maybe remember? Yeah, this is like 10 years ago, but yeah, yeah, totally. Well, they have like they

Kate Purcell  24:57

measure so much and their impact report is really about impact, whereas others might be like, you know, here’s our impact. Yeah. Here’s our activities. More. Yeah. So nebulous.

Ben Freda  25:09

Yeah, what kind of things? Do they I’m just curious, what what do you remember? Like, what kind of things do they do? They, we could go look at it. But what kind of things do they measure in terms of impact?

Kate Purcell  25:18

Well, okay, so they do like lending to all sorts of different organizations in different areas. And so they’ll measure like, jobs created or retained, or kilowatt hours, you know, save carbon reduce, you know, they really do an investigation into the organizations they support.

Ben Freda  25:36

That’s cool. Yeah, that’s cool. Because then I can, then I can say, here’s, here’s why we exist, here’s what exists. And, and if we stopped making an impact, and maybe we do something else, or we, you know, I mean, I think a lot of our orgs would actually like to go out of business, right? Because if they solve the actual problem they’re set out to solve. Good, cool.

Kate Purcell  25:55  

Yeah. Exactly. So I think it’s a balance between the numbers and the stories, right, like, you know, like you put enough stories in there. Yeah.

Ben Freda  26:01  

Yeah. Cuz in terms of emotions, and psychographics, right, like stories are gonna make a difference. So is that is that one of the things that you try and do an impact reports is make sure that people are including stories?

Kate Purcell  26:11  

Yeah, I would say I try. It’s hard. Clicking stories is definitely more effort than crunching the numbers that you already have in a spreadsheet, you know, so Gotcha. Yeah, it costs more. It takes more staff time, you know?

Ben Freda  26:23  

Yeah, totally. Now, I’m gonna ask you a question that I obviously have a strong opinion on. But, but I’m curious if you think it’s worth doing, too. I’ve been kind of on this high horse recently about doing digital, like HTML versions of annual reports, because I have in mind that there’s all these benefits to it, rather than just doing a PDF. Do you agree with that?

Kate Purcell  26:40  

Yeah. You know, you since you’ve posed that question to me, when you invited me on this podcast, I’ve been contemplating it.

Ben Freda  26:45  

Oh, oh, good.

Kate Purcell  26:47  

Because I think it really depends. And so there’s obviously a huge amount of benefits to digital, like, you’ve named them before. It’s accessible. It’s shareable. It’s mobile responsive. And I always tell my clients, like when you’re doing print, you know, a digital PDF, like, just imagine on your phone, you’re pinching and you’re zooming get, nobody is going to do that. Right. So that’s like a massive, and it’s interactive. It can be very, you can add video. I mean, it’s so many advantages. However, I was thinking about one of organization I support, just like a local nature center, and I get their printed annual report every year. And I love it. It’s, it’s small, it’s like half letter size, it’s maybe 16 pages. And I keep that thing around, and it’s intimate. And if they sent me something online, I wouldn’t. And so there’s this like, intimacy with the paper. So anyway, you know, and I’ve seen some interesting people do some interesting things, sort of a combination of both. And of course, like, you’ve got to consider price and all that. But one thing, a couple things I’ve heard that I’ve liked that I thought I would share. One is to do a comprehensive digital report, and then to send out like a short printed report with QR codes that link to the digital report, right? So you’re not necessarily investing in a lot of printing costs, and maybe you just print a handful to send to your most important supporters or donors. I was also listening to another woman at a foundation talk and because, you know, a lot of my clients are seeking support from foundations. And she would think, well, what she really she’s seen people, you know, her grantees send in personalized email and just say, hey, check out this one part of the report, like, here’s our annual report, and she’s like, that really makes a difference or just the personalized note. Right, right. And then there’s also the flip side, which is to sort of have like, a more comprehensive annual report, because some organizations will provide a lot of numbers data, which like, is necessary, maybe a little boring, but they want their supporters to see that. So maybe you have that in like a shorter digital report. I’m not sure if I think that’s the best. But anyway, I think some combination can be nice. But I think you really just have to think about who your audience is. Because if right, if this is like 75%, for your 20 donors, yeah, then you just end if they’re all in their 60s, then maybe you have the printed report. But if this is a general marketing piece that you’re sending out to everyone, and you want a lot of movement on it, definitely do digital.

Ben Freda  29:16  

Yeah, for sure. That’s really funny. I had somebody on the podcast a couple weeks ago, named Wendi Huestis, who is a fundraiser, that’s her job. And it really did make me understand how important it is to really target like you said, those top 20 donors like, and it’s not just a question of making something, it’s a question of contacting them reaching out to them, calling them this woman like go to their houses to like talk about what the organization is doing and what funding would be what different levels of funding would mean for them and all that kind of stuff. But really like figuring out you know, if that’s the purpose of the annual report to target those top 20 people, what’s maybe you should just write it on the side of a golf ball, you know, I don’t know whatever they do, you know, or go to wherever they are. Yeah, that makes that makes a lot The sense that’s interesting.

Kate Purcell  30:01  

But I think it’s about being intentional, too, because I think the default obviously forever has been the printed report. And a lot of people just haven’t thought yet about well, how could I? How could I actually do this differently?

Ben Freda  30:11  

Totally. And I guess, yeah. And the printed report I yeah, I fully agree with with that there is something really cool about getting something physical mailed to you. It’s kind of special, you know, now, it’s not really junk mail. We don’t really get regular mail. I think for the digital version, if your choice is do a PDF, or do an HTML to me, it’s right. Yeah. Like, you know,

Kate Purcell  30:34  

I mean, I don’t think people realize you can’t read an eight-and-a-half by 11. PDF on your phone. Nobody’s gonna go through the effort of what that would take to read that. Yeah, a lot of times when I point that out to people, they’re like, oh, yeah, like, they’re just because they’re on their computers, they’re at work. And they’re not thinking about the fact that, yeah.

Ben Freda  30:49  

Totally people might read that thing. The one thing I did realize, though, that for a lot of our clients, I always remember, I’m sure you remember this, but about 10 years ago, there was this whole mobile first thing you should design for mobile first doing stuff, which probably works for some organizations, and some companies and some people have websites. For most of our clients, I would say the majority of the traffic is still on desktop. So it’s not, you know what I mean? It, maybe that’s just because of who our clients are, where our clients are not, you know, the social media generation, really, there are clients or organizations and most people visiting them are actually at work or doing something. But um, but yeah, but I still would say, you know, if you, if you want your impact report to be read, you know, at at a restaurant, where somebody’s like, going to show their friend, hey, I don’t need his organization. This is I’m really excited. Here’s the report and shows their phone, you know, which I do all the time with my friends. You know that that is going to be tough to do with a PDF?

Kate Purcell  31:42  

Yeah. Well, and likewise, like, I mean, I recently had a client, we were talking about the audience for it wasn’t an annual report, but it was a report. And it was like for legislative staff, right. They do a lot of policy and advocacy work. And it’s like, we were talking about, it’s like, yeah, those people are on the go there. I mean, yeah, they’re busy. And they’re moving around the statehouse and all that, you know, they definitely are going to be on their phones. So again, I think it’s important to think about that key audience that you’re trying to reach and not just follow the people.

Ben Freda  32:07  

Yeah, that makes sense. Totally. Listen, we have a few more minutes. And I did want to talk about one thing. One other topic, this is typically what happens we’ll have these conversations and then, like, not even cover a small sliver of what we wanted to cover. But I did love your newsletter that came out yesterday, by the way, guys, listeners, many, many listeners that you are, sign up for a Kate Purcell’s newsletter, it’s really useful. I love it, when it comes out. It’s all interesting, creative stuff about design for social change, etc. But yesterday’s, which came out yesterday, obviously, was interesting about constraints, and particularly budgetary constraints and how they can sometimes be good. And I just wanted to ask you about it. So you could just describe those thoughts in the minutes we have remaining? Because I thought they were really good.

Kate Purcell  32:53  

Yeah, so, um, I guess really, what it comes down to is sort of like, there’s two ways of thinking about budgeting. And I would say, the first way is what most people do, which is like, Okay, we have our, we’re gonna put together a scope, and we’re gonna put together a budget, and these are the 10 things we want for our website, or, you know, annual report. And then this is our budget, can you do this for this budget, which kind of ends up being a race to the bottom for the vendors sometimes, or just for you’re paying too much, right? Like, because someone’s like, yeah, I can do all that for that price. I think it’s an it’s a little bit harder to do, because you have to be more flexible. But say, if you sort of know your rough budget number, and you know, what you want to achieve? And then you kind of work with a vendor or multiple people to figure out what what how could we achieve this thing? Right? So I mean, just the examples, we were just talking about what the different ways to approach an annual report. Um, I think it’s just a more flexible and I think leads to more innovation, right? When you when you sort of start with the constraint of the budget, and then you’re like, how do we work something into this, as opposed to we have to do XYZ for this budget.

Ben Freda  34:02  

And the needs, you’re talking about some examples of those needs would be, we need to appeal to our highest donors, like we talked about before, right? Like our top level, therefore, we need to, we’re not getting the traction we want at, I don’t know, physical events, and what can we put together to do so like, rather than saying, hey, we need an event registration website or something? Yeah, exactly. Right. You would say our goal is to increase our engagement at our events, blah, blah, blah, and how can we do that?

Kate Purcell  34:27

yeah. Because, I mean, and this is why this is a whole nother conversation about the RFP process. But ultimately, I think a lot of organizations are trying to solve their problems before they engage an expert. They’re like, here’s our problem. And we know what the solution is. And let’s hire an expert to implement the solution as opposed to like, here’s our problem. Let’s talk to an expert about what possible solutions might be because because I think once you’ve invested in that RFP process, you’re more attached to your own ideas, and therefore you’re not potentially going to get the best idea.

Ben Freda  34:58  

Totally. Yeah, yeah, I think I think, tell me if you agree with this, my view on the RFP process is that it’s like deeply flawed, a lot of effort for everybody involved, organization and vendors. But it might be usually the best of a bunch of bad options. Is that the way to think about it?

Kate Purcell  35:15

No, I don’t know that I agree with that I, you know, I had a client once who I thought did a really nice process, which was absurd request for information. And she was very clear that she didn’t want these agencies to have to go through this whole proposal process, you know, and which, by the way, like, costs money, and that money is sort of, you pay more for having to have a business development team on. So she basically, right, he put out this request for information and had conversations with a number of agencies, and then was able to get a clearer idea of what people were offering, and then go into deeper conversations with a couple people. And I thought that was a really nice process, because it, it sort of wasted everybody’s time less, and then got down to the meaty conversation sooner. And then you you know, the scope of work that we eventually developed was just more tailored to what they actually needed.

Ben Freda  36:05

And so and I think that’s the critical part that you’re talking about is, rather than define the scope of work before you even talk to anybody, you know, if you’re at the organization, you could actually use help define that scope of work, what are the things that we need to actually accomplish the goal, rather than, hey, we need a website that has this and this and this and this, and we need, you know, you might be able to engage experts who can help you for you get to that point. Interesting.

Kate Purcell  36:29  

Yeah. Exactly. I mean, like, do you probably is going to do you know, I’ll look at an RFP sometimes. And I’m like, Okay, so, you know, these people think that they want all these things, or worse, you’ve got all the different departments saying, we need this, we need this, we need this, I mean, that that situation really kind of needs some wrangling, you know? And so, right. A lot of times you could get that help from from a vendor like yourself, you know, you can you can get the help of facilitating meetings and explaining to people why they can’t have like a slider on the homepage with every department needs, you know. Frankly, it’s just easier to bring someone in to tell people, you can’t have that then for the, you know, communications person to tell the program’s people, they can’t have something.

Ben Freda  37:11  

For sure. For sure. That’s funny. Yeah, it’s true. A lot of times we’ll see things that are cause we see RFPs to a lot of times, we’ll see a list of requirements, boom, boom, boom, all very standard. And then there will be one thing that’s just sort of tacked on, where you know that the people don’t realize that that is the hardest thing in the entire project.

Kate Purcell  37:32  

Yeah. Right. Like 25% of the budget.

Ben Freda  37:34  

Yeah. Is going to be to this one tacked on thing that seems simple to people. I don’t know. We need the we need the Event registrations to go to seven differences. Yeah, fine. We’ll just do that. And it’s just tacked on and you’re like, dude, that is harder than everything else combined. You know what I mean? Like in terms of effort anyway. So you see that a lot, too. But anyway, listen, this has been so fun to talk to you and so useful and so lovely. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. Last question is if people want to learn more about you or your work, where do they go to find out?

Kate Purcell  38:04  

Oh, Or look me up on LinkedIn. Kate Purcell.

Ben Freda  38:09  

There you go. Thank you so much, Kate.

Kate Purcell  38:11

Thank you, Ben. It’s been really lovely.

Outro  38:16  

Thanks for listening to the Nonprofit Thrive podcast. We’ll see you next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.

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