My designer friends may not like this, but the most effective design I have seen in charity communications is usually really simple. (There are times when stuff should be graphically designed of course, but for me simple is best).
As a side note, for my tips on developing appeals and design, check out this earlier post on the nine steps to doubling your appeal income.
By simple I mean authentic, real and often not even 'designed'. Take a letter for example. If you want it to 'feel' like a letter, then make any additional pieces feel like they should be there.
The piece below is a brilliant case in point. It was developed by one of our staff at Pareto Fundraising (not a designer), in around 20 minutes. Done in a really sophisticated tool called Microsoft Word.
The client, the Starlight Children's Foundation Australia, had an important message to tell it's donors. The letter didn't hold back, informing supporters that without a significant boost in income, as a result of tough times, Starlight could not grant as many wishes to sick children as it wanted to.
There was a lot of press about this at the same, so the decision was made to highlight this within the appeal, supporting the gravity of the problem as explained in the letter.
The appeal doubled net income from the previous year and was Starlight's most successful appeal ever.
The pack pulled no punches. It told it as it needed be told.
Oh, and the design was really simple.