3 Tools to Take Your Nonprofit’s Visual Storytelling to the Next Level

There’s a growing consensus among digital marketers and media specialists that storytelling — particularly through visual means — is an essential part of an organization’s communication strategy. And the numbers certainly echo that sentiment. For example, when we hear a new piece of information, the chance that we’ll remember that information 3 days later is only 10%. Pair that same information with an image, and our 36-hour recall percentage jumps to 65% 1.

Our affinity for images and video is a primary reason why the use of visual content by marketers increased 130% between 2015 and 2016. Additionally, more than 90% of marketers reporting using visual content in over 50% of the articles they produced 2.

Compared to for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations are uniquely positioned to inspire action and engagement through visual storytelling. Using videos, images, presentations, and data visualizations, nonprofits have the power to motivate audiences to action in ways for-profit companies dream of.

The problem is, creating good visual content is hard work. For nonprofits with limited time, money, and personnel (so, just about every NPO out there 😉), it’s a real struggle to convey your organization’s mission in a visually impactful way.

For those without a full digital production team at their disposal, don’t fret! Below are 3 easy-to-use visual design tools that are free to get started with. FREE! It’s time to take your visual storytelling skills to a whole…nutha…level.



Canva is straight-up AWESOME, especially for those of us who are less graphically inclined. Not only do they make it dead simple to create stunning social media graphics, infographics, post cards, data visualizations, flyers, and more, but they also provide a ton of free resources to help you along the way.

Use a pre-built template to get started quickly, or browse through Design Ideas to get some inspiration. Canva also provides stand-alone tools for editing photos, choosing colors, and pairing fonts. Ready to improve your design skills? Canva has you covered with their online Design School, packed with tutorials, courses, and resources to help you craft beautiful visuals to tell your story.

Oh, and did I mention they have a nonprofit offering as well? BOOM! Now you have no excuse to post crappy images on Facebook and Instagram.


This is one of my favorite visual tools, although most people I mention it to have never heard of it. Xtensio is geared more toward startups, but many of their templates can be customized to fit the needs of nonprofits as well.

Xtensio allows you to easily create and share visual documents, which are called “Folios.” Folios consist of Sections, Canvases, and Modules, all of which can be easily customized and re-ordered with drag-and-drop functionality.

Getting started with your first Folio is mad easy. Just pick one of their pre-made templates, or create your own Folio from scratch. I’ve found the User Persona Creator, Fact Sheet, Fundraising Summary, and Media Kit templates to be particularly useful in developing visual assets for nonprofits.

You can create up to 3 Folios on Xtensio’s free plan, which also includes 8 exports per month. It only costs $14/mo ($10/mo if you pay for the year in advance) to bump up to the Pro level, where you can remove Xtensio’s branding and get unlimited Folios and exports. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

At the moment, Xtensio doesn’t offer a specific package or pricing options for nonprofits. However, there apparently is an Xtensio nonprofit program in the works that they are collecting information and feature requests for. Hit ’em up with suggestions!

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark is actually a suite of 3 visual creation tools: Spark Post, Spark Page, and Spark Video. Each tool has a specific use-case, which we will touch on below.

Spark Post

Spark Post is similar to Canva in that in provides visually appealing templates and captivating imagery that is tailored for sharing on social media. Mix and match designs, color schemes, and typography, then let Spark Post automatically size your graphic for any social media platform.

Spark Page

This is where you can really let your nonprofit story shine through content + visuals. Spark Page’s magazine-style themes and layouts offer a professional, polished look to your content right out of the box. The Glideshow functionality adds some really cool motion and fluidity to your pages. And of course, your Spark Pages will be fully responsive so they look great on any device.

Spark Video

Last up we have Spark Video, which I think stacks up well against any other DIY animated video creation tool out there. With Spark Video, you can stitch together video clips, photos, icons, and text overlays to create a professional-quality video in a relatively short time.

Toss in some music or voiceover audio and one of Spark Video’s visual themes, and you have yourself another legit visual asset to help tell your story and promote your cause!

A unique feature of Adobe Spark is that your projects are automatically synced across the web and their iOS apps. This allows you to create, edit, and launch a Spark Post, Page, or Video on the go — perfect for capturing and sharing stories, images, and more while you’re in the field!

Wrapping Up

I hope you give these visual storytelling tools a try the next time you need to tell your nonprofit’s story to donors or constituents. I’d love to hear from folks who’ve used these tools before. What did you think? Did they work for you?

Are there other visual storytelling tools that are working for your nonprofit? Let us know in the comments section!

Originally published at www.sageweb.co, a web consulting agency dedicated to helping nonprofits do more online.