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Ken Marotte Senior Writer AC Fitzgerald Author

Ken Marotte, Senior Writer and Managing Director

Your Type Is Your Brand: Using Fonts to Improve Your Image and Personalize Your Communications

In the fundraising world, the tasks are many and the days are long. We’re often reminded of the need to set priorities and be strategic amid the hailstorm of responsibilities that fall at our feet.

There’s no question that your organization’s high-level work should consume the bulk of your time and energy. But you should also devote some attention to quieter matters that nevertheless impact your organization’s brand. Typography falls into this category, as through it, you send subtle, subliminal messages about your organization’s professionalism, seriousness, and style. Moreover, with 80 million pieces of direct mail sent in 2016, and American workers spending 15 hours checking email each week, it’s essential for your communications to stand out.

Below are a few tips for using typography to your organization’s benefit. Keep in mind that serif fonts are those that have lines stemming from the end strokes of a letter (e.g., Times New Roman), while sans serif fonts are those that do not (e.g., Arial).

Serif v. Sans Serif. No, this isn’t a Supreme Court case—but given the passion it ignites on both sides, it well could be. You should use a font that’s legible, consistent, and that anchors the eye as it speeds across a line. For this reason, serif fonts are generally easier to read. They also lend an air of legitimacy and authority to your message. Always use serif fonts in the body of a physical proposal, letter, or newsletter. Sans serif (in addition to serif) can be used online and/or in headlines.

The tables have turned. Conventional wisdom once held that serif fonts were ideal for physical reading, while sans serif fonts were best for digital reading. The reason? The low-resolution standards of the day didn’t do justice to the finer details of serif fonts. All that has changed in recent years, as high-definition displays have become the norm. Use serif or sans serif fonts online to your heart’s content.

Not all are equal. Microsoft Office 2016 comes with some 250 preloaded fonts. Logic dictates that not all of them are equal. Moreover, just because a font is popular doesn’t mean it’s superior. For serif fonts, consider Georgia, Garamond, Book Antigua, and Times New Roman. For sans serif, Verdana and Tahoma beat Arial and Helvetica. These fonts are ideal because they’re highly readable and utilize generous, consistent spacing. They’re also standard on most computers and email services, reducing the possibility of formatting issues.

Switch it up. If writing a proposal, alternate between sans and sans serif. Consider, for example, using sans serif headings (perhaps one of the Lucida fonts) with a serif body. But don’t use more than two fonts on a page.

It’s up to you. At the end of the day, it’s your call. What image do you want to project? Cool and edgy? Or traditional and established? In a world that prizes originality, typography is an often-overlooked way for your organization to set itself apart.

With every letter you type and sentence you construct, you’re sending a multitude of messages to your donors. Follow the tips above to ensure that your communications instill confidence and purpose both implicitly and explicitly.

Ken Marotte serves as Senior Writer and managing Director at AC Fitzgerald. 

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