The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

The psychology of color and what it means for fundraising

Color choicesAre you red hot? Or true blue? It’s no secret that color evokes emotion and is a key visual indicator that communicates meaning. But just how much goes on in our minds when it comes to color? Marketing strategist Gregory Ciotti offers an excellent review of how color can influence brand preference and, in turn, how we feel about the messages we receive.

Some highlights:

  • Up to 90% of first impressions of products can be based on color alone.
  • Both men and women appear to have a strong preference for the color blue, while purple tends to be favored more by women, and shunned by men. (Orange and brown don’t seem to get much love at all from either gender.)
  • Our personal experiences and cultural norms influence the way we interpret color.
  • The perceived “appropriateness” of colors used will affect the perception of a brand’s message. (That is, do we generally expect baby blue to communicate power?)

What does any of this have to do with your fundraising approach? The various ways you use color to communicate with your donors can affect how your brand is remembered, and even affect the likelihood of a donor acting on your next appeal.

Be consistent with your nonprofit’s branding.
Ciotti notes that research has shown our brains tend to prefer recognizable brands. Establish a core set of images and colors for your organization and use them consistently throughout your marketing so potential supporters can immediately recognize you. This helps your audience form an association with your work and your visual identity, and can help build a preference for your organization. (Read how ASPCA made orange its signature color.)

Don’t be afraid to stand out.
People often ask what color they should use for their organization’s donation button. Many feel that a strong color, like red, is always the right answer. The reality is that it depends. If your organization’s marketing materials and website are predominantly red or orange, a contrasting color (such as blue) will likely perform much better. Our brains immediately notice the things that deviate from our surroundings. Use this to your advantage and avoid being too color coordinated. Consider how contrasting colors and bold highlights can help your key points and calls to action be seen by busy readers on the go. (Think about how yellow highlighting or red editorial marks in direct mail pieces effectively lead eyes down the page.)

Color descriptions matter.
People seem to gravitate more to colors that have elaborate or more descriptive names. Think raspberry instead of pink, or mahogany instead of brown. This is likely because these names are more specific and allow us to precisely visualize and remember them. While this fact is probably more important to paint manufacturers and fashion designers, it’s worth noting as you incorporate descriptive elements in your nonprofit storytelling. Replace generic descriptions with richer details to paint a more realistic and vivid picture in your donor’s mind.

How are you using color to communicate your organization’s brand values and personality? Have you tested the use of different colors in your fundraising materials? Chime in below and share your experiences or best examples.

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About This Blog

Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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