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Industry Insights

Charity Design Challenge

Niagara Christian Gleaners website

Charities often ask us to lend them our design and marketing skills to better help them tell their story – to raise awareness of the good they do, to build an audience for their message, to develop a broad supporter base of people who are passionate about helping through volunteering their time and/or money.

The design community has a long history of contributing creative services - compelling storytelling, impactful design, and marketing expertise – to worthy causes. Artists and designers contribute their skills because of the shared belief that, when done well, design improves the world. Great design stirs people to action through communicating and evoking a response. Since action is most often preceded by thoughts and words, communicating with clarity and conviction is critical for raising the awareness of a need and encouraging people to help. Enter the Designer.

“We put our efforts and skills behind the “gleaners” because we think they are doing a beautiful thing.”

Jason Bouwman

When we agreed to help Niagara Christian Gleaners we knew that hunger was a serious global issue, but we had no idea how many people die from hunger each year! We also had no clue that an opportunity to do something about it existed right in our backyard.

Niagara Gleaners focus is simple: Turn surplus produce, otherwise headed for landfills, into packaged dried food meals. Modelled after the successful Ontario gleaners in Cambridge, Niagara Gleaners hopes to be operational by 2018. They have secured a property in Smithville, ON and have drawn up plans for a production facility that they have raised money towards constructing. But they need more help. In 2018, Niagara Gleaners will need a steady roster of volunteers to wash, chop, dry and package food for the hungry people they hope to serve. They will also need people to support and serve financially.

To help build support for their cause we offered to put together a website where people can learn more about Niagara Gleaners, where they can make financial pledges, sign up to volunteer, or even donate. We also gave our entire team a design challenge: Conceive, write, design, and program a website within 24 hours. This became twenty-four hours over a period of three 8 hour shifts (which was no less of a feat).

“Artists and designers contribute their skills because of the shared belief that, when done well, design improves the world.”

The 24-hour time-constraint stressed our process in many ways. Typically, we tell clients that we work in weeks and months NOT days, so this was far from normal. In order to meet our deadline we had to develop content, design concepts, and programming, simultaneously which made clear communication critical to our success. The design process is messy and the route to a successful website invariably crisscrosses back and forth between story ideas, thoughts on language, design concepts, functionality, and features. Our creative brief which outlines the key goals and objectives of the site kept us moving forward but it quickly became apparent that developing a site over a longer period and staging the development in distinct sequential steps has its benefits.

I am extremely proud of our team and what they were able to accomplish over those 24 hours. I am grateful for the fine people at Niagara Gleaners and I am excited to see momentum build for their operations. We’re inspired by the compassion they have for those who are suffering as well as their commitment to helping others.

We’re called to a life of work and the best kind of work adds value to the lives of others. When love is the driving force behind our effort and skill, our work is beautiful. Whether you are a business or a not-for-profit organization, if love drives your efforts and skills, your work is beautiful too.

We put our efforts and skills behind the “gleaners” because we think they are doing a beautiful thing. You’ll give them a helping hand in making something beautiful too won’t you?


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Written by Jason Bouwman, RGD

October 17, 2017