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Working With The Ontario Nonprofit Network

This past year, I gladly accepted the opportunity to work with Sarah Matsushita, Communications & Network Engagement Manager of the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN). Sarah and I have known each other for years, working so well together at TIFF, back in the day. I jumped at the chance to connect with her again.

Organized in 2007, ONN is the convening, 7,000-strong provincial network, with a volunteer base of 300 sector leaders. ONN brings the diverse voices of the sector to government, funders and the business sector to create and influence systemic change. ONN’s mission is to engage, advocate, and lead with—and for—nonprofit charitable organizations that work for the public benefit in Ontario.

On page 7 of the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of The Collider magazine, the Centre for Social Innovation‘s community magazine, Matsushita writes: “Ontario’s nonprofit sector is a driver of the economy with over 55,000 organizations, creating $50 billion in economic impact for the province, and employing 600,000 people. The nonprofit sector is a key way for Ontarians to help shape their province.”

ONN’s vision is for a strong, resilient sector, thriving communities, and a dynamic province, and they have a knowledgeable team and growing membership to build towards this goal.

I was twice hired to design their conference event branding, as well as their awareness brochure, membership pitch, and other communications material, presented at their annual event held in September 2013 and again in September 2014.


The nonprofit professionals represented—the majority in leadership roles—are between 21 and 65 years of age, working across all subsectors: arts and culture, sports and recreation, environment, social and community services, faith-based, housing, provincial ministries, sponsors, potential sponsors, companies that provide services for nonprofits, and more. This was good to know, as it helped us to appropriately steer our design direction for all the collateral generated.

We were aiming for material that was colourful and current, but muted in a gender-neutral way, to attract and engage a diverse group of people. A “seasons changing” colour palette seemed to align well with the overall progressive themes of networks connecting and systems changing—key ingredients in what ONN is trying to accomplish.

The conference logo was used in all e-communications, onscreen, on the event program, on all event signage, on name tags, on the website and event webpage, and on all social media posts.

ONN Nonprofits Connect 2014 Event Branding



This piece was created in 2013 and enhanced in 2014, based on feedback ONN received over the year. This was only the second awareness piece ever created for ONN, so getting the right design and feel was important, especially in this growth stage for the organization.

A secondary audience for the awareness piece was for provincial government contacts, so we were mindful of the concept of versatility in a piece which would explain what ONN does.

The key messages ONN were looking to convey in the 2014 version shown here were:

• to identify and bring awareness on who and what ONN is, and what they can do to help
• to convey the power of a unified nonprofit sector
• to outline policy priorities
• to mobilize into action by subscribing, becoming a member, attending events, sharing information, and/or joining a constellation.

The interesting challenge here was to create a messaging vehicle that was accessible to a diverse range of organizations that exist in the nonprofit sector, talking about “systems change,” with which not everyone is familiar.

By explaining the breadth of services and resources offered, the goal in the design was to reflect ONN’s communications style: inclusionary, clear and direct. We went with the same colour palette to reflect this outlook, and to unify the brand message.


ONN 2014 Trifold Awareness Piece

ONN 2014 Membership Insert



This signage, situated for maximum visibility in key places at the conference, was created to reflect ONN’s fresh communications style: direct, friendly, inclusionary, and playful, again cognizant of the wide and diverse demographic nonprofit sector which is represented in their membership and constituents.

ONN also uses this design online for their website, in presentation slidedecks and in informational packages—a key way for them to describe their organizational culture.

ONN Mission Vision Values



For this cross-channel piece, ONN wanted to create a cost-effective, yet dynamic Annual Report to encapsulate their successful year. ONN wanted to take on the challenge of a 2-page report, in keeping with their direct and plain language communications style.

This helped us to make what I believe were the appropriate design decisions, tying together all of the elements by simplifying and streamlining the content in a cohesive way.


ONN Annual Report 2014 Page 1

2014 ONN Annual Report Page 1

ONN Annual Report 2014 Page 2

2014 ONN Annual Report Page 2



The conference logo I designed for ONN in 2013 is what got the ball rolling for me, regarding my working relationship with them.

Sarah was looking to find a way to convey the theme of the conference: to reframe discussion on the the role of the nonprofit sector; how it creates long-term change in communities and builds community wealth, while emphasizing that it is the diversity of nonprofits and charities as solutions builders, economic drivers, and on-the-ground innovators working together that maximizes cross-network efficiencies—all by being open to doing things differently.

The challenge in this instance was to convey all of this so that all cross-demographic participants would understand and engage in the dialogue generated. I used the symbol of “reframing a frame,” which is another way to communicate the idea of stepping outside of the proverbial box of thinking, reaching for something better, something lasting.

ONN has received feedback from its network that these pieces are accessible, visually interesting, and have helped to engage readers. From feedback received by ONN’s internal groups such as volunteers, the design “feels like ONN.” As well, feedback from other designers that the communications material is fresh and optimistic—an important approach ONN takes in the work they do—provided us with the reassurance that we are moving forward in the right direction with a brand promise the entire network can get behind.

That stated, the job is never done, and the work continues. I am grateful to have played a role in communicating the good work ONN does, and I congratulate Sarah and everyone there for continuing their mission with aplomb and passion.

ONN Nonprofit Reframed 2013 Event Branding

ONN Collateral 2013

ONN Collateral 2013