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A sentiment we hear frequently expressed by designers is the desire to do work that has an impact beyond the marketplace. Work that helps effect real, positive social change. Surprisingly, a sentiment expressed with equal frequency is a lack of available opportunities to do that work. Surprisingly, now more than ever, the design community seems to be acutely aware of how it can bring its talents, resources, abilities to bear, and outlets for designers interested in “designing for good” appear to be in healthy supply.

A list of just a few of these organizations along with a description of what they do is below.

Two of them, Sappi Ideas that Matter and desigNYC have been covered on before and you can read about them here and here respectively. Keep in mind there are many more organizations than those showcased here.

AIGA Design for Good

AIGA’s Design for Good platform plays a vital role in supporting “design thinking for social change” by providing tools, resources, events, advocacy and training. Online tools include a list of organizations, schools, programs, training and fundraising opportunities where designers can apply their skills for social good, case study templates and an area for members to share their thoughts, experiences or articles of interest. There’s also the GAIN: AIGA Design for Social Value Conference — two days of workshops and roundtables exploring “the key role designers play in creating social value.”


Led by Executive Director Laetitia Wolff, desigNYC continues to improve the life of New Yorkers through its design minded, community-centric approach to issues such as community revitalization and expanding community resources. Recent projects include work with the Lower East Side Business Improvement District (LES BID), to “reinvent the street festival” and work with Fort Greene SNAP which encompasses SNAP being paired with a design team to redesign their community center and fundraising initiatives to support the roll out of the proposed redesign.

Designers Without Borders

Self described as “a consortium of designers and design educators working to assist institutions of the developing world with their communication needs,” Designers Without Borders focuses on assisting institutions in developing nations. Their work includes help with basics such as donations of equipment, books and software in addition to instruction, consultation and development in Uganda, Cameroun and South Africa.

Charitable Design

Recognizing the potential healing effect space can have on an individual psyche, Charitable Design is a nonprofit organization that redesigns rooms and spaces for individuals and families in crisis or other nonprofit community organizations. Established by the Westside Design Group, an interior design and home staging firm, the organization describes its purpose as being “to make a real difference in our community, one room at a time.” An example of one of their projects is a teen center redone in vibrant colors with dedicated areas for homework and socializing. They accept nominations for “extreme room makeovers” on their site.


As part of their effort to give back, crowdsourcing site 99designs has launched 99nonprofits. The new initiative will provide free graphic design services such as print, web, logo and t-shirt design to 99 not-for-profit organizations selected from a pool of applicants over the course of the next few months. In a press release CEO Patrick Llewellyn said, “99nonprofits is an extension of our commitment to support organizations making a positive impact in their local communities and around the world.” Since launching in July the program has received more than 35 applications from around the world, including the United States, Australia, Egypt, Nigeria, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Sappi Ideas that Matter

For more than a decade Sappi Fine Paper North America has demonstrated a deep commitment to and in support of design for good through their Sappi Ideas that Matter grant program. Rooted in the belief “that the creative ideas of designers can have an impact beyond the aesthetic and that those ideas can be a powerful force for social good”. The program has contributed over $12 million dollars to more than 500 programs worldwide. The 2012 grant winners are scheduled to be announced this September.

We hope this list inspires you to find a nonprofit or cause to contribute your talents to. Unsure where to begin? Two organizations that match professionals with pro bono opportunities and nonprofits are Catchafire and Taproot. There’s also All for Good an online database of volunteer opportunities.