Strategic Creative Design cover

You Don’t Have to Choose

“Strategic creative design” is not an oxymoron. Yet many organizations either get a lot of attention without communicating anything relevant to the target market, or have a highly relevant message that gets little attention.

Grey Matter Research frequently works with clients to help them understand whether their designs are creative enough to attract attention, while also having effective strategy to hit the target market effectively. Strategic or creative ads are great, but a strategic creative ad is ideal.

Strategic ad content

Strategically, what should a fundraising ad contain? Grey Matter and Infinity Concepts partnered once again to explore this topic within the evangelical Protestant market, testing advertising with over 1,000 respondents.

Infinity Concepts created eight different banner ads. Four of the ads were identical to each other, with the exception of how Scripture was incorporated into the ad. Another four were also identical, except whether a charity watchdog was referenced in the ad.

Watchdog Logos in Advertising

The 2020 Grey Matter report Charity Watchdogs: Ignore Them at Your Own Risk explored how donors use (or don’t use) charity watchdog organizations such as ECFA, Guidestar, and Charity Navigator. We showed how watchdogs often have an important role in fundraising decisions. But do they play a role when people are learning about an organization for the first time? Should they be featured or referenced in advertising?

The data suggests the answer is “no.” Watchdog logos actually make fundraising ads somewhat less compelling to evangelicals.

Scripture in Advertising

On the other hand, including scripture in a simple banner ad tends to make it more compelling to evangelicals, rather than less. Part of a verse, or the reference (e.g. “John 3:16”) is more compelling to evangelicals than having no scripture; having both the text and the reference makes is more compelling still. Scripture also makes the ad feel more relevant, appealing, hopeful, relatable, and believable to evangelicals.

Learn all the details in our new report Strategic Creative Design: A Study in Fundraising Advertising among Evangelicals, from Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts. (For a free copy of Strategic Creative Design, simply e-mail

Yes to Scripture and No to Watchdogs?

Is the study a blanket recommendation never to reference charity watchdogs, or always to feature scripture? Certainly not. Any advertising content needs to be relevant to the message and the overall ad. There are may be relevant ways to feature your organization’s charity watchdog rating or seal of approval when people are actually making giving decisions rather than just learning about your organization – your annual report, website, etc. Similarly, scripture use must be appropriate and relevant to the overall message of the ad; simply slapping a scripture verse onto an ad is just pandering to the audience.

But when designing advertising, it is critical to consider the role of each potential element of the ad. Does it support or distract from the overall message? Is it appropriate for your message and your target audience? With the research in Strategic Creative Design, you now have guidance on two content elements about which organizations often have questions.

Strategic Creative Design: A Study in Fundraising Advertising among Evangelicals details the findings from a study of more than 1,000 evangelical Protestant adults. The report is available free (e-mail

How Can We Help You?

Grey Matter has helped scores of organizations understand their current constituents and their target market. We’ve helped develop advertising, rebrand organizations, explore donor perceptions, create effective messaging, and guide faith-based and non-faith-based organizations and the agencies which support them in a variety of other ways.

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