Serif or sans-serif?

Which type font do you use in your donor communications?

Is it a serif font like this? Or sans-serif like the font used in this article’s headline?

Serifs are those little extra feet or extensions on the ends of some strokes of a typeface. Those typefaces without serifs are called “sans serif.”

It may surprise you to learn that research shows using a serif font will result in better recall than using a sans-serif font. The difference seems to be in the extra difficulty involved in reading a serif font.

As Mark Phillips points out in his “bloody good fundraising blog,” readers “remember more when they are reading smaller, less legible type because it causes them to slow down and read more carefully.”

Researchers from Princeton and Indiana universities studied the effect on comprehension of reading using easy (serif) and challenging (sans serif) fonts. They found that “those who read…in an easy to read font answered correctly 72.8 percent of the time, compared to 85.5 percent of those who read…in hard to read fonts.”

Phillips concluded, “Some charities don’t seem that bothered about the choice of fonts in fundraising materials, leaving the decision on what they use down to the designer who created the brand guidelines–whether they understand the needs of donors or not. That might well be a mistake, particularly when you take into account that a different font might cause your reader to remember far more about your charity.”

Readability and recall are important factors in how nonprofits communicate their messages. For a general discussion of marketing and communications, be sure to attend the MVDP meeting April 26 at Central Willamette Community Credit Union, 7101 Supra Drive SW, Albany. The program featuring Jim Gochenour on Marketing: A Critical Tool for Development will begin at 3 p.m.

Jim is development director of Living Opportunities in Medford. His lengthy career includes stops in for-profit hospitality and apparel industries before he moved into nonprofit development.

Register for this program at The fee is $30 if paid at least two days in advance. Season pass holders should declare their attendance plans by e-mailing

This entry was posted in direct mail appeal, donors, e-mail, fundraising, marketing, MVDP, newsletter, technology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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