How do you make a website for a contemporary nonprofit? 3pe communicates about eating disorders clearly and sensitively.
Creating a website for non-profit organizations always entails certain specifics. Projects that aim to make a serious topic as accessible as possible must carefully consider exactly what their communication will look like. How did the 3pe project tackle the challenge of building a brand of contemporary non-profit that helps to fight the taboo surrounding eating disorders? We talked about it with its founder Lada Brůnová and designer Pavla Julia Kolářová.
Daniela: Lada, what made you start 3pe?
Lada: I'm trying to build a place that I needed when I was sick. A few years ago, I shared a personal story at a panel about living with anorexia, which I went through as a teenager. Since then, the topic has been linked to me in the media, with an interview coming out here and there, and one day an invitation came to the Jeden svět debate, where I met Tereza Makova, the future co-founder of 3pe. My task was to share my personal experience at the debate, and Tereza added her expert perspective on the issue. That was the first time we met and I really liked the way Tereza talked about the topic. She was empathetic, she didn't label, she thought about the uniqueness of each person. We exchanged contacts and met for a while just because we understood each other. Then I realized that I had been at the birth of various projects and that I could now capitalize on my professional experience for a topic that was so important to me. Tereza and I also had the same dream, which was to put all the important information about eating disorders in one online place. Our big wish is to build a network of contacts that people concerned with the topic can turn to. In our map we want to include verified contacts to institutions, projects and experts who think about the issue in the same way as we do.
"From the very beginning of 3pe, our desire has been to put all the important information in one online place."
Daniela: How do you know Pavla? How did you find your way to each other within this project?
Pavla: We first met at the Energy for Doctors project. Lada created the content and I designed the website. I enjoyed our collaboration. We understood each other aesthetically and in terms of content and inspired each other with our enthusiasm.
Lada: In the beginning, I think you reached out to me on Instagram when I shared on my personal profile that 3pe was being created. Pavla texted me that if I ever wanted help with anything, to get in touch. So I did.
Martin: Pavla, what does it mean to you to work for the non-profit sector and for 3pe in particular?
Pavla: Lada's personal story behind the whole project is important to me. At the same time, I generally like to work on health-related type of projects. And despite the fact that I don't have personal experience directly with eating disorders, the themes around the relationship with the body are close to my heart. Seeking that relationship is a topic that affects just about everyone. Self-acceptance issues don't always have to lead to anorexia nervosa or some other disorder, but I find it interesting to explore the different ranges and stages of this relationship.
Lada: What fascinates me about Pavla is her empathy. Sometimes during media interviews I encounter questions that, while not meant in a bad way, are stigmatizing. When we talked with Pavla, she asked so sensitively that I was surprised that she had no personal experience herself. And I also confess that I preferred a female designer because the topic of eating disorders is mostly about women. But of course we tried to take into account in the design that future visitors to the site would include men. The topic has recently started to become less taboo and it turns out that it affects men much more than we commonly think. We would therefore like to gradually lead our website towards even greater diversity.
Pavla: I enjoy using design to change the perception of important issues by changing their communication. It gives a wider audience the opportunity to look deeper into the overall issue and make connections more naturally. There's a big evolution of therapies going on right now that are finally ceasing to be taboo, this is a good example of that approach. I love the moment when the perception of topics that have not been explained in an informed way changes. If the appropriate feelings and information can be conveyed through form and content, not only prevention occurs, but also finding the right solution when needed.
Lada: We're so glad that the term bodyshaming is being used more and more in society and in the media, as well as the fact that many people are unhappy in their bodies is also mentioned more... And also how little we know about how to accept our bodies in our society, and conversely how much we are used to commenting on other people's bodies. Unfortunately, the photos in the media and on the websites of medical facilities don't help much in many cases. We wished that the 3pe website made people feel comfortable and gave them the courage to seek professional help.
Daniela: How do you choose the institutions and experts you recommend on your website? There are many patients who are put off from treatment by a bad experience they have had in dealing with eating disorders within the conventional healthcare system. How are you going to work with such cases?
Lada: The topic of detachment in health care is something that Tereza and I are addressing. However, we see a gradual process of positive change underway and we very much wish to contribute to it. You are right, however, that if the first experience of a person seeking help is bad or uncertain, it may take time before he or she commits again. If they are not from a big city, finding the right professional is all the more challenging, which is why we have now decided to invest time and energy in expanding our network of contacts. We currently have psychiatric hospitals, clinics and wards, day centres, crisis centres and helplines listed on the website, and will now also include psychotherapists, psychiatrists and nutritional therapists. We plan to meet or call each of the professionals to find out their approach to the issue. It is important for us to have contacts on the website for professionals who are close to the issue.
Daniela: Lada, you yourself mentioned in a recent interview how difficult the phase that leads to the realization that I have a problem is. It's accompanied by suppression, denial, self-persuasion, etc. Do you have a plan for how to use the website and the initiative to reach out to a group that has an eating disorder but is in this difficult phase?
Lada: At the moment we are focusing mainly on people who are already affected by the topic, either themselves or someone close to them. But we also want to help school psychologists and doctors find information. However, we are not only drawing attention to diseases that have already developed, but also to unhealthy eating habits that should already be highlighted. That is to say, at a stage when we are not yet talking about eating disorders, but about disordered eating.
Pavla: I look at it from a design perspective. This group has a problem with not wanting to admit they have a problem for a long time. That's why I think the whole brand identity needs to be positive to give courage, hope and empathy on the journey to a healthy and beautiful body that is unique to everyone. Design has the awesome power to help a brand to have a "cool aspect" that makes people not mind identifying with it and being part of the community that surrounds it.
"Design has the great power to help give a brand a 'cool aspect' that people won't mind identifying with and being part of the community that surrounds it."
Lada: At 3pe, we like to rely on the concept of "not sick enough", where at some stage people tell themselves that they are not actually too sick to seek help. In addition, people often don't know when they are speaking for themselves and when the illness is speaking for them. We try to create all of our content with this in mind, so that a person who comes to the 3pe website may be more aware that this may be a bigger issue for them than they admit. And that the sooner they seek help, the better their chances of recovery.
Daniela: What is the state of Czech society in terms of education about eating disorders? Can you think of any positive and negative examples of how this topic is talked about or portrayed in the media and pop culture (not only in the Czech Republic)?
Lada: Personally, I have a big problem with the visual shortcuts used by the media, for example. Typical examples are the often used photographs of an apple wrapped in a measuring tape or very thin girls who see themselves differently in the mirror. Yes, creating visual content that is not stigmatising is difficult, but it is necessary to understand what eating disorders are really about. The topic is associated with skinny bodies and food, which can be problematic from my perspective. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that are not a conscious choice, plus not all types are associated with extreme thinness, for example bulimia or binge eating are quite high risk of being overweight, and even a person with severe anorexia nervosa may not be severely underweight. Underweight is simply not the central issue, it is one of the harmful myths that causes delays in entering treatment and which therefore needs to be patiently explained. For the actual photographs, we approached photographer Aneta Zimova and together we defined that we wanted to capture the sensitivity, fragility and also the inner strength that people with eating disorders need to learn to use for themselves, not against themselves.
The topic always gets more attention in the media when a famous person speaks out about it. Now I can think of Gábina Soukalová, for example, who shared her experience with mental anorexia in the top sports environment years ago. I would like to see more space given not only to young women. Yes, eating disorders most often develop between the ages of 14 and 19, but children around the age of 10, sometimes younger, are no exception. The number of cases under 14 has doubled in the last decade. Eating disorders affect the whole age spectrum, with some data suggesting that 13% of women over 50 have problematic eating habits. About one in ten of those affected is male. In the case of bigorexia, which is characterised by an obsession with a muscular physique, the ratio is even reversed. This fact is very nicely highlighted in the Czech Republic by Hrana, a documentary podcast series by Lukáš Houdek about male body image.
Daniela: I finished watching The Crown a while ago, and I was struck by how the manifestations of bulimia that Princess Diana suffered from were very explicitly depicted in several episodes. I thought it was great that it was so openly acknowledged as a theme within her story, and viewers can see that famous people from history are struggling or have struggled with it and maybe they can relate to it in some way and it can allow them to open up to someone else in that way.
Lada: I agree. I also thought it was great that there was also a disclaimer before each of the episodes that it depicts the manifestations of the disease and that if some viewers don't feel comfortable, they shouldn't watch the episode. And if they are going through this disease themselves and want and are seeking help, then they should use the contacts they listed right below the warning.
Daniela: What do you think are the biggest mistakes those around a person struggling with an eating disorder can make?
Lada: It is essential that the sick person is not alone. If his loved ones notice striking behavioural patterns, it is a good idea to give them meaning and explore what is going on. The surroundings should not act in extremes. It should not make light of the situation, it should not turn a blind eye to it, but it should also not blame the person for behaving the way they are behaving or start making decisions for them immediately. It always makes sense to open the space for conversation, to name the problem, one's own feelings, to show concern and to allow the sufferer to gain trust, courage and strength to open up to us.
Martin: Pavla, how was the development of the project for you? What were its key moments?
Pavla: At the beginning, Lada and I were clear about the concept and style of communication we wanted to follow. We knew that this was a sensitive and complicated topic that we were approaching with kindness and respect. At the same time, it was crucial for us to remain optimistic and promote hope in our communication. Keeping the structure simple, focusing on the information and, last but not least, the photography was key.
Martin: How is the structure of the website specific? You also mentioned the subsequent feedback collection, what was the process like?
Pavla: Lada wrote the texts first and then we met and came up with the content and its form. We came to the conclusion that we wanted to build the structure as a customer journey, each page has a separate message and the user goes through the website in specific ways. I tested it virtually within my inner circle, consulting with my mum, who works as a nurse on a children's ward, and my designer friends.
Martin: What do you think nonprofits should do differently in order to function better and thrive financially?
Lada: That's a broad question, but in fundraising, I think it's important to be surrounded from the very beginning by people who will support you in any way, to collect their contacts and let them know that they are part of your mission. Even if they send you 50 crowns, you should let them know how they helped with 50 crowns - that they became part of your solution. It can also be a simple newsletter. We don't send it very often, we don't spam, because we don't like to do that ourselves, but we let people know that we are doing meaningful things and that it is also because of their support.
At the same time, you can develop your donors; in fundraising, there is a so-called donor pyramid, with one-time donors at the very bottom, donors who give repeatedly, regular donors, major donors, and at the top you can imagine a person who leaves an estate to the organization in his or her will. Often while starting out as a small donor, they build a strong relationship with the nonprofit over the years.
The key for me is to work with donors long term. Contacts who have some interaction with the organization, the so-called hot contacts, should not get cold feet. It is much cheaper for an organisation to work with existing donors and move them higher and higher up the pyramid than to approach new donors.
At the same time, nonprofits don't have to focus only on financial donations. For example, they can surround themselves with people who think about them and mention them in different situations, such as ambassadors and non-financial donors. In short, there are many ways to support non-profit organizations.
"Nonprofits don't have to focus only on financial donations. For example, they can surround themselves with people who think about them and mention them in different situations, such as ambassadors and non-financial donors. There are simply many ways to support nonprofits."
If you are interested in how the 3pe project turned out, or if you are looking for information about eating disorders yourself, check out their website.
Martin: I often think that it's a shame that nonprofits don't work the same way as traditional businesses. It's a shame that nonprofits don't have corporate habits. A private company, driven by capitalism and money, will calculate everything three times to make sure it works out at the end of the month. Nonprofits sometimes strike me as more passive, and that's a shame because these principles are applicable across the focus of different organizations.
Lada: I recently attended a MILA course where we talked about fundraising. The lecturer Simona Bagarová said a great thing: "Social entrepreneurship is business first, social second." I myself think of nonprofits as traditional businesses with a different mission, where senior professionals should work, and which should be prepared for growth and change. That's also why we relied on solidpixels when choosing a solution that allows us to react quickly to feedback and the current context when needed.
Martin: Pavla, can you think of any design tips for nonprofits?
Pavla: I think that my recommendation will not be just for non-profit organizations, but rather for any organization that is dealing with its visual and content communication and wants to be successful in it. From my perspective, it's important to focus on being clear about the values they represent, but also the values they bring to their customers. At the beginning of the process, it is crucial to analyze and synthesize information from the areas they are in. This is information about the organisation itself, its culture, values and vision. Next is important information about the customers, their needs and last but not least, the industry - from competitors to the specifics of the industry in which they operate. This initial process will give them strong clues on how to frame their communications and where to go.
Lada: I think it's good to try to approach design studios and ask them if they have the capacity for a pro bono project. If you can find people who resonate with your topic and give them the opportunity to try and learn something new in exchange for an interesting reference, it can be a win-win solution. In the case of solidpixels, for example, we were genuinely excited when they decided to help us with our project.
Martin: It's just like you say. If the other side is open to cooperation, why not cooperate. Our team also wants to be part of the birth of good things and help. This was the perfect opportunity to leverage that synergy. In addition, I am convinced that thanks to solidpixels, the non-profit can save costs in the editing of the site and has a huge freedom in its further development.
Would you like to start your own project with us? Let us know more about it and we'll help you bring it to fruition.