One of the things that makes working at Boys & Girls Clubs so fun is that we get to wear a million different hats. I mean, this job is NEVER BORING. We are youth development professionals, curriculum writers, bus drivers, data analysts, food service workers, counselors, and custodians, sometimes all in one day! And I know I missed a few!
One hat I did not realize I’d be wearing when I came to BGCA is amateur graphic designer. As I manage this blog and the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page and group, I need to design a lot of images. But thankfully I’ve discovered the actual most helpful tool of all time- Canva.com. Canva is an online design and publishing tool whose mission is to “to empower everyone in the world to design anything and publish anywhere.” And I think they fulfill that mission well. With only a few clicks you can create posters, flyers, social media posts, banners, stationary, infographics, resumes, postcards, programs, desktop wallpaper, presentations, and so much more. (This is where I point out that I’m NOT an affiliate, this post isn’t sponsored in any way, they don’t know I’m writing it, I just truly use Canva all the time and enjoy it and think you will too.)
The free version is great, but even BETTER is their Canva for Non-Profits program. At absolutely no cost, your organization can get the premium version that unlocks more images, fonts, and features for up to 10 people. It’s a simple application and verification process and you should absolutely do it! One feature I love is the ability to share designs with team members right in Canva for easy editing, plus the team logo folders. You know we’ve got a GIGANTIC logo folder with every BGCA program represented!
There are truly an endless number of projects you can complete on Canva, and they are constantly adding new features so it will continue to grow. They also have a really great Learning section on their site, with free tutorials and even live webinars. It does NOT take the place of a professional graphic designer, who are professionals who understand the theory and best practice behind compelling design and how to use advanced tools, but when you want to complete smaller projects and don’t have a budget, it will work well.
There are of course obvious uses for marketing, but I’m not going to focus on them here. I’ll be sticking to site-level, even program space-level ideas. Here are some of my favorite ways that you can use Canva in your programming afterschool:
In my Education Room at my Club, I was always looking for ideas for switching out posters, bulletin boards, or other displays. On Canva you can make posters of multiple sizes that you can print yourself or have printed somewhere professionally if you have a small budget. The cool thing with that is you can choose quotes or sayings or designs that are meaningful to your youth specifically. If you are truly ambitious you can even coordinate all your décor and create a theme, from bulletin boards right down to labeling shelves or bins. Consider having teens choose quotes and design the posters that will hang in the Teen Center.
One of my favorite newer projects Canva is publishing are Presentation templates. Using these, you can make beautiful Powerpoint sized slide decks that won’t look like what anyone else is using. They are pushing this feature in their advertising recently, so I find that there are new templates in this category especially every time I log on.
As one of the Five Key Elements for Positive Youth Development, Recognition of youth accomplishments and effort are central to what we do. There are lots of low-cost or free ways to do this, and Canva can help. They’ve got templates for certificates and awards, banners, and even things like t-shirts and mugs. With the feature to remove backgrounds from photos, you could create a display of superlatives that looks like this sample I screengrabbed from their Instagram:
Because of their commitment to education, Canva now has Worksheet templates that could be easily adapted for your program. Want to do a pre- or post-survey? Or create some practice skill sheets for when youth don’t have homework in Power Hour? Brainstorming templates? Their filters give sample ideas split out by Elementary, Middle, and High School (a separate filter just for Kindergarten which is nice!) and by subject area. There are also really nice schedule templates if you post your daily, weekly, or even monthly program calendars. For older youth, Canva can be a part of your activities, designing right in the site using the free version. This ELA teacher lists out some of her favorite ways to have students use Canva templates and while its clearly academic focused, it may help kickstart your own ideas.
I actually love this self-care worksheet to create an “Ultimate Coping Playlist” of songs. And since it’s customizable you could switch out any of the categories. Excuse me while I go fill this out myself right now…
I said I wouldn’t get into marketing here, BUT sometimes you want to advertise special events or opt-in programs or clubs-within-the-Club to youth and families, and Canva has a ton of eye-catching event flyer designs. In fact Halloween is just around the corner and I know for many Clubs it is a HIGHLIGHT of the year, so start inviting families now! Need ideas for your spooky celebration? Here are two ClubX Blog posts with a bunch of them, one from the “before times” and one with some COVID-specific precautions. (FYI both of the blog images below were made in … guess where … CANVA! As is the one at the top of this post!)
There are literally several million other ways you can use Canva, and even if you see a design that you love that isn’t the right size or shape, you can resize anything into anything else and it is just the best. Now the biggest challenge will be not spending all of your time browsing the fun templates and endlessly tweaking your designs. 🙂
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