For a lot of nonprofit organizations, marketing and graphic design is not the first item on the to-do list.For a lot of nonprofit organizations, marketing and graphic design is not the first item on the to-do list.

For a lot of nonprofit organizations, marketing and graphic design is not the first item on the to-do list.

Efforts are rather channeled toward accomplishing their missions, coordinating volunteers or applying for grants.

However, for several area nonprofit organizations, that gap is now being filled.

McPherson College's Etch program, formed in November, is doing this in the form of a student-led business of sorts. Business marketing students meet with nonprofit administrators to determine projects and timelines. Graphic design students then compile the information into an eye-catching piece, similar to professional companies.

As the students gain experience, the organizations receive the beneficial service for free.

Linda Rounds, vice president of the McPherson County Food Bank, worked with Etch students to produce an advertisement poster for an upcoming fundraiser.

"To get someone's attention is half the battle," she said. "Sometimes you don't have the funds to have it done professionally."

After meeting with students a few times and noting their timely work, Rounds said she is looking for more opportunities to work with Etch.

"They were fantastic to work with," she said. "They were very professional. What a wonderful service to the community."

The Humane Society is working with Etch to design a fundraising mailing piece. Although the project is not complete, treasurer Mary Steffes anticipates the students' help will make a difference for the animals they serve.

"Since we always exist thanks to donations, we're always trying to keep our heads above water and get help where we can get it," she said. "We had to focus on so many other things we don't have time to devote to public relation issues."

Steffes said the Humane Society has not sent out a mailing in three years, but this will mark the beginning of what she hopes will be an ongoing relationship.

"It will be a big help, because that's where we struggle — the people to do creative and to do the stuff they're doing," she said. "We've always had to do that ourselves. They offer manpower and ideas we haven't had before."

These causes are not the only ones jumping the bandwagon. Sophomore Becca Heeke, Etch business director, said there are at least 20 clients on the list, which is constantly growing. It's happening so fast, in fact, Etch is already increase its staff.

"I think they (nonprofit organizations) are very open to it," Heeke said of student input. "I think they like the idea of having a fresh perspective."

As students gain valuable real-world experience and nonprofits receive marketing services, forprofit businesses also have benefited from the partnership. Wendy's, for example, will gain more customers from the food banks' fundraising poster, which states a portion of sales will go toward its building fund.

The humane society must also pay to print their mailings at a local business.

Jennifer Birch of the McPherson Chamber of Commerce is glad to see the partnership working in many facets throughout McPherson. Through the McPherson County Entrepreneurship Community Board, the chamber administered the $18,000 grant that was a major supporter for Etch's beginnings.

"This is a great opportunity because they (Etch) are filling a niche that isn't already served," Birch said of the non-profits. "If anybody's involved with a nonprofit organization or they belong to a service club, you're working with limited funds, and those you raise are going toward the cause you represent or support. They have the opportunity to provide marketing tools that can help some of our nonprofits grow and be able to share more about what they do and what they're purpose is."

Contact Jenae Pauls at and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel