Recently, I came across a blog post questioning whether “expensive” capital campaign brochures and materials are a “good thing” or a “not so good thing.” The author and respected consultant, Gail Perry, expressed ambivalence and intentionally did not make a strong case for or against. From the title of this blog post, you already know I intend to explain why I feel they are important and necessary.
A Distinct Identity
A capital campaign is “an intensive fund raising effort designed to raise a specified sum of money within a defined time period to meet the varied asset-building needs of an organization.” The first thing we do when we create capital campaign materials is develop a logo design and tagline/theme for the campaign. There is an important reason for this. It signals to your constituents that this isn’t “business as usual.” This is a special effort where you are asking donors to reach above and beyond their normal annual donation amount for your organization, often for a multi-year commitment. By creating a separate, but related, brand identity you are communicating the importance of this effort both to your organization and to your constituents.
Capital Campaign Brochures
Typically, we create two brochures for capital campaigns. One is a multi-page large brochure and the other is a small tri-fold brochure. The large brochure is used in face-to-face, personal meetings where those soliciting donations have done their homework on the prospective donor, understand their passions and interests and will be taking a very personalize approach in their conversations with the prospective donor. The brochure serves as a confidence-builder for those soliciting, frames the messaging, and is a leave-behind for donors who want to review information or glean more in-depth information not covered in the meeting. Very occasionally, we have a client or board member who worries about the materials being “too slick.” These are high-net-worth donors you are calling on. Unpolished, unprofessional materials can inadvertently signal a lack of professionalism, a “small potatoes” mentality or worse, a lack of caring enough. (The tri-fold brochure is typically used most during the public phase of capital campaigns for larger gatherings, mailings and for garnering smaller donations. It provides similar benefits to the larger brochure – frames the messaging and ensures consistency and gives volunteers greater confidence in their solicitation efforts, and can stand on its own.)
I would never claim that a brochure is solely responsible for an organization getting donations. I do believe that a lack of a branded campaign effort and professional materials can result in a lesser solicitation effort and lesser donations.
How Expensive Is It?
The cost of your campaign materials should come out of campaign donations. Many times, you can approach a donor specifically to underwrite this effort. Virtually all marketing and design firms offer a non-profit rate that is less than their typical for-profit rates. Often, organizations have access to professionals who are willing to donate all or part of the development, production and printing of materials. (My only caveat here is that often, you get what you pay for. Vet any potential in-kind donations in this area the same way you would if you were paying for the materials. Ask to see other work samples and make sure that they have comparable experience.) If an organization receives offsetting contributions (either cash or in-kind) giving notice or credit to their generosity to allow you to development attractive, quality materials can diffuse the nay-sayers who may think you spent too much of materials.
When speaking to the value of hiring fundraising consultants versus self-led capital campaigns, Daniel Neel, president of The Fundraising Resource Group, often quotes the oil well firefighter, Red Adair, “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.” He asserts that the biggest campaign expense in these situations is the money left on the table. I believe the same can be said for organizations that choose to forgo the “expense” of professional expertise in branding and capital campaign materials.
For more information on The Fundraising Resource Group and how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success through high-impact, high-return fundraising activities, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com.