It’s Time to Ditch the Capital Campaign Brochure
When you think about the case for support, do you immediately think “brochure?”
Do you imagine a beautiful, glossy multipage piece with wonderful images of the families you serve or the animals you save? Perhaps you imagine a donor reading it and being moved to write a big check.
If that’s the way you think capital campaign fundraising works, let me open your eyes to the realities of capital campaign fundraising and the right way to think about your case for support.
The Truth about Capital Campaigns and Brochures
Here’s the truth about capital campaigns and fancy brochures…
Capital campaigns are based on a few donors who give very big gifts. In just about every capital campaign, the top 10 gifts collectively make up 50 percent or more of the campaign goal. And the people who give those big gifts are NOT motivated to do so by fancy brochures.
In fact, very few people are motivated to give because of fancy materials that may end up just rotting in a corner.
That said, the way you communicate about your campaign matters a lot. You need clear and compelling ideas that are organized in a logical way—a way that conveys the impact of what you are planning to do.
Don’t Discount The Power and Importance of Ideas
Ideas are less tangible than brochures, but far more important.
You see, once you have the ideas right… once you fully understand the story you want to tell to make a compelling case, then you’ll use those ideas and the story they convey in every aspect of your campaign.
You’ll share it with your board to excite them about the campaign. You’ll use it in one-on-one conversations. You’ll use it when you present to your local social club. You’ll adapt it for proposals and individual solicitations.
You’ll tell and retell your compelling story so often throughout your campaign that it’ll feel like the most natural thing in the world. And if the story you’ve come up with is right—if it’s compelling and clear and moving—you’ll see it move people again and again.
Eventually, those ideas will be the basis for a campaign brochure, but not any time soon.
3 Reasons You Should Solicit Feedback About Your Case
The process of developing the case for support is one of the most effective ways you have of engaging prospective donors. Here are three reasons why:
Though most people aren’t qualified to give expert advice about your project, everyone is qualified to give you informed advice about a draft case for support they’ve read.
People like giving advice that they are qualified to provide.
When someone reads a draft of your case for support, they learn more about your project.
You can ask people for feedback individually, or use a discussion of the case as the basis for a group discussion. But whenever you ask for feedback, you should be careful to ask for it in a way that will lead to a constructive discussion.
Solicit Your ‘Case for Support’ Feedback Carefully
Be careful not to simply send a draft to people and ask them what they think. You will almost certainly get back wordsmithing and editing from people who don’t write well. And that won’t be helpful.
Instead, help them structure their feedback by asking them to respond to specific questions. Here are some questions you might use, but you may come up with others that will do as good a job or be even better.
Sample Feedback Questions
List three things in the case that you found compelling?
What were the sections in the case that didn’t hold your attention?
When you finished reading the case, could you summarize it in five or six simple points?
Do the headings tell the story? That is, reading only the headlines, do you know what the case is about?
Do you have questions about this project that the case didn’t answer?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are you about this project? Why?
Questions You Might Have About Inviting Feedback
Here are questions we often get about soliciting feedback from prospective donors.
Q: What happens if a big donor makes suggestions we don’t want to accept?
When you ask people for feedback, be sure to let them know that you are asking a group of people for their thoughts. Then let people know how helpful their comments were and collectively what you learned. Credit the entire group for the changes you have made. Most people will be happy to have been part of the process and not look line by line to find out whether you took their specific advice.
Q: How many people should we ask for feedback?
It’s quite easy to ask people for feedback, so I encourage you to keep doing it for quite a while. You will certainly want to ask your largest donors for feedback, but there’s nothing to lose by continuing the process with a group of 20 or 30 (or even more) people.
Q: When do we really need a campaign brochure?
When your campaign gets to the broad base and you are training lots of volunteers to solicit gifts, then you will need a campaign brochure or something similar. The most important purpose of a brochure is to help volunteer solicitors feel more comfortable. Most campaigns aim to have a brochure or other printed piece available for the kick-off of the campaign. That’s the event that kicks off the public phase of your campaign, and by that time you’ll have raised 60 percent or more of your campaign goal.
Q: How might we make the case visually without printing a brochure?
Videos and photography and slides have become common ways to communicate. In addition to creating a draft case, you might create a short slide deck or video as a way of communicating your case. When you use visual material of that sort, be sure to keep them very short so they don’t supplant serious donor conversation.
I have found the use of donor engagement tool pioneered by Nick Fellers of For Impact a very effective visual tool that encourages active donor conversations.
In addition, we offer an excellent step-by-step course on writing your case for support, from start to finish. It’s an outstanding value for the cost.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.