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While brochures might be the fundraising equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, it's important to identify your specific audience.

Brochures are an important part of a nonprofit organization’s fundraising. They can be passed out at events, placed at information booths, given to visitors, and included as part of direct mail campaigns. They’re so versatile, you could consider them the fundraising equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.

The problem, however, is that there are so many brochures. Nearly every organization has one, and if yours doesn’t stand out, it will end up in the recycling bin faster than you can say “nonprofit.”

That’s why it’s important to get it right.

Design, of course, is a critical component, but we’ll cover that in another post. What we’re focusing on here is content, because that’s what will persuade potential donors to open their wallets. Here are three essential, easy steps that can make your fundraising brochure successful.

Women's Humane Society Fundraising Brochure fundraising brochure content

The language of this Women’s Humane Society fundraising brochure appeals to a potential donor’s emotions. The brochure also contains a clear call to action.

Step 1: Target your audience(s)

The key to success is identifying your target audience — and realizing that you may have more than one. This means that for the best results, you may need to create more than one brochure.

Say a university wants to expand its library and has launched a capital funding campaign. Alumni, of course, are a prime target. But that’s a very broad category. Not all those alumni are alike — they studied different subjects, had different interests, and likely went on to different careers. Each used the library in a different way — some for research, some for a quiet study space, and some just to escape with a good book. When targeting your audience, tailor your message to their interests.

Step 2: Appeal to emotion

In the past, nonprofits often sent out very general pleas for donations. These included a description of what they do, how long they’ve been doing it, and why they need help doing it. They may have talked about the organization’s key personnel, awards they’ve won, and the importance of their work, then made a plea for money.

And for the most part, those brochures were greeted with yawns.

To truly capture an audience’s attention, you must reach them on an emotional level. To achieve that, here are three techniques that should be incorporated into your brochure’s content:

  • Engagement: You’re far more likely to get results if you ask potential donors to join in something, help to build something, or to be a part of something, rather than just asking them to donate.
  • Story telling: A personal story is more compelling than a general appeal. If a college alumna was inspired to help at-risk children by her studies in the library, incorporate her story into your brochure. Adding her voice and experience not only shows the importance of the library, but presents a heartwarming connection potential donors can identify with.
  • Use ‘power’ words: People have an emotional response when their names are used, but that level of personalization is not possible in a brochure. The pronoun “you” is the next best thing — and makes potential donors feel like you’re speaking specifically to them. As a blog over at Kissmetrics points out, it’s a “power word,” along with “imagine” and “because.” For instance: “Imagine if you could help to build a bigger library. We’re asking for your help, because we can’t do this without you.”

Step 3: Include a call to action

Just like a webpage, a fundraising brochure needs a call to action that tells the potential donor —nicely, of course — exactly what you’d like them to do next. This call to action should also appeal to emotion. Instead of a box that says, “Donate now” (demanding) try a phrase such as “Yes, I want to help!” (inclusive).

Include a graphic that has checkboxes next to specific amounts, but also leaves potential donors with options. One of those boxes might say “Other amount,” and another might say “I can’t help now, but please keep me in the loop” and include a space for an email address.

For instance:

Yes, I want to help!

  • $250 level
  • $150 level
  • $50 level
  • Other amount
  • I can’t help now, but please keep me in the loop and sign me up for your newsletter. Here’s my email address: ______________________