Re-Examining Capital Campaign Brochures: Do You Need One?

When planning their first capital campaigns, many organizations immediately jump into the process of creating glossy campaign materials to be shared with prospects—a great impulse, but don’t get ahead of yourself!

Are classic capital campaign brochures always a worthwhile investment? When should you create and use them? What purposes should they serve?  

We believe that creating campaign materials, including brochures, at the very start of your campaign is wrong. In fact, you might not even need brochures at all. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as your campaign’s plans come into focus:

Understanding the Purpose of a Campaign Brochure

Before making any decisions, ensure that your team understands the core purpose of capital campaign brochures and when they should be used.

A campaign brochure explains your organization’s mission, your campaign’s objective, your fundraising goal, and the potential impact of your funded project. Its main purpose is to present the essentials of your campaign to prospective donors who don’t yet have relationships with your organization—in other words, strangers. 

You’ll use a brochure during the kickoff and public phases of your campaign, once you’ve already secured the majority of your funding. At that point, you’ll be expanding beyond your close network of current major donors and funders. 

It’s important to understand this distinction, as many organizations tend to conflate the “brochure” with their campaign’s “case for support.”

More Important Than the Brochure: Your Case for Support

Underpinning any printed materials or fundraising appeals you share as part of your capital campaign will be its core case for support

Your case for support is more than just a physical brochure. It’s the reason why your campaign matters: what it will accomplish and the change that it’ll produce for your operations, mission, and constituents. Check out the Capital Campaign Toolkit guide to cases for support to learn more about what they should include driving results for your campaign. 

We like to think of the case for support as a central set of ideas that you can then translate into a variety of formats, including:

Talking points for conversations with donors and prospects

A slidedeck that can be adapted, copied, and edited over time

A straightforward Word document for your team to reference

A condensed, one-page PDF explainer or summary for donors

Social-media friendly infographics and snippets of text

Visual “donor discussion guides” and other personalized solicitation materials

Printed brochures for public phase promotions and solicitations

The main takeaway is that you can’t create compelling or truly valuable printed materials without first having a clear, concise case for support nailed down for your campaign. Everything else, including brochures, will flow from there at different stages of your campaign and for different audiences. 

Do You Need a Brochure? Maybe Not.

After understanding what campaign brochures are, who they’re for, when they should be used, and the importance of the case for support, organizations can begin making decisions about whether or not they’d like to invest in printed materials for their campaigns. 

Here are a few of the most important reasons nonprofits choose not to create capital campaign brochures:

Brochures lock your campaign’s goal into place. 

Once you’ve printed your capital campaign brochures, you’ve committed your campaign’s financial goal to paper in a public-facing way. The exact dollar amount can and likely will change over the course of your campaign, but if the goal changes once you’ve printed your brochures, you’ll have a stack of outdated brochures. Plus, printed brochures can give prospects and stakeholders the impression that your goal is completely finalized, which isn’t at all the case during the critical early stages of a capital campaign. Avoid signaling, even accidentally, that your plans are inflexible. 

Brochures are expensive.

High-quality printed materials can be effective but extremely expensive. Don’t commit to this investment until you’re sure that you’re ready to actually use the brochures in a finished state. 

Brochures are unlikely to be fully read by prospects.

Giving prospective donors a packet of printed materials can easily overwhelm them. Not to mention, as readers accustomed to the internet, they’re unlikely to deeply engage with or even fully read lengthy printed materials anyway. Your efforts will probably be better spent elsewhere, like one-on-one conversations, particularly at the start of the cultivation process and throughout the lead gift phase of your campaign. If you do create brochures for the kickoff and public phases of your campaign, keep them concise and visually-oriented rather than full of long blocks of text.

Brochures are often organization-centric rather than donor-centric.

It can be easy to over-emphasize the wrong things in a campaign brochure, especially if you create it before your campaign plans have come into full focus. Glossy, photo-filled brochures can glorify the institution, its history, and leaders but inadvertently miss the real impact of the work you do or neglect to explain the importance of your donors and constituents. This can be particularly risky if your campaign is centered around capacity-building goals rather than a physical construction project that donors can visualize.

After weighing these factors, we think that your organization will ultimately find that a campaign brochure isn’t a top-priority investment—meaning you’ll save money and free up more time to focus on relationship-building with prospects.

The Key Takeaway

You likely don’t need a campaign brochure, but if you do decide to use one, don’t create it until you’re ready to announce a public fundraising goal.

Successful capital campaigns use working goals that aren’t set in stone until they’re fully ready to be announced (typically after about 70% of the total funds has been secured during the quiet phase). 

The idea is to leave yourself some flexibility. A premature brochure is an expense that can make your campaign’s goals feel final before they truly are, and if you ultimately need to adjust up or down, it’s easier if an audience of prospects or the public hasn’t already seen a different figure printed in your brochure. This reason, combined with the others listed above, is why many organizations find that a brochure isn’t worth the cost for their campaign.    

Nonprofits typically aren’t ready to publicly announce a refined campaign goal until the kickoff or public phase. 

And even once you’ve created your brochure, continue prioritizing personal connections, storytelling strategies, and one-on-one conversations. The brochure is a useful way to orient new prospects to your organization and campaign, but it can never replace the personalized stewardship and cultivation needed for meaningful long-term relationships.

Step-by-Step Campaign Checklist & Guide

This intuitive guide breaks down each step of your campaign, and the timeline allows you to visualize your whole campaign, from start to finish! Download this free campaign checklist now!

Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, and Andrea Kihlstedt are co-founders of the Capital Campaign Toolkit, a virtual support system for nonprofit leaders running successful campaigns. The Toolkit provides all the tools, templates, and guidance you need — without breaking the bank.