I spent the afternoon looking through the stack of fundraising materials I’ve collected.
I made two piles.
In one pile, I placed the brochures I actually read — the ones that drew me in. In the other pile, I put the ones I couldn’t get through — the ones that bored me from the very first word.
Can you guess the difference between the effective ones and the duds?
Capital Campaign Materials that Resonate Focus on the Benefits of Your Project
The most compelling fundraising materials all focus on what the programs accomplish — on the kids they serve, the cancer patients they treat and the people whose rights they protect. They shed light on the animals they save and the families they help.
The great materials tell stories. They paint pictures with words and images of how their programs are making a difference in the world. It’s the impact of your work that matters.
The materials that are most effective highlight benefits rather than features.
The Difference Between Features and Benefits
If you’ve taken a basic course on marketing, you may have learned about the difference between features and benefits.
Features describe a product.
Benefits describe what it does for you.
A classic example is an electric drill that you might buy at Home Depot.
The drill’s features include:
- Its color, shape and size.
- That it has three drill bits of different sizes.
- That the cord is 4 feet long and that it weights 8 ounces.
All of these basic facts describe the drill.
But what’s the primary benefit of owning this drill?
It’s not the color or the size. It’s not the number of drill bits included. It’s not the weight. The primary benefit is what it does — the holes it makes!
Additional benefits might discuss what it’s like to own this drill.
- How easy it is to use.
- How much quicker it allows you to complete your projects.
How to Make Your Fundraising Communication Come Alive
If you highlight your organization’s benefits and stop focusing on its features, your fundraising communications will come alive.
Stop talking so much about WHAT you do (all those programs, services and statistics) and instead talk about what your work accomplishes. Talk about the “why,” not so much the “what.”
Let me give you an example. (Note: I’ve changed the name to protect the well-meaning developers of this piece.)
Example of a Features-Based Campaign Brochure
One of the campaign brochures in the reject pile on my desk is titled A Capital Campaign for Prairie Run Community Center. (Notice that from the git-go, the title describes its features — a community center.)
On the inside pages, the copy is broken into five sections. Here are the headings.
- The New Center
- The Programs
- The Pool
- Additional Programs
- Ways to Give
Each page describes what they are raising money for and concludes with simple instructions about how to give.
The cover image shows the proposed new building and the final spread is a floor plan showing the room layouts.
This brochure is all about features! It’s clear and logical and easy to understand.
But it’s so blah and uninspiring. It doesn’t move either your heart or your imagination.
People don’t give because of the features of the project, they give because of the benefits it will bring to the community.
Example of a Benefits-Based Campaign Brochure
In the other stack of brochures on my desk is one from a regional health center raising money to build a new cancer center. The title? A Vision for Transforming Cancer Care.
While the title of the first example was about the building, the title of this one is about a vision.
The headings for the sections of this brochure highlight benefits and outcomes rather than features.
- Compassion: A vision for leading edge treatment
- Convenience: A vision for holistic patient care
- Collaboration: A vision of innovation through our partnerships research centers
- Community: A vision of a healthier future for us all
- Contribution: Your gift will turn the vision into reality. Your gift will touch many lives
While there is a drawing of the new cancer center and a brief description, this brochure highlights the benefits — cutting-edge treatment, holistic patient care, research, a healthier future for all of us.
The copy is peppered with stories and photos and quotations about people whose lives have been touched by cancer. It includes relevant information about cancer research and quotations from doctors and patients about cancer care.
This brochure doesn’t describe the building so much as it describes what will go on inside the building.
It holds up the vision of a better world. Remember that standing in the place of “vision” is the most powerful place of all to be.
The vision space has energy, potential and power. Remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream.”
An Exercise to Shape Your Capital Campaign Messages
Before you sit down to outline your fundraising materials, try this simple exercise. Get your board members and colleagues to help you.
Explain to your group the difference between features and benefits. I often get people to describe the features and benefits of a fork. Draw a line down the middle of a flip chart page and write benefits at the top of one column and features at the top of the other column. Then hold up the fork (or whatever simple object you choose) and collect words that describe the object (the features) and then collect words that describe what it does (the benefits).
Once people see the difference, turn to another page and do the same little exercise, but this time, describe the features and benefits of your organization.
Finally, turn the page one more time and have people describe the features and benefits of the buildings and/or programs that are the focus of your capital campaign.
You’ll wind up with a compelling list of ideas of what to highlight when you develop your campaign material.
Emphasize benefits over features and you’ll be off to a great start in developing materials that will be compelling, exciting and persuasive. And remember — a good campaign brochure doesn’t have to be slick and expensive.Create a compelling #capitalcampaign brochure! Benefits vs. Features Click To Tweet
Note: The exercise above was adapted from Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money by Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson.