You Can Do It! 5 Tips to Get Your Fundraising Print Publications #OnPoint

Strategies and tactics in fundraising may change, but print publications continue to be a critical resource in the nonprofit toolbox. According to Kivi Leroux Miller’s 2016 Nonprofit Communication Trends report, print remains one of the top five most important communication channels in the nonprofit sector.

Image Credit: Kivi Leroux Miller

Every nonprofit should invest in creating compelling fundraising publications. However, in the tumult of other pressing needs, many small nonprofits put off developing their annual reports, cases for support, and other collateral to save money. Let me put this simply: in ANY business, you must spend money to make money. Nonprofits are businesses; ergo, nonprofits need to spend money to raise money.

I hear you now: “That is all fine and good, Heather, but let’s live in reality. We do not have the money or the staff or the time or the expertise to do print publications.” But you do and you can, because you must. You do not have to hire a big consulting firm to make a great publication. You can do it with existing resources—including your Board and volunteers—if you focus on best practices and follow these five tips.

1. Define your expectations in writing. I use a questionnaire to start any publication project. I ask lots of questions of the nonprofit, like:

  • What is the purpose of your publication? Why is this effort important?
  • Who is your primary target audience? Secondary audiences?
  • What is your fundraising goal(s), in $$, related to the purpose?
  • Who is the project lead (one point of contact only)?
  • Who are your internal decision-makers (i.e. who has the authority to approve proofs)?
  • What channels do you currently use to communicate with your current and potential donors?
  • What is the geographic scope of the fundraising effort?
  • If people could use only three words to describe your organization, what would you want those three words to be? (ex. conservative, progressive, friendly, casual, professional)
  • What three words describe how you do NOT want to be perceived in the community?
  • What collateral have you published recently? Which is your favorite?
  • Does your organization have a style guide or do you reference a major style guide as a standard (AP, Chicago, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to distribute your publication?
  • What’s your print budget?
  • What is the deadline to go to print?

2. Use a team approach. Fundraising publications are of the highest quality when more than one brain or set of eyes is involved. Gather a team together and identify a project leader. (That could be you.) Delegate tasks, and serve as the hub of all the work that goes into the publication. Work with other staff and volunteers to get it done. #ProTip: Find a friendly graphic designer who may be willing to donate some or all her time to the project. Moreover, did you know some graphic designers specialize in the nonprofit sector? They are out there if you look!

3. Allow adequate time for the project. Publications should not be thrown together in haste. That leads to mistakes and missed opportunities. Writing and design are creative processes that require a reasonable time investment. Do not give burden yourself unnecessarily by trying write, design, print, and mail, for example, an invitation in the space of one day. You can have publications good, fast, or cheap. Pick two, but you cannot have all three.

4. Print your publications with a vendor. I am realistic about budgets, and you can get away with printing some publications on your desktop printer (like invitations to less formal events). However, for publications like cases for support or annual reports, work with a print vendor. Digital printing is a more affordable option than traditional printing on presses, and the quality of digital printing is just as good as traditional printing (which was not always the case). Do you want to spend all that effort on creating a beautiful publication only to print it on your desktop printer and have it look unprofessional?

5. Set a deadline for final changes. If at the last minute, you discover a donor’s name is misspelled in the annual report, that is a simple fix. However, if at the 11th hour you decide you want to change the design or copy of an entire page, you are in for a world of issues: that is not a quick fix and will affect the flow of the entire publication. Plan for multiple stages of editing and proofing (including a formal final review), but be reasonable. If you are not, the revisions will never stop. Set and stick to your publication schedule.

How do you stay on time, track, and budget with your fundraising publications?

Are You Ready to Create Your Powerful Case for Support?

Check out our upcoming 90-minute live webinar How to Create a Powerful Case for Support – the Must-Have Fundraising Publication for Every Nonprofit. You will learn proven practices and strategies to create a compelling and powerful Case for Support for your nonprofit. Through the Case for Support, you engage donors—new and potential—through your credibility, data, and consumers’ stories. The Case helps you motivate donors to give by using storytelling and graphics.

About The Author

Heather Stombaugh is a nonprofit expert with more than 16 years of experience in leadership, programs, and fundraising. She is the founder of JustWrite Solutions, a national nonprofit consulting firm. She serves as an expert for CharityHowTo, CharityChannel, and Thompson Interactive. Heather is an officer of local and national boards (Grant Professionals Foundation, Baskets of Care, AFP Northwest Ohio) and an active member of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA Weekly Grant News Editor and Approved Trainer). She is one of fewer than 50 people in the world who holds both the GPC and CFRE. Heather lives and breathes nonprofits!

This blog was influenced by an original blog post, Pain-Free Publications, by Ericka Kurtz of JustWrite Solutions.

What Do You Mean You Don’t Need an Annual Report? It’s Not About You!

annual report vector file - purchased by JWS

I love teaching the Annual Reports webinars for CharityHowTo’s participants (How to Create an Awesome Annual Report and How to Transition Your Annual Report to an Infographic). Professionals who attend and engage  have excellent questions, constructive ideas for others, and thoughtful approaches to serving their donors. And fundraising publications are one of my favorite topics in development. Sure, as a professional writer, I’m biased, but every nonprofit needs them and (should) use collateral all the time!

While I know the folks who attend these webinars benefit from the conversation, I have also noticed a big problem. I receive A LOT of emails from potential participants who are interested in learning about infographics or fundraising publications in general but say to me “we don’t publish an annual report and don’t see a need to do one.”

Pause. Deep breath Heather.

The annual report has nothing to do with you or your organization and everything to do with your donors. It’s about and for them. Donors expect an annual report or an update on the impact of their gifts. This is donor-centered fundraising 101: “It’s because of you, dear donor, that these results are possible.” It’s not just a kind or trendy way to approach your work with donors. Being donor-centered increases donor retention and gift acquisition. Period. Isn’t that what we’re all working towards?

Make your annual report a priority. If you’re not already publishing one, get one on the calendar next year. Your bottom line simply can’t wait!

 

Ready to create your annual report?

Join me for the live, premium webinar about Annual Reports in August. Look for dates to open soon! If you can’t make a live event, no worries. There’s a recorded version of each webinar, and you can find those by clicking on the annual report links in this article. Register now – your donors deserve it!

Show, Don’t Tell: Why Your Nonprofit Needs Data Visualization Tools

charity infographic general - puchased by JWSYou’ve seen them all over the interwebs. You run into them as you’re scrolling through your feed on Facebook, as you’re checking your Twitter updates, as you’re looking for remodeling ideas on Pinterest.

They’re infographics, and they’re everywhere. But more importantly for nonprofits: infographics (and other data visualization tools) are not a passing trend. It’s time you add them to your fundraising toolbox.

Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. Other data visualization tools—like charts, graphs, pictograms, gauges, dashboards, etc.—similarly present data in a pictorial or graphic format.

Why should you care?

Infographics and other data visualization tools:

  • Combine appeals to logic and emotions (a critical element of getting and keeping donors)
  • Engage 66% of all people who are visual learners
  • Register much more quickly with readers than narrative: visual cues are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text
  • Are visually intriguing and motivational
  • Give the reader’s eye a place to rest (especially when incorporated with appropriate amounts of white space)
  • Improve document readability
  • Can be published and packaged in multiple ways, making it a multipurpose tool

That last bullet point may be the most critical: data visualization tools can be used anywhere—social media, websites, cases for support, annual reports, and even grant proposals.

So, how do you create infographics and other tools?

As a nonprofit pro, my default response is use something free! And there are some high-quality, free tools available, like Easel.ly, Canva, Infogr.am, and Piktochart. I’ve used them all, and they’re intuitive, provide lots of layouts and options (even at the free level), and are user-friendly for those of us who don’t have graphic design backgrounds.

If you have the resources to hire a professional graphic designer or illustrator, do it. They are amazing professionals who can help you step up your game in developing compelling fundraising collateral. And you may be surprised to find a graphic designer in your area who specializes in nonprofit work – I know I was! They’re out there, and some of them are even willing to volunteer.

 

Looking for more info on how to make data visualization tools work for you?

Join me for the live, premium webinar of How to Create an Annual Report Infographic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Transition Your Paper Annual Report to an Infographic on May 17 or 24. If you can’t make the live event, no worries. You’ll still receive the recording and all of our bonus materials in your inbox. Register now!

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