Recently, a large non-profit client needed a new fundraiser brochure to promote a program that raises tens of thousands of dollars annually. The existing brochure was very bland and exceptionally text-oriented. But three other problems were immediately apparent:

1) It didn’t speak directly to the target audience
2) It didn’t effectively communicate the benefits of the program
3) It created unintentional perceptions and stereotypes that hurt the program’s success.

A colleague pointed out another weakness. If the existing brochure arrived in the mail, he would immediately think it was yet another piece of mail solicitation and junk it. Tough words. But true. That’s what can happen when first impressions go horribly wrong in an organization’s marketing efforts.

So I set out to correct the program’s vision, perceptions and language, at least in print via the brochure. It’s interesting to note that in meetings with the client, there was a vision. For whatever reasons, that vision never got translated into the original brochure.

Here’s one piece of golden advice before you ever proceed with any project: Have the service provider produce a situation analysis. The service provider who takes the time to listen, ask the right questions, and understand the situation will be able to produce an analysis that is bang-on with your goals and vision, and suggest ways to further enhance that vision.

I used the words ‘service provider’ above, but that makes me cringe. The very best people are always ‘partners’ in any project. They become part of your team. They get to intimately know you, your audience and show a genuine care and concern for every step in the process.

By putting ourselves in the client’s donors’ shoes, we were able to absolutely focus on what was critical. Gone was clinical text, replaced by new text with a conversational tone that engaged donors and immersed them into reasons why supporting the program was close to their hearts. Precise selection of images, each one contributing to a vision, defined the program’s scope and left no doubts. Use of vibrant colours injected immediate joy (say goodbye to the previous bland colour choices).

The moral of this story is straightforward, and certainly not unique, but warrants the reminder: clear discussions, listening, analyzing a situation and a clear understanding from donors’ perspectives will produce an end product that satisfies all.