Create Fundraising Brochures That Stand Out In a Crowd
See how Caltech ‘breaks through,’ in only 3 steps.
Co-written with Colleen O’Grady, Philanthropic Strategist
It’s been a wild awards season in Hollywood, but in Pasadena, it’s been golden. Break Through: The Caltech Campaign Case Brochure has won two prestigious marketing awards: a CASE District VII Gold award in the Fundraising Publications: Case Statements/General Cultivation Publications (Print) category, and a Gold Educational Advertising (EduAD) Award, where it was also recognized as one of just 16 Best in Show winners.
“[Best of Show] entries exhibited the highest standards, creativity, and professionalism,” says the formal EduAD announcement. “They captured the attention and admiration of our panel of judges.”
So how do you make a philanthropic piece exciting and admirable in an already crowded market? We went wide, of course.
Step 1: TAKE A LOOK FROM EVERY ANGLE—AND FIND THAT NICHE.
Caltech is a renowned research institution where some of the world’s most meaningful breakthroughs have been brought to light: modern chemistry and the basic laws of physics. The Richter Scale. Quasars. Gravitational waves. The origins and future of space travel through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Caltech faculty and alumni have been awarded 35 Nobel Prizes—an impressive feat for any school, and remarkable at a place that awards roughly 300 degrees each year . How do they do it? By assembling this selective, all-star community one radically inventive thinker at a time.
We set out to capture the essence of some of these leaders—people whose ideas and work will be celebrated for centuries to come. Alongside visionary current and future scientists and engineers, we featured intrepid philanthropists. The message: given the right resources and environment—or the opportunity to invest at the right time—a few can change the world.
Step 2: MAKE THE EXPERIENCE WORTHY OF THE AUDIENCE.
Through extensive interviews and research, Lipman Hearne learned that Caltech’s donors are unafraid of taking risks. They’re excited by what they don’t know and ideas that are just around the next bend. This special donor set has also exhibited interest in investing in an unrestricted capacity, trusting Caltech to do amazing—and, by definition, unpredictable—things with their gifts. This meant we, too, could take creative leaps and trust that these adventurous readers would jump with us.
The brochure opens with emotional language on top of immersive, full-bleed images of Caltech environments: a well-trod campus walkway connecting labs, a humble study lounge filled with brainstorming students. The reader is invited into a place charged with potential and the thrill of what’s next. These we followed with profile spreads featuring stunning portraits of lively subjects photographed against stark white backgrounds—a sort of blank canvas on which any future might be yet be written, tugging at a reader’s imagination. It’s a risk that paid off.
Step 3: SEE EVERY STORYTELLING DEVICE AS, WELL, A DEVICE.
How do you reflect Caltech’s ethos in just a few paragraphs per page? We wanted to provide a sense of connection, reward curiosity, and—oh, yeah—stand up to Caltech-caliber scrutiny. Each profile spread includes three different pieces of storytelling: the portrait photography, a few paragraphs of narrative, and a fully vetted, scientifically accurate illustration or infographic that drilled deep on an isolated aspect of the story. After all, a signature Caltech strength is the ability to leverage fresh perspectives to reveal insights. On top of it all, we also helped put together a corresponding campaign website featuring a variety of storytelling modalities.
Campaign brochures are meant to inspire giving by bringing to life a world of possibility. By staying open to possibilities we hadn’t considered before, we took a lesson from Caltech’s playbook—and reached a result that matters. Caltech is more than halfway toward raising its $2 billion goal, much of it in unrestricted funding. Congrats, Caltech!