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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 11.2


Leave Behinds and Printed Materials

Leave behinds and printed materials are useful tools for fundraisers who want to reinforce their messages with donors.

A ‘leave behind’ is literally something you leave behind after visiting a donor or prospect as a reminder of what you discussed or to provide extra information about your institution or fundraising program or priorities. It need not be expensive. If crafted with a little thought and imagination, these materials can be very effective.

There are several ways you can maximise the effectiveness of these materials. A good leave behind will be memorable, relevant to the recipient and convey a strong message.

Always Look at Things from Your Readers’ Point of View

Always think about leave behinds and printed materials from the perspective of the recipients:

  • What information do they need to know?
  • How can you make it easier for them to read that information?
  • Is there a powerful vision and case for support?

Be creative, but do not be so carried away with your artistic ambitions that you detract from your core messages to the donor. Provide enough detail that readers know how to get involved, but not so much detail that they loose the core messages.

Balance Stories and Data

There are countless surveys on whether a story or statistical data is more powerful when presenting material. If you are presenting to a specific audience (e.g., engineers), you may know which approach will be best received. However, if you are creating a leave behind for a broad or general audience, it is best to include both a few poignant statistics and a captivating personal story of impact.

Where Possible, Personalise

It is difficult to personalise if you need a large number of leave behinds to support your contact with prospects and donors, but it is worth personalising if you can. You could perhaps have a standard publication with individually printed frontispieces that have been adapted to the recipient, or a few different versions of a similar piece that approach a topic from a specific industry or generational lens.

Entice Your Reader

You want your leave behinds to be read, so you need to put some thought into enticing your reader with a strong image on the front cover, an attention-grabbing headline and/or a strong back cover (as they are often put down upside down after an initial glance).

Your leave behind needs to stand out on the cluttered desk of a busy person. Think about its physical presence. Does it catch the eye? Feel good to hold when reading? If your leave behind is in the form of a 3D souvenir or ‘freebie’, pay attention to the presentation (e.g., gift wrapping makes the recipient want to open the gift and can heighten the impact of the leave behind).

Use Your Imagination

Leave behinds need to provide some benefit to the recipient by being either useful or informative. They should not simply be a reiteration of your discussion. However, this does not mean that you can’t be creative.

Use a little imagination and tailor your leave behind to its subject matter (e.g., a leave behind supporting a capital build project could be in the shape of a brick) or leave something that will be useful (e.g., an appeal brochure for a new maths scholarship programme could be combined with a maths aid or calculator).

Most leave behinds take the form of a printed brochure, but this does not have to mean a standard-sized text-plus-photos booklet.

Reflect Your Brand

All leave behinds and printed material should reflect and reinforce your institution’s brand. Creating a consistent library of printed materials helps reinforce your messages, especially if a recipient is likely to come across several of your publications in the course of their interaction with your institution.

Always coordinate your efforts with the institution’s marketing and communications team.

Be Compatible with Online Information

Make sure your printed materials reflect your online materials and vice versa. Check that they do not contradict each other and that they share the same look. It can be helpful to include e-versions of your leave behinds and printed materials on your website as well.

Be Culturally Sensitive

If using leave behinds and printed materials with international audiences, be aware of cultural sensitivities, especially in imagery (e.g., a clock image can symbolise death in Chinese culture).

Be Practical

You and your colleagues will have to carry the leave behinds around to visits and events. They need to be light and transportable.

Include Contact Information and Ways to Find Out More/Get Involved

Remember to include contact information, especially your institution’s website. This is an opportunity to keep your leave behind succinct – focused on core messages and then providing more detail online.

It is also good practice to include an action item or way to get involved, so that readers know what to do after reviewing the materials (even if it is simply going to the website to find out more).

Action Items
  • When starting a development office, work with the marketing and communications team to understand what materials are already available and how to reflect the institution’s brand when creating new materials.
  • Create a few core leave behinds that will be appropriate for the majority of prospects and donors (typically focused on the top priorities that you will be fundraising for), and then add materials as your needs and resources expand.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Articulating the vision and setting the priorities
Selecting the right communications channels
The case for support
Online communications
Cultural sensitivities


CASE provides a variety of information about development communications (e.g., effective storytelling, messaging to donors, writing successful letters).

Rowley talks about how to incorporate institutional reputation building into your development strategy.