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For Parks Fundraising, a Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Parks provide a myriad of benefits. They spark economic development, create safer neighborhoods and give local residents a place to engage with each other and commune with nature. So when the Regional Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money to support the East Bay Regional Park District, wanted to make a bigger impact, they decided that refreshing their branding and marketing materials could be the breath of fresh air they needed.

To handle such an important project, they turned to San Francisco branding and design firm Squillante Studios. Owner Mathew Squillante was struck by the beauty of the parks, including the exquisite flowers, the picturesque mountains and the alluring wildlife. He also recognized that if HE was so moved by the imagery, potential donors would likely be moved, too.

“People go out to enjoy the parks because it’s an emotional, relaxing experience,” he says. “What I wanted to do was leverage the imagery a bit more so that we could tap more successfully into that emotional component.”

Squillante got to work on a number of elements for the campaign, including a brochure, an online landing page and stationery to reach out to potential donors. The goal was to create materials that didn’t just speak to its intended audience, but that would elicit the deepest, strongest emotional connection possible.

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In Pursuit of the Perfect Picture
Since imagery was at the heart of the campaign, it was imperative to choose the right images. For the brochure cover, “I wanted to make sure people stopped and picked it up and spent a couple minutes with it,” he explains, “so it was really important to have something beautiful and colorful.”

To create that desired effect, he chose an image of the monarch butterfly. “What I’m trying to do with the butterfly is to elicit a response, a connection in their mind that says, ‘Wow, that’s really beautiful!’ I’m trying to get them to connect back into their own personalized experience.”

When selecting photos for the inside of the brochure, the goals were slightly different; they could be more understated. However, they had to be reflective of the written content.

“What I’m looking for is, again, something that’s emotional, but that’s also telling the story. So if we’re talking about hiking, I’m going to look for a photograph that’s a good compositional piece with hopefully a person in it, hiking.”

Other factors influenced the effectiveness of the imagery, including the consistency of color and how pictures were cropped and integrated with type.

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Connecting the Dots of the Campaign
Another aspect that was critical to the campaign’s success was making sure the elements had a similar look. A potential donor might learn about the Regional Parks Foundation through the brochure, a fundraising letter or the Internet. Squillante wanted every element to evoke that same emotional connection regardless of the medium.

Not only that, but a potential donor might get a letter about the Foundation and choose to submit a donation electronically. “If somebody gets something in the mail and they’re like ‘I’ll go online,’ then you do want to make sure that experience is similar to whatever experience they’re having in print,” Squillante says. “I try to make sure that I’m connecting all the dots so that we have a nice, consistent, cohesive suite of materials that are all saying the same thing.”

The mark of a successful campaign for Squillante is one in which his clients succeed. He wants his nonprofit clients in particular to attract more donors so they can make a greater difference in the world.

In the case of the Regional Parks Foundation, the campaign needed to compel donors to contribute to the welfare of the parks. It did indeed achieve that goal, he reports. “They shared an email with me from one individual who emailed them and said, ‘This is so lovely and I haven’t seen anything like this. I’m giving you more money because I really like this approach.”

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Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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