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  • What is a brochure?

  • What purposes can a brochure serve?

  • Who might a brochure target?

  • What can you do with brochures?

  • How do you plan to make a brochure?

  • How do you write and design your brochure?

It's often very useful to have a readily available document that explains your organization's purpose and services. One format that work well to deliver this information is a brochure. A brochure is a concise, visually appealing document, and if well designed, can grab the attention of viewers. This section looks at why and when to use a brochure, what sort of information to include, and how to design one that works well for your organization.

What is a brochure?

A brochure is an informative paper document often used for sharing promotional material. Brochures are often also referred to as flyers, pamphlets, or leaflets.

What purposes can a brochure serve?

A brochure can explain your organization's purpose and services. Doing a presentation to a group that isn't familiar with your organization? Meeting with a potential funding agency? Interviewing a group of potential volunteers? For almost any situation in which you need to introduce your group to someone new, a brochure can be useful. If you can't tell someone the basic facts about your organization -- what your mission is, what services you provide, who's in charge, how you can be contacted, how your group was formed, etc. -- in two or three sentences, you should definitely consider making up a brochure.

A brochure can answer frequently asked questions about your organization. If you're tired of answering questions like "How do I qualify to receive your services?" or "What do I do if I want to volunteer?" then consider making up a brochure. Of course, a brochure will never stop people from asking all of those questions, but it can give you a quick way to answer them.

A brochure can offer more specific instructional how-to or health information. If there's a specific, step-by-step process that you want to teach people about, a brochure is a very useful way to convey that information. For example, if you want to educate people on how to properly handle raw poultry to avoid salmonella, a brochure might be just the ticket. If you want to explain the various types of sleep disorders, you could do a brochure or, if you want to go into further detail, a series of brochures -- one on insomnia, one on narcolepsy, one on sleep apnea, etc.

A brochure tells the reader how he or she can find out more about your organization. When you're trying to get people interested in doing something -- for example, volunteering or making a contribution -- a brochure can be used as a call to action and can give people more information on how exactly they can get involved. In a brochure, you can include information on the history of your group and how it was formed; you can also direct people to the specific committees or staff members that relate to their interest.

A brochure can educate people about a specific program or event. Are you planning a big annual fundraising event like a walk-a-thon or a concert? Does your group sponsor a speakers' bureau or peer counseling service? You can go into detail about these special programs or events in a brochure.

Who might a brochure target?

A brochure can be directed to a specific group or groups, or it can be made for a broad general audience. Think about the groups that typically are interested in information about your organization as well as groups you'd like to generate more interest from, and consider whether you'd like to have brochures that specifically target each of those groups. Some of the groups you might want to direct a brochure towards include:

  • Potential members or volunteers
  • Potential clients
  • Potential funders
  • Potential community partners and supporters
  • The press
  • The general public

What can you do with brochures?

Brochures are an extremely flexible medium for getting information about your organization out to the public or to targeted groups. Here are a few of the things you can do with your brochures:

  • Direct mailings to targeted people (mailing lists, people who call your office requesting information, etc.)
  • Attachments to proposals or reports
  • Leave-behinds when visiting clients
  • Inserts in press kits and presentation folders
  • Handouts in classes and workshops
  • Materials for prospective employees and volunteers
  • Materials to share at meetings, fairs, conferences, seminars

If you go to the trouble of making brochures for your group, be sure to have them available at any function where your group is represented.

How do you plan to make a brochure?

Gather ideas and examples. As with any type of printed material you plan to produce, it's a good idea to start off by collecting samples of brochures you like. Become familiar with styles, graphics, and ways of wording things that you might like to use or model for your own brochure.

Brainstorm for your own project. First, consider what information the brochure should contain. Because a brochure is relatively short, you may want to limit the information you try to include; for example, you probably will not be able to include detailed descriptions of your organization's full history, mission, goals, fiscal status, five main annual projects, along with a staff directory and bios of the organization leadership! When considering what information to include, ask yourself:

  • What will the target audience(s) for the brochure be?
  • How big is your budget and how much time do you have to put the brochure together?

Next, decide who in your project should be called upon for advance input, who you'll need to make the brochure happen, and who you'll get feedback from on drafts of the brochure

Write an outline. This will give you the chance to decide how you want the brochure to be organized and what points you want to make. If you're working on a general informational brochure, make sure it contains your organization's goals and purpose.

Arrange your topics in a logical sequence, fitting it to the general layout of the brochure. Think about what order you want the information to be presented in. It may help you to fold up a piece of paper in the way that your brochure will be folded and sketch it out.

How do you write and design your brochure?

General guidelines for writing

Above all, keep it simple! Write concisely and clearly. Here are some tips:

  • Keep sentences short. Run-on or overly complicated sentences can be too confusing for your reader.
  • Avoid jargon. Don't assume the public will use the same sort of language and terminology as you. For example, more people are likely to understand you when you say something is "required" than if you say it is "mandated."
  • Avoid cliches. They're overused and trite. Abandon phrases like 'the eye of the storm' or 'the tip of the iceberg.'
  • Avoid redundancy. Try not to repeat the same phrases or ideas over and over, and try not to use a word that's really similar to one that you just used. Saying something like "Gang violence is a community problem that's on the rise" can more easily and less redundantly be phrased "Gang violence is on the rise in our community;" everyone knows it's a problem, so to say so is redundant. Double modifiers like 'true facts? are also redundant.
  • Use correct spelling. Of course you should take care to avoid misspellings and typos, but you should also avoid cutesy, purposeful misspellings. The type of purposeful misspellings you might see in everyday life (such as "Kwik Kleen Kar Wash") can come off making your organization look unprofessional, damaging your credibility and the image you want to present to the community. Avoid using spellings like "nite" or "thru".
  • Avoid the passive voice. Using the active voice is usually more direct and easier to comprehend than the passive: "You should always wash your hands after handling raw poultry" is better than "Your hands should be washed after handling raw poultry", for example.

Following these tips, develop a rough draft of the copy. First, space and size you'll need for the text. You may want to type up your text, then cut and paste it onto a piece of paper folded into the size and shape of your brochure -- this can give you a rough idea of the space you have available. Keep in mind that you may have to cut the text to fit to the brochure layout later on!

Tips on designing the brochure yourself

On a typical brochure you'll have six panels, but whatever the number of panels, consider carefully what should go where.The front cover will at least need a title, your organization's name, and possibly a logo.

Here is a typical brochure layout. Please keep in mind that you don't necessarily have to lay yours out the same way; for example, you can have more than three panels -- but you probably should include some of these elements.

Typical layout for a 3-panel brochure:

1

Contact Information

(Flap)

2

Mailing Address

(back cover)

3

Front Cover

 

  • Contact information: This often ends up being the folded-in flap or the back of the brochure; should contain all the ways your organization can be contacted (names, addresses, phone number, email, web address).
  • Mailing addresses: One of the outside panels of your brochure should have a return address for your organization and a blank area where you can stick a mailing label or write an address. Saves you the cost of envelopes!
  • Front cover: This should contain your name, logo, and slogan, but not much more. Keep it from getting too crowded and chaotic, but try to make the reader interested in opening the brochure up and reading on.
  • Features/benefits: This is usually the inside of the brochure. This part of your brochure should tell a bit about what your program does and what the benefits are to those who become involved.
  • Action: What can the reader do? This could focus on how the volunteer can pitch in and help your group or coalition, or it could focus on how the volunteer can benefit from the services him/herself. You can include both, if you'd like.
  • Elsewhere, if desired: a brief history of the organization, directions on how to access or use services provided, how the organization is funded, or information on the staff.

While standard 3-fold brochures are the most common, you can do just about any type of brochure you'd like. 

After drafting the text, be sure to review and get feedback. Check for errors first, then get additional, objective opinions from as many people as you possibly can, including people from outside your group. Get their honest opinions and use their feedback to help you decide on the final version.

Now you're ready to take it to the printer!

Have it printed or photocopied: It's possible to avoid, or at least reduce, the expense of paying a professional printer. Find out if anyone in your group works for a printing company or knows anyone who does. Approach area printers to see if any of them would donate or offer reduced fees for their services.

Distribute your final product: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's an unfortunate fact that community groups often go to a great deal of effort and expense to print out stacks and stacks of brochures, and then they end up just sitting forever in a box or on someone's desk. Have distribution be a part of your communications plan before you even start.

Form a committee, if necessary, and make a list of the places you want to distribute your brochures. Find out for each place on your list whether you should just mail them or if you'll be expected to drop them off yourself. And finally, assign specific individual volunteers or staff members to be responsible for getting the posters and flyers out by a set deadline.

In Summary

Creating a brochure can be hard work, but a brochure can be a valuable tool for explaining what your organization is about, answering questions, educating your audience, or promoting an event. By following the steps given here, your organization can produce professional-looking brochures that will greatly improve your ability to communicate efficiently with a wide variety of audiences.

Online Resources

Consumer Perspectives: Creating a Brochure for Families of Children with Special Health Care Needs in Your Community’s Immigrant and Underserved Populations, prepared by Massachusetts Consortium for Children with Special Health Care Needs. This information is based on the experience of the consortium, and is a good example of how to create a brochure for a specially targeted population.

How to Create an Effective Brochure, from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has several good illustrations that will help one create a professional eye-catching and valuable brochure.

How to Design a Simple Brochure by The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group.

Print Resources

Adler, E. (1991). Developing and producing brochures. Palo Alto, CA: Health Promotion Resource Center.

Adler, E. (1991). Print that works: The first step-by-step guide that integrates writing, design, and marketing. Palo Alto, CA: Bull Publishing.

Aspen Reference Group. (1997). Community health education and promotion: A guide to program design and evaluation. (C. Schust, ed.) Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

Booth & Associates, M. (1995). Promoting issues and ideas: A guide to public relations for nonprofit organizations. New York, NY: The Foundation Center.

Brigham, N. (1992). How to do leaflets & brochures. Community change, Issue 12, Spring 1992.

Homan, M. S. (1994). Promoting community change: Making it happen in the real world. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.