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Once upon a time, nonprofit organizations had to walk the line between creating professional looking, eye-catching print pieces and low-cost, low-flash print pieces to see fundraising results. The general thought being, “We want to look like we have money, but not so much money that people sense there is no need to donate.”Today, however, that’s no longer necessarily the case. New printing technology and processes make affordable and beautiful printing accessible to just about any budget. Things like digital printing that allows for smaller runs, and online print vendors who can pump out print projects with lower overhead costs than mom and pop shops, all make it easier for nonprofit communicators.Suddenly, glossy no longer needs to equate to expensive. But with more choices in print vendors than ever before, marketers need to be more thoughtful in choosing vendors—online vs. local, which printing processes to go for, what finishes are most cost-effective.

Nancy Schwartz, nonprofit marketing expert, advises nonprofits to look beyond design and print production values to the real objectives of print communications. Before seeking quotes from anyone, she recommends asking these questions to help guide the creation and production of any print piece:

  • Do you aim for audiences to keep the printed piece or is it acceptable for them to read it and toss it out? “Keepers,” like annual reports, should be produced with higher production values than a time-sensitive flyer.
  • What do your audiences respond to most? Talk to your audiences to find out what really matters to them and what donors have responded to best in the past. Spend your budget in those places. For future mailings, keep track of pieces in file folders, binders or electronically to quickly reference the design and the outcome of the mailing.
  • Will your print or online piece stand alone or be reviewed as one of several communications from various nonprofits and other entities?

Additionally, print experts also advise considering the following to keep printing both appealing and cost-effective:

  • Stick with standard finished sizes to reduce paper waste and minimize costs.
  • Be careful when using bleeds, that is, colour or images that run to the edges of the paper. Sometimes they require larger sheets that need to be trimmed, resulting in higher costs and longer production time.
  • Use colour to print a large quantity of “shells” or templates. Then, customize the text as your projects come up throughout the year with one colour of ink.
  • Similarly, spread the cost of colour between several jobs. For example, design a series of brochures that share the same colours and print them at the same time. It can be cheaper than paying separate setup charges for each.
  • On larger quantities that are printed on two sides, lay out both sides on one larger sheet. This is called printing “two-up” and can reduce costs by about 25 percent since press time is cut in half.
  • Choose the right type of binding. Saddle stitching (stapling the piece along the centre fold) is one of the least expensive and most popular types of binding.
  • Consider digital colour output. Though printing small quantities (under 400) of a full-colour brochure is usually cost prohibitive for many organizations, consider short-run digital printing instead. If set up correctly, your project can be output directly from your digital files and the press time is cut in half.

By utilizing the latest in print processes and technology, your nonprofit can print marketing pieces and fundraising appeals that look nice and save money. Who knows, maybe those unspent dollars could even go to use to further enhance mailings by turning them into something special—add a gift, like a logo’d tote or lapel pin to encourage giving. Or, use extra funds to thank top-tier donors with an extra special gift, like a branded portable electronics case or a Spooner mug.

Whether you go glossy or stay matte, approach printing with a new eye. You’ll be the hero of the marketing team and the saver of the budget!

Schwartz, Nancy. “Balance Quality and Budget in Your Nonprofit Marketing Materials.” Nonprofit Marketing | Getting Attention. Web. 29 Jan. 2011.

“Ten Ways to Cut Your Printing Costs.” El Paso – Allegra Home. Web. 09 Feb. 2011.

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