Consumer Non Profits — 02 June 2014

Special to American News Report

By Laura Jahn

In the non-profit world, money matters.

Simply said, we can’t fulfil our program missions without funds, which means we have to fundraise. And for many of us, fundraising means direct mail.

Now, for all of you currently working in direct mail, take a moment and think back to your last really great idea. You, the savvy direct mail professional, were brimming with excitement to pitch this package concept to your team. Maybe it actually made it into mailboxes – if so, well done!

I hope it worked. But instead, it’s possible it got to budget stage and joined the other brilliant-but-abandoned fundraising ideas that were backed by high hopes and limited funds.

On the other hand, maybe you have a control package that’s already performing well; a lower cost to produce can enhance the performance and leave more funds for your mission.

With that said, what if I told you that regardless of the package concept or performance history, just a few factors could save you hundreds –even thousands of dollars on your next DM campaign? Well, there’s no gimmick here –just five fundamental tips to help you save money!

Let’s get started…

1. Postal Optimization

Postage is typically the most expensive part of any mailing, so if you only remember one thing from this section, I
hope it’s this: You have options! Postal optimization warrants much more explanation than these few paragraphs, but most lettershops you work with should have the capabilities to run a postal analysis of your data to help determine the most cost-effective mailing method. For instance, look into mailing methods like drop shipping, commingling and co-palletization –or a combination of these. Each technique was developed to maximize USPS volume or sorting discounts. You don’t need to be an optimization expert to save money on postage, you just need to remember to ask for an analysis and choose the method that best suits your mailing needs.

2. Equipment Fit

When producing your direct mail package, a key question is, does the printed component fit the equipment? It sounds basic, but you can save a lot of money if you take a moment to consider your options.

For instance, let’s say you have a package that calls for a 6″x9″ reply form. A press printing 8-1/2″x11″ sheets of paper will only produce one 6″x9″ reply form per sheet. However, if you have the flexibility to change the reply size to 5-1/2″x8-1/2″, you can get two reply forms per sheet. By printing two per sheet you’ll reduce paper waste and machine time, which translates to lower costs for your project.

By adjusting the format to print more efficiently you can do wonders for your bottom line. And don’t worry if you don’t know every machine size or production technique out there, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your printer partners for their advice on cost savings.

3. Proofread  

Picture 3 Rachel RayEwe May think that spell check is awl you knead, butt…

Instead of relying on a spell checker program, ask a person to critique your package –someone who understands context and grammar. This will increase your chances of submitting error free copy to printers, which will prevent you from making costly corrections at proof stage. Or better still, proofreading could save you thousands by preventing the need for an entire reprint of a component!

With strict deadlines and frequently backlogged work, it’s tempting to skip proofreading in the interest of time, but just a few more minutes spent on the front end will certainly save you hours, dollars and headaches on the backend.

4. Stock

It’s true that direct mail fundraising letters can seem like a sea of white offset, but occasionally there’s a nonprofit campaign that warrants a more creative stock. When that happens, remember that flexibility can save you money.
Picture 4 newFor example, the next time you specify a name brand paper on your project bid, include the words “or equivalent stock”. This simple phrase is a cue to your printer partners to investigate less expensive and more accessible options that are comparable to the stock you had in mind.

Now let’s get even more creative! Say you want a linen cover text for a paper premium. You could simply order that linen stock, or you could opt for a less expensive smooth stock with a linen textured varnish on top of it. You’ll get the same textured effect for less money!

There’s no steadfast rule for when to switch stock weights, or use a faux finish rather than the real thing, so ask for paper samples and explore your options. There’s nothing to lose, and chances are good you’ll learn a few things and save a bit of money!

5. Ganging Print

Ganging print is the process of printing multiple versions of a component that share the same specs in a single print run. It helps to reduce setup costs, and by bidding print runs in larger quantities, you save money –the higher the volume, the lower the cost per unit.

For instance, if you have an acquisition package you mail each month, try bidding the job to print two or three months at a time. By ganging the printing of multiple months together, you’ll reduce your overall cost per thousand.

Gang printIt takes coordination, but you can even gang printed components across different packages. As long as the specs are the same, you can reap the benefits of volume discounts.

And there you have it! These five fundamentals can apply to any mail campaign. You don’t have to sacrifice your creative vision to save money. Sometimes you can save by being flexible or asking for recommendations from your printer partners.

And for those of you attending the 2014 Bridge Conference, July 9-11, don’t forget to visit the vendor showcase. It’s a priceless opportunity to see award-winning mail packages and innovative formats, but most importantly it’s an opportunity to speak with print experts. So, bring your ideas and get some advice! I hope to see you there.



JahnLaura Jahn is a production manager at CDR Fundraising Group, a direct marketing agency based in Bowie, MD providing integrated fundraising services uniquely tailored to each of its clients including direct mail and advocacy fundraising, digital marketing, direct response television, list brokerage and management, corporate sponsorship and marketing assistance. Contact Laura at with questions, comments, or for a complimentary production savings review of your next direct mail fundraising package. To learn more about the Bridge Conference and the topics to be addressed, visit


About Author

Doug Lynch

Doug is a career communications professional and writer. He enjoys writing about technology (he holds 6 US Patents), politics and sports.

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