Save Big on Brochure Printing: 6 Practical and Powerful Tips for Nonprofits
How can you reduce your printing costs? Based on my 30 years as a printer, I know this is an especially important question for nonprofits because you’re under greater pressure to do more with less.
I’m going to describe six tips that can not only save you money, but can also improve your marketing strategy — and your results.
1. Get Super Organized With Print Projects
If you really want to make a significant dent in your year-over-year printing expenditures, this seemingly simple and obvious tip leaves all others in the dust.
I’ve worked with nonprofits on just about every kind of print project imaginable. And I’ve seen it time and time again: When a project goes into frantic mode because a client is behind schedule, the added costs start to flood in. For example:
- Printing materials may have to be rush ordered.
- Printing staff may have to work overtime.
- Errors in your copy and design skyrocket, which can create a whole series of problems (and extra costs).
- Sub-par mailing lists are used and lead to wasted effort.
- Postage goes way up because you’re behind and you have to send materials first class.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
2. Develop an Editorial Calendar
Being organized means you can plan for your print project months in advance. How do you do that? By developing — and adhering to — an editorial calendar. Easier said than done? Of course!
But the effort is worth it. An editorial calendar can be transformative — not just for your budget, but also for the everyday duties of your staff. Knowing exactly what’s coming up keeps people more focused and less stressed. (By the way, there are a ton of great tips and tools on the web for this.)
3. Schedule Strategically (With Your Printer)
Your calendar should include obvious information — what the item is, who will be working on it, who will need to review it and, perhaps most important, when you want it to show up in your hands or in people’s homes if you’re mailing it.
In fact, I strongly suggest you start working backwards from your target end date. That means as early as possible in the process, contact your printer to make sure your goals are doable from its perspective.
To be thorough, consider designating milestones so that your timeline has built-in dates that prompt you to check in on the project’s status. And if you see delays, let your printer know ASAP.
The more heads-up your printer has, the more able it’ll be to mitigate schedule problems — and keep extra costs to a minimum.
4. Establish Realistic Objectives
Your calendar should reflect the world you actually work in, not the world you’d like to work in. Consider questions like these in your planning:
- How long will it take to actually develop the brochure, from initial planning discussions all the way to hitting send on the design file?
- Who needs to review this for final approval?
- More specifically, where (and who) are the possible hang-ups in the process?
Being well-organized can end up saving you a lot. But you can also spend smarter — and generate better results — by being more strategic with your overall print strategy.
5. Create More Targeted Pieces, and Say Goodbye to the General Brochure
Digital printing technology continues to drive print costs down. That means you have more opportunities to spend smarter and order in smaller numbers. So why not create different brochure versions that are more targeted to the various audiences you need to reach?
If you’re wondering, “Who can afford to create all these different pieces?” you may want to think about it like this: The amount you might “save” with one big order becomes donations lost because your generic piece didn’t speak as directly and powerfully as it could have.
And even if you’re set on a huge order, work hard to calculate the number you realistically can use in the foreseeable future. That seems like such an obvious point, but it’s easy to get caught up in a head-game of cost comparisons.
Sure, maybe you could spend pennies on the dollar for a pallet of brochures. But do you really need an amount that could last you years, especially in these rapidly changing times?
6. Rethink the Kind of Brochures You Need
You can also spend smarter by taking a more selective distribution strategy. For example, maybe your big donors get the full-color annual report, while others get a postcard that directs them to the online version.
Similarly, innovatively designed items, like self-mailer brochures, can be an all-in-one solution that lets you combine a brochure and a return envelope into a single mailable piece.
According to the museum’s director of development, Eduardo Ayala Fuentes, the self-mailers also led to “exponentially less effort for the staff, which is important for a lean team like ours.”
Pause to Reexamine the ‘Tried-and-True’
Asking for money is hard. Doing it successfully is even harder — as you know better than anyone. I hope these brochure suggestions will, at the very least, plant a seed to get you thinking, “Hey, why are we doing it this way again?”
Talk to your printer about cost-saving strategies. As a trusted partner, it should know that success in your world is a marathon way more than it is a sprint. And when it helps you find ways to improve your performance, everyone benefits in the long run.