Tips for 'Greening' Your Nonprofit Practices
In the session "Green Your Fundraising to Meet Donor Expectations" presented at the DMA Nonprofit Federation's 2009 New York Nonprofit Conference, Meta Brophy, director of publishing operations at Consumers Union, and Anne Zaleski, production manager at the National Wildlife Federation, shared tips on how nonprofits can reduce and improve the environmental impacts of their direct-marketing programs.
Environmentally responsible marketing is increasingly important from a social, economic and ethical perspective, Brophy said, and it all starts with greening your mission. This involves:
- adopting sustainable practices that align marketing and fundraising operations with the mission;
- modeling environmentally responsible behavior to donors, prospects, consumers, staff and board members; and
- mitigating the environmental effects of fundraising and development activities.
To help marketers understand and apply environmental considerations throughout the direct-marketing processes, the DMA created an innovative environmental action program that includes educational initiatives and tools. One key tool it offers is the Green 15 Toolkit, a guide that provides strategies in five key areas relating to the direct-marketing process: list hygiene and data management; design and printing; paper procurement and use; packaging; and recycling and pollution reduction.
The "Green 15," as analyzed by Brophy, includes:
1. Honor customer choice to receive mail by maintaining in-house do-not-market lists; use the Mail Preference Service monthly for prospect mail; and provide customers with notice and choice in each of your solicitations.
2. Reduce misdirected and undeliverable mail by using U.S. Postal Service or commercially equivalent files.
3. Merge/purge and eliminate duplicate mailings.
4. Target those who are most likely to respond by applying predictive models and segmentation.
Mail design and production
5. Review your direct-mail pieces and packages, and test downsized pieces when and where appropriate.
6. Ask your suppliers to submit alternate solutions for environmentally friendly mail pieces and packaging.
7. Test and use production methods that reduce print order overruns, waste allowances and in-process waste. Brophy suggested testing an open window, for example, as it can save your organization money, uses fewer materials and makes your envelopes easier to recycle. She also suggested making labels, stickers and repositionable notes easier to recycle by selecting items that use benign adhesive and paper backers.
Paper and packaging
8. Increase wood purchases from recognized forest certification programs, e.g., Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
9. Require paper suppliers to make a commitment to implementing sustainable forestry practices that protect ecosystems and biodiversity.
10. Ask paper suppliers about the source of the paper they offer to avoid paper made from unsustainable or illegally managed forests.
11. Require paper suppliers to document that they don't produce paper from illegally harvested or stolen wood.
Recycling and pollution reduction
12. Purchase more office papers, packing and packaging materials made from recycled materials with post-consumer content.
13. Integrate use of electronic communications for external and internal communications.
14. Ensure your environmental labels and messaging are clear, honest and complete.
15. Encourage consumers to recycle your materials by using the DMA's Recycle Please (www.recycleplease.org) logo on all of your materials and communications.
Brophy stressed the need to green all of the channels you use, noting that just because it's paperless doesn't mean it's green.
For National Wildlife Fund, missioned to protect wildlife for future generations, being green is in keeping with the organization's internal motto to "walk the talk." Eighty-five percent of NWF's carbon footprint comes from paper, including its four education magazines and direct-mail fundraising.
To counteract this, NWF focuses on the following four key areas:
1. List hygiene. This comes down to making sure you're mailing the right people, Zaleski said. NWF employ CASS, NCOA and PCOA; does a chronic nonresponder analysis; and has a dedicated staff person who handles list hygiene.
2. Strategic practices. The organization tries to utilize other channels such as online, print advertising, telemarketing and the Web more. It also does a mid-year performance review to gauge if there are ways it could cut back more. It also has a "Mailing Smarter Task Force" and "Cool It! Committee," which comes up with ideas of ways the organization can make a difference through its internal practices.
3. Eco-friendly materials. NWF looks to select paper for its direct-mail campaigns made from post-consumer waste or sustainable sources. In terms of sustainable papers, Zaleski said to look for vendors approved by the FSC or SFI. But she stressed that post-consumer waste is the best way to go because it saves more trees from being cut for paper in the first place.
Organizations also should look to use recyclable contents beyond just paper. Poly windows on outer envelopes, for example, are not recyclable. But there are alternatives. Paper-based glassine is organic and biodegradable, and has the similar effect of a poly window.
Soy and vegetable inks also are more eco-friendly and easier to recycle than regular, petroleum-based inks. Zaleski said these options are widely available; it's just a matter of asking your vendor for them. Asking, she said, is the first step to greening your organization and getting vendors to adjust the options they offer.
4. Formats and production practices. To reduce its environmental impact, NWF mails smaller formats (which helps with postage, too); uses less, or smaller-sized, inserts; uses lighter weight paper; and uses common size components like BREs.
When it comes to production, Zaleski said, every little bit helps. The organization tries, when it can, to use printers and mail shops in the same vicinity as one another to reduce the energy wasted in shipping. Meeting art and proofing deadlines also is important, Zaleski said, as production delays cost resources and money.
The organization makes it a point to add the "Recycle Please" icon to its direct-mail elements and, when applicable, adds copy letting recipients know elements were printed on recycled paper, e.g., "To conserve our resources, this is printed on paper containing a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste."
In conclusion, Zaleski stressed that nonprofits work with their vendors to select greener materials, formats and production processes. She recommended asking vendors the following questions:
- Are you FSC certified, or do you have other certifications that represent sound environmental practices?
- Do you use soy or vegetable-based inks?
- Does your house stock include options with recycled content?
- What types of recycling programs are run through your plant? Paper, solvents, plates, etc.
- Do you have any special shipping practices that cut down inefficiencies and waste?
- If you're an envelope printer, what options do you have for window material that are recyclable or biodegradable?