Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 44 seconds

petpawseeIn the economic downturn and slow recovery, non-profits of all sizes are especially hard pressed, as they pursue essential funding with fewer donors and fewer dollars to go around. Many non-profits find themselves struggling with severe cuts and even closure, as donations are scarce and competition for donors is fierce.
At smaller non-profits, in particular, staffs are being charged with selecting and running an effort that must generate significant amounts of money with no room for error. Even successful fundraisers that generated income in the past are now expected to generate more this time around.

One of the most lucrative methods of fundraising nonprofits can turn to in these circumstances, is printing items such as calendars, booklets, posters, and greeting cards. With a minimal investment, these items can generate thousands in fundraising revenue, with the added benefit of active community involvement and lasting goodwill. But they have to be done right.

"If we don't fundraise, we can't function," says Leslie Raynes, founder of Pet Paw-see, Inc., a small non-profit in Great Falls, Montana that finds loving homes for animals and provides needed veterinary care, which costs them about $3,000 per month.

"For us, customizing an annual pet-themed calendar has been a great platform to publicize and fundraise," says Raynes. "It's personal for members and the public when they see their own animals in it; they get involved and excited. The first year we made about $4,000 and it's looking even better our second year."

Fundraising decision makers like Raynes need to know what the best revenue generators are, how to increase return, and offset material costs. They also need to maximize advertising revenue, donations, community interest, and even media coverage. One of the best ways they can guarantee success is by learning from other non-profits that have done it best.

Learning From the Best

Raynes was able to achieve a major revenue boost from a themed custom calendar that's become one of Pet Paw-see's main annual fundraisers, after finding useful information at the website of Printing Center USA and collaborating with the company, an online print specialist that provides a Market Smarts section for non-profits.

From its experience working directly with non-profit organizations seeking to raise cash, Printing Center USA has developed and posted actual case studies and examples from successful non-profits who have used things like calendars, booklets, posters, greeting cards and more to maximize their return on fundraising efforts. Together, these case studies serve as a set of "best practices" for other non-profits in the same boat.

"Why not look at how other non-profits successfully fundraise and adapt some of their techniques to your situation?" says Raynes of the site. "Why re-invent the wheel?"

The first year Pet Paw-See put together a pet-themed calendar, a local photographer volunteered her services. The layout for the calendar was created from one of Printing Center USA's free online templates.

To generate interest and revenue, Pet Paw-see offered to feature 12 animal-lover's pets as "pets of the month." Each pet would appear in a full-page, color photo for a particular calendar month, if their owner won the auction, with a minimum opening bid of $50. Owners could also submit their pets' photos to become a "pet of the day," on any given day of the year, for $10. Owners emailed their photos, or had them scanned.

At first, the non-profit ordered 200 calendars, so they were printed on Printing Center USA's Print-On-Demand digital press to save money. The digital press, which is able to print as few as a single copy on demand, is great for shorter print runs that save on cost without compromising print quality.

"The first year we sold about 400 calendars at $6 each, and made about $4,000 total," says Raynes. "The second year things have really taken off. Auction bids for the "pets of the month" added up to $2,600 and we've made about $2,000 from "pets of the day."

As word of mouth builds, an initial print run of 500 calendars has been ordered and will sell at $8 each.

"Our pet themed calendar is growing as an annual fundraising platform," says Raynes. "Its personalization keeps it fresh and exciting, while the theme gets our message out."

Preserving Native Culture

When the Valley County Museum in Glasgow, Montana printed the Assiniboine Tribe Calendar, it was to sell to visitors to raise money for the exhibit.

The twelve-month calendar tells the story of the Assiniboine people of northeastern Montana: how they thrived off the Great Plains and along the Missouri River until the buffalo slaughter of 1883 that left the tribe near extinction. The calendar was designed to showcase the beauty of this culture to visitors.

Photographs and the ancient language were featured throughout the calendar to celebrate their survival and demonstrate their rich traditions. The pictures in the calendar highlight artifacts in the collection and scenes from a film titled Assiniboine Chief Rosebud. The calendar sold at the Valley County Museum in Glasgow for $9.95 each, and the proceeds paid for the preservation of the exhibit.

Keeping History and Non-Profits Alive

On April 9, 2009, an F-3 tornado ripped through the town of Mena, Arkansas. Three people lost their lives the night of the storm. Thanks to one local historian, the memory will never be forgotten.

With an inexpensive digital camera Shirley Manning documented the Mena Tornado and created a booklet. She calls the little book "In Memory Of Those Who Were Lost". Flip through the booklet and you can experience the devastation that was caused by the tornado.

Manning decided to print a keepsake booklet to sell around town to help raise money for the clean up effort at the Mena library where she has volunteered for decades.

"Unlike electronic images which get lost in emails or when computers crash, I wanted something lasting that people could hold in their hands," says Manning. "Searching on Google, I found Printing Center USA and they were so responsive. Although I'd never done a project like this before, they walked me through the process."

"Less than a week from the time I submitted it, the booklet was shipped back to me," adds Manning. "The booklet was on the street before the tornado cleanup was really underway." Manning sold most of the 1,000 booklets she ordered within a few months at $15 each.

Some of the proceeds from the sale of the booklet also went to keeping history alive in the nearby town of Norman, where Manning and the non-profit Norman Historic Preservation Program, Inc. is renovating the old Norman High School building into a museum to serve as an educational, cultural center for the area.

The renovation is almost complete and Manning plans to publish another fundraising booklet, highlighting before and after differences of the building, within the next couple of months.

"Other non-profits can easily create commemorative fundraising booklets for their own projects," says Manning. "Anyone can do it; it's easy with the help of a company like Printing Center USA. It'd work for anniversaries, graduations, weddings, or other moments of note as well. All it takes is some imagination and a willingness to try."

For other successful non-profit fundraising examples and tips, visit (and check the Marketing Smarts section); or call 1.800.995.1555; Fax 406.771.7777; email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or write to Printing Center USA at 117 9th Street North, Great Falls, MT 59401.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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