We’ve all been there. After a productive meeting with your team about your upcoming fundraising appeal, the creative ideas are bouncing off the walls. Full-coverage and full-colour imagery, a glossy stock, jazzy premiums… the possibilities are endless! Or so they seem – until you start the work, and either your budget, your timeline, or the ‘powers that be’ throw you for a loop.

No need to fear! If you get your direct mail ducks in a row before jumping in the deep end, your appeal can still drop without a hitch.


Before we can begin exciting things like artwork or copywriting, we must wrangle the aforementioned ‘powers that be’. We all have them in our organizations. They can range from yourself, your immediate supervisor, all the way to a director or CEO.

How can this affect your appeal? If you haven’t considered the amount of time it will take for you to get approval on the components of your appeal, you haven’t budgeted your time effectively. When you’re the only one making approvals, you can easily gauge how much time will need to be allotted. If you know your components need to be approved by your director, who likes to take extra-long fishing trips in the summer, you may want to consider building in extra time to allow those approvals to move forward. No one wants to be waiting on a full package that’s sitting in someone’s inbox while they’re on vacation!


Now we’re getting into fun territory! As you get started putting together your package, it’s important to consider what sort of branding guidelines your organization has in place. Does your organization’s logo contain Pantone colours that must be reproduced exactly the same way across all mediums? Are there adjustments you can make to your logo or organization name to better fit an insert or envelope? Or are these immovable constants? Having your creative vision is great, but ensuring your organization’s branding standards won’t be compromised is even better. Speaking of creative vision…


What sort of package ‘look’ are you going for? What does that mean against your budget, big or small? There are several opportunities in the artwork and production processes to make adjustments that will save you money in the long run.

Are you envisioning a full colour, four-page letter, with beautiful imagery on each page but your budget won’t budge? If the imagery you’re thinking of using will reproduce well in black and white – or even a monotone of your organization’s branded colours – consider a full-colour front page and black and white interior. Love the look of a glossy stock, but suddenly realized you want donors to share their story not smudge it? Consider a glossy matte stock combination for your reply card.

Your suppliers and consultants will always have their expertise ready to make suggestions on how you can take your big ideas and turn them into beautiful, but budget-friendly, packages.


Or, as I like to think of them, the ‘guts’ of your package. Oftentimes clients get so caught up in the vision of a package, they forget about the quality imagery and copy needed to bring it to life. Imagining a forest scene splashed across the front of your outer envelope is great – until you realize you only have images pulled from a quick Google search.

Some things to keep in mind when sourcing imagery: Are my photos high enough quality that they’ll reproduce beautifully across all mediums? Are my photos large enough? Do I have the right licensing to even use these photos? (Hint: watermarks on your images would indicate no!). Consider the subject of your package or letter – is your signatory willing to share their photo? Or even their signature? It’s best to answer these questions before you jump into the creative process. It only takes one missing headshot to slam the brakes on your whole campaign.


Finding those big ideas and getting your team excited about the creative components of your package is half the battle. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success when battling the second half – and get these direct mail ducks gathered, counted, and in a neat row before you start. Your budget, schedule, and final package will thank you!