Full Color Printing Affordable for Nonprofits

Tips for organizations with small budgets and big imaginations.

Just because you're a nonprofit organization, doesn't mean you have to settle for advertising with black and white flyers, two-color direct mailers, or brochures printed on thin, flimsy paper. The cost of high-quality, full color printing has gone way down, making gorgeous, compelling print ads accessible to even the most strapped nonprofits.

Today, tons of innovative and hard-hitting advertising is coming from nonprofits staging campaigns to raise awareness. For examples of this, check out the great series of blog posts on InventorSpot. Over the last month, blogger Amy Gifford has looked at some of the brilliant campaigns being run by Amnesty International, environmental groups, and anti-smoking campaigners.

Most of these ads are in print, and most of them rely heavily on stark realism. In fact, many of the ads have a surreal or realer-than-real quality that are both shocking and thought provoking. What all these ads have in common is that they use high-quality, full color printing to create the sharp, photographic quality required to make the ad successful.

Of course, organizations like Amnesty International and the World Wildlife Fund depend on more than full color printing for their successful ad campaigns. They also have huge budgets that allow them to hire brilliant teams of marketers and designers to develop these genius concepts. But being cash-poor doesn't mean short of imagination. By taking a cue from the industry giants, a great fundraising or awareness campaign can be put together out of next to nothing.

Learning from the masters doesn't mean stealing ideas, it just means pinpointing effective styles and trends, and figuring out how to incorporate them into your unique subject matter.

Let's take a lot at the strategies used consistently throughout many of the hardhitting campaigns of the moment:

(All the examples used below come from the above InventorSpot links.)

  • Use photorealistic, full color printing. As I already mentioned, by melding the shocking reality of your message with mundane reality, you force the viewer to absorb and process your message, i.e. to think! For example, an ad campaign by the WWF shows how a small household spill has a global impact by creating a surreal image of a giant paintcan dumping a river of pollution into cities and natural landscapes.
  • Reconceive public space. Think about how the urban landscape already creates opportunity for innovative advertising. By encouraging people to look at something differently, you show them how their world is affected by a given problem. For example, Amnesty International puts print ads up behind bars already existing around us, in the form of fences and sewer grates.
  • Play with unconventional mediums. Full color printing is not restricted to posters, brochures, and direct mail postcards. Using creative solutions like oversized stickers and vehicle wrapping can allow you to advertise in unusual locations. For example, the Cancer Patient Aid Association covers the ceilings of smoking areas with an image that makes smokers feel like they are looking up from inside their own grave at their funeral.
  • Don't be afraid to offend. Full color printing allows for the use of graphic images. If they help you make your point, why not use them? Sexuality, violence, death – these subjects may stir up controversy, but that's a good thing. Controversy is how a small ad by a local organization gets seen all over the world! For example, a very famous ad campaign warning about AIDS that ran throughout France shows people having sex with scorpions!

By challenges perspectives and conventions, and by pushing the limits of the medium, an awareness campaign of any size can have a huge impact. And because full color printing has become so much less expensive – particularly when you do your ordering online – there's no reason not to take full advantage of your palette to create a message that is bold, brilliant, and effective.


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