Mail dates matter in direct mail fundraising. As our leader, Kathy Swayze always reminds us, every day a package is late to the mail, is another day we’re losing money. The production stage is often where we lose time because it takes longer than we anticipate. When you kick off a campaign, it is imperative to create a project timeline and stick to every deadline to make that mail date. Below I’ve outlined a sample production timeline we typically use with clients to ensure you meet your next mail date.
- Begin your strategy and creative planning for a direct mail package about 3-4 months out from the mail date. Once you have determined your overall vision for the package, meet with your production partner to work with you on fleshing out the creative details. The earlier you bring in your vendor, the better. They will be able to help provide creative recommendations to meet your vision, and in the most cost-effective way. You’ll also have more time to review paper samples and price quotes, so you aren’t rushed to make these decisions farther down the line.
- At about 6 weeks prior to your mail date, submit the final specifications and mail plan your production partner. Be sure to include segmentations, insertions order, and the following details for each component of the package:
- Estimated quantity
- Number of versions
- Postage treatment where applicable
- Submit your final artwork, data, and data instructions to your production partner at about 4 weeks out from your mail date.
- Your production partner will send proofs of the artwork within 1-2 days for your review. Be sure to do a final proofread before approving.
- About two weeks before your mail date, your production partner will send counts, ask arrays, and dumps for your review.
- You will receive live set-ups for review and approval about one week out from your mail date. This step is to ensure your data personalization is inputted correctly. Be sure to review several of each segment to ensure accuracy.
- Insertion scans are typically sent for review and approval 1-2 days prior to the mail date. Make sure each component is included in the correct placement and each component is printed correctly.
- Congratulations, your package has hit the mail!
For a more detailed outline, take a look at the 29 Point Production Checklist provided by our friends at Production Solutions.