Managing a Mission
The staff of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) knows something about time management. Seven people in the art department handle the creation of everything from brochures to annual reports, invitations to special events, directories, press kits, bookmarks, posters and even books that go out to various segments of the organization's more than 8 million constituents.
"Of course, we're all overworked, and I could use more people, but we do the best we can," says Paula Jaworski, HSUS creative director. "A lot of that is having your head on straight and being focused. And we work very quickly. There is not a lot of time for 'maybe I'll do it this way, maybe I'll do it that way'—we just 'do,' and we 'do' quickly."
They also know a few things about budgeting. "Every dollar we spend, somebody gave us. We feel that's a heavy responsibility being the stewards of people's donations and using the money very wisely," says Jaworski.
With a relatively small staff in an organization of a few hundred employees, and a budget where every dollar must be well-spent and accounted for, Jaworski and her team have their work cut out for them. Balancing the inevitable overlapping deadlines while keeping an eye on spending can challenge even the most experienced print production team. "It's a juggling act. One of the demands on my staff is that people have to be flexible and nimble," Jaworski explains.
A LITTLE HELP FROM THE OUTSIDE
One arrangement The HSUS has in its repertoire that saves the busy staff a good deal of time is an arrangement with Time Inc. Custom Publishing. Time works with The HSUS to produce All Animals, The HSUS' quarterly magazine sent to members who donate more than $25—some 330,000 of them.
But the partnership, which began six years ago, has several benefits in addition to the time savings. "The decision to partner with Time was made because the then-president, Paul Irwin (who just recently retired), liked the idea of making the magazine lighter [with more of a consumer-magazine feel] and more accessible to our membership … to see whether it would help with retention of members and to try something different. We also had the huge advantage of the archives that Time has for photography—which includes Life magazine and everything Time owns," says Jaworski.
Time produces the magazine, which includes stories repackaged from articles that have appeared in People, Life, Coastal Living and other Time publications. "They submit possible story ideas to our editorial staff, and our editors make sure the stories coincide with our mission," says Jaworski.
The HSUS creates the president's letter, the "Tips from the Other Family Doctor" column, HSUS house ads and an insert, using QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. "The insert is trimmed short (to make it stand out), and is produced in-house at The HSUS. The insert, 'Animal Update,' lets members know what we're doing—what our major campaigns are, some consumer issues, some information about pet behavior, for example, or a list of things poisonous to pets. Those eight pages are heralding our successes and letting people know what their donation dollars are achieving," says Jaworski.
All Animals doesn't accept outside advertising, but readers will see ads on a number of pages in each issue. These are house ads or advertisements for HSUS business partners. For example, one ad for MBNA promotes an affinity-program credit card offered to HSUS members, where a percentage of every purchase made with the card goes to The HSUS.
The HSUS uses Markzware's Flightcheck to preflight the files for the insert and all ads, before sending them off to Time. "Time sends us three rounds of color proofs of pages they're creating … There are several back and forths," says Jaworski.
The staff at Time handles production and works directly with the printer, Perry Judd's, which The HSUS selected. "Perry Judd's had been printing our membership magazine, HSUS News, for 18 years prior to the Time Inc. Custom Publishing partnership. … In our negotiations with Time, we requested they stick with Perry Judd's—Time had a relationship with them among the many printers they work with anyway," says Jaworski.
NEGOTIATING PRINT BUYING
While The HSUS put a priority on loyalty to its long-time magazine printing partner, it also places a priority on getting high quality at the best price. Aside from the organization's work with Time Inc. Custom Publishing, it produces all other print materials itself, and because of the variety of what it publishes, it has to shop around for prices on specific jobs.
"We also constantly review and rebid things," says Jaworski. "Especially in the electronic world we live in now, you're no longer so tied to printers because they've got your film."
For ongoing projects, like its Humane Activist newsletter, Jaworski explains, "We may lock in for a year … and when the year is up, we'll rebid it with the vendor we're currently using and [also] bid it out to other vendors."
One advantage Jaworski finds in working for a large organization that prints such a vast and varied amount of materials is that it's almost all been done before, leaving them a trail of cost estimates and printers to constantly refer to. For example, if a four-color, trifold brochure is on the table to be budgeted, HSUS production staff can refer to previous jobs to see what the cost was and who printed it at what level of quality. "We have a database that goes back about four years—you can search for a word and that will pull up all the jobs that have that word in it," Jaworski explains, referring to the organization's use of FileMaker Pro to manage job files. This doesn't replace the bidding process, however. "We never send a job out without a quote first," says Jaworski.
But printing large quantities and complete campaigns also can be a hindrance if you're not careful, suggests Jaworski. "If a vendor is, for example, handling a campaign—so there's a brochure, letterhead, a carrier envelope and other components—and the vendor sees they're getting pieces that are all matching, you've got to watch them because they may think that after you're on the third or fourth item that you have to send them the rest because you want everything to match. They may try to jack their prices up, thinking that only they can finish the job."
THE NONPROFIT CARD: BETTER LEFT IN YOUR POCKET
Another word of caution Jaworski shares is to leave the 'nonprofit card' out of your negotiations with print-service providers. "I never use the nonprofit card when I quote. The reason is I know of someone who played the nonprofit card and got a discount, and when the job came in, she was very disappointed. When she complained, they said, 'Well, I cut you a deal on the price, don't complain,'" says Jaworski. "If a vendor wants to give us a better price, that's lovely, but I want the ability to reject a job if it's not up to snuff. I don't want to feel that I have to take what I get because I begged."
High quality has been among Jaworski's professional values, and fortunately it is a value that The HSUS shares. "I have been exceedingly fortunate to work for a very large nonprofit that sees the value in producing things on a quality, sophisticated level that doesn't look like it's been desktopped, and that what we produce reflects the fact that we are the premier animal organization. I feel very blessed," says Jaworski.
THE BIG PICTURE
One aspect of the art department's work that some other associations unfortunately share is the often difficult subject matter. While Jaworski has made a policy of trying to focus on positive images and avoids placing overly harsh and shocking photos in materials sent to the public, sometimes there is just no way around it. "Unfortunately, some issues we have to take on are pretty dreadful—factory farming, puppy mills, blood sports.
"If you're doing a brochure on animal fighting, and you include a photo, it's going to be a little graphic," says Jaworski.
Still, the organization is careful not to send graphic images to the public, and Jaworski notes that the brochure on animal fighting, called "The Final Round," is not mailed out to the general public. "It's available, and people can request it, but we don't just send it out," she says.
But because of the nature of the issues the organization addresses, designing and producing brochures, press kits, newsletters, magazines and books, all with a small staff and under a strict budget, can yield even greater rewards than many other production people experience. "We can expose issues, such as, in 1999, the dog and cat fur trade in China—I don't think anything will ever compare to the press and excitement of this going public, and seeing laws being passed so quickly to ban the fur from being imported into the U.S.," says Jaworski. "What we do is produce publications to make people aware, to encourage them to do the right thing."
In fact, this is what drew Jaworski to The HSUS six years ago, after 20 years of working for for-profit companies, she says. "I worked for so many years on things I didn't particularly care about … I wanted to make a difference."
- Noelle Skodzinski