When we start our nonprofit, we seem obsessed with is buying stationery and business cards. I think we feel these somehow show that we’re a legitimate organization.

Good quality stationery is nice and can be a benefit. You definitely should look professional, but don’t waste your time and money by getting distracted by this at first. You’re usually most cash strapped when you’re starting out. So you need as much money going to mission as possible. More money to mission means more results. Delivering more results helps you raise more money, which will help you deliver even more results.

Plus, the most cost effective way to buy stationery is to buy large quantities. Have you ever worked at an organization that had to toss out thousands of sheets of paper because of a logo change or address change? Of course, you could try using up all the old stock, crossing out addresses and using old logos, but that looks incredibly unprofessional.

So how can you present yourself professionally without spending a ton of money?

First, since you’re doing your fundraising appeal this fall, you could ask your printer to print some extra blank letters for you to use. I particularly like asking them to print extra BRE’s (business reply envelopes) so I can use them in other mailings throughout the year.

I recommend getting a color laser printer. For only a few hundred bucks, you can get a high quality printer with relatively inexpensive toner refills. (Most printers are cheap because their ink is incredibly expensive. Do the math before you buy to see how much the ink or toner will cost per sheet.)

Color laser printers allow you to look really professional. You can print letters with your logo on them. Or you can use Word or a desktop publisher to easily design some blank stationery and print out just as much as you need.

I love my Brother HL-4070CDW Color Laser Printer [affiliate link]. It cost about $500 when I bought it in 2008, it’s now selling for under $400. I love this one because it comes with both a built in duplex printing option (so you can get both sides of the paper without having to reload) and because it comes with a wireless interface so I can print to it from anywhere in my building.

If you just have to have business cards, look for inexpensive and easy solutions. I really like both OvernightPrints.com and Moo.com [affiliate link]. OvernightPrints allows you to upload images and keep trying until it looks the way you want. They come with a high-quality, low-cost standard size business card. Moo cards are much smaller and narrower so they stick out in people’s minds. They have lots of easy templates to help you design your cards.

Using simple solutions like these can save you money and help you get up and running in no time!

What other tips have you found helpful in keeping these costs down so you can focus on your mission?

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