CHARITABLE PRINTING — LENDING A PRESS
FORGETTING FOR a moment how tired and cliché the sentiment has become, the terrifying and heart-wrenching images brought into our living rooms via televised news coverage of disasters does make us pause, pity and forget about our own lesser scale problems, at least for a little while.
Hurricane Katrina, like the December 2004 tsunami that rocked the Pacific, left an unimaginable path of destruction in its wake along the Gulf Coast. In both cases, private and corporate citizens around the world chipped in whatever they could spare, be it funds, knowledge or two hands, to aid in the recovery process. Maybe it was something as simple as collecting canned food.
Many contributors go unheralded as the needs of the afflicted, rightly so, take precedence. But it doesn’t take a natural disaster to bring out the best in people, or printing companies for that matter.
Whether it’s a printed announcement and invitation for a foundation’s fundraising dinner, or a flyer to promote an event at the local high school, commercial printers have long supported charitable causes in their own neighborhoods, as well as around their respective states and country.
No matter how big or small the contribution, or whether a print job is done completely gratis or at a reduced rate, many printers are doing what they can to improve their corner of the world.
For Carlstadt, NJ-based Pictorial Offset, those causes selected to receive some form of consideration must have a relevance to the industry and to Pictorial’s business and governing values, according to Lester Samuels, managing partner.
“We have a strong belief in giving back to our community, so most of our charitable donations are made within our local metropolitan area or state,” Samuels remarks. “However, some of the industry and human issues that are close to us are global in nature and in impact, so we also feel an obligation to donate to these organizations.”
The goods and services that Pictorial donates vary on the needs of the cause, be it prepress, printing or even mailing requirements. For instance, the printer produced flyers for the Miles for Matheny Walkin’, Wheelin’ and Runnin’ Event. The Matheny Medical and Educational Center, in Peapack, NJ, provides benefits and services for people with disabilities.
“While some organizations need cash, others need time and volunteers, and we can help with those too,” Samuels adds. “Not only the managing partners, but our employees, customers and supplier partners also get involved.”
One cause the printer has embraced came with the establishment of the Jay P. Samuels/Pictorial Offset-Nathaniel Rochester Society Scholarship Program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The fund provides annual merit scholarship awards to abut 50 outstanding upper class students at the school for maintaining high academic standards. To date, more than 1,400 merit awards have been presented.
Aside from donations to industry-specific causes, Pictorial has given support to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and its efforts to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Pictorial provided print production for the complete annual donations statement mailing. The company also printed a brochure for a foundation named after a fallen 9/11 firefighter, Pat Lyons, which provides financial assistance to a number of charities and organizations that help children.
Online printing services provider Mimeo.com, founded in 1999, has quickly grown its sales to the $25 million range. Its headquarters is in New York City, but the production facility is housed in the shipping hub of Memphis, TN. Producing, among other things, training manuals and sales and marketing documents, Mimeo.com addresses the printing needs of industries such as banking, retail, leisure, telecom and healthcare.
A Good Neighbor
Mimeo.com may still be green around the ears as a business, but it is not lacking for social consciousness. According to CFO John Elbridge, the company provides free and discounted printing services to local charities as a way of giving back to the community.
“Since our employees have put so much into creating Mimeo, we want to give back to them and the communities where they live,” he notes. “It’s a very small cost to Mimeo, using excess capacity at a time of day when we’re not as busy.”
Elbridge estimates the company donates between $100,000 and $150,000 in gratis and reduced printing services. Virtually every worthwhile cause is supported, including the Tennessee Technical Center, to which Mimeo also donated a Xerox DocuTech.
Not every printer has the resources to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars in print services per year, but many enjoy providing discounted jobs and arranging trades in exchange for future good will considerations. A2Z Printing, of Pacheco, CA, has aided causes such as the Taylor Family Foundation—which provides aid and comfort to children in northern California with life-threatening diseases and disabilities.
According to Dennis Arsenault, A2Z president, his company also donates printing to local schools and churches. Last summer it sponsored a Fourth of July celebration called “The Singing Flag.” A2Z has sponsored a holiday basketball tournament at De La Salle High in Concord, CA, for about 10 years.
Arsenault tends to support only very local organizations that make their request in person. “When I look back at some of the donation requests we’ve received, I bristle at the ones where someone already has a printer lined up, but wants us to take out a paid ad,” Arsenault says. “That hurts!”
Community Printers, another California-based company out of Santa Cruz, was founded in 1977 as a way to provide community organizations with affordable printing for their social change projects. But while Community Printers also services for-profit businesses today, it has still maintained its activist roots.
Among the many local causes Community Printers has supported with either free or reduced cost printing: Child Abuse Prevention Network; Community Resources for the Disabled; Doran Center for the Blind; Grey Bears; Habitat for Humanity; and Santa Cruz AIDS project.
The printer is owned by a nonprofit entity, the Eschaton Foundation in Santa Cruz, which promotes peace and social justice, according to Shelly d’Amour, financial manager. Community Printers is separately incorporated, and Eschaton holds its assets in a trust. Community Printers declares a dividend every year, which is put into a trust by Eschaton, and that money is used to donate printing to local groups.
Print donations are based on previous year’s sales. In 2004, the figure was around $31,000; for 2005, it shot up to the $41,000 range.
“We get a fair number of requests,” states John Begley, a CSR for Community Printers. “A lot of it is word of mouth; we don’t advertise. We do a lot of brochures that explain what an organization does, and flyers promoting fund raisers. We help the Second Harvest Food Bank quite a bit, producing a fundraising letter that they send out once a year for their big holiday food drive.”
Community Printers has taken activism to a new level for printers by partnering with Trees for the Future, which strives to replenish the tree populace in countries and areas where deforestation by human and natural phenomenon have contributed to global warming.
For its part, Community Printers—using a formula that calculates the volume of paper that it uses for the year—is donating money to replant the equivalent in tree seedlings, thus replacing what it consumes from the environment.
Cliché or not, when it comes to donating, every little bit helps.