Supply Chain Problems for Nonprofits and Political Campaigns

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

Supply Chain

Supply Chain Problems and Solutions for Nonprofits & Campaigns  

Supply chain issues are real for political campaigns and nonprofit organizations. So, if you are running any kind of campaign in 2022 or 2023 be prepared. The supply chain issues will cause stress when it comes to voter and member outreach in 2022. From labor shortages, shipping delays, paper shortages, envelopes shortages and a host of other supply issues. Supply chain and labor issues will impact all tactics. Don't think this is just a direct mail problem. Digital, phones, broadcast, outdoor, signs and yes mail will all be impacted. Planning and creativity will help keep your program on track and hopefully even make your campaign better. Don't panic though! We've thought through what problems to anticipate and how to plan ahead to be prepared. Download our supply chain memo, a comprehensive document, that overviews all things supply chain, including issues and solutions. 

Five Supply Chain questions you should be asking now- 

  1. How will supply chain impact my campaign? Things will cost more and take longer. You will need to plan ahead to get what your needs covered. Digital will take longer, phones and tv production will cost more, and mail will need to be planned out in advance. 
  2. How will cost increases change your program? You may have to target differently, change the type of materials you use, and order ahead.
  3. What are you doing to plan for supply chain and economic impact? Things will take longer. Make sure you budget accordingly as costs have increased from two years ago and could be an average 20 to 30% more, no matter what you were doing.
  4. What will you change to make sure you run a good program for your organization? Only you can know. Plan now.
  5. Should you test and implement new tactics based on supply issues?  Likely yes.  Do not just implement new programs, make sure you are thinking of the impact and testing for how these will help achieve your goals. Make sure they apply to your strategy.

Supply chain and Labor issues will affect all aspects of communications for 2022: 

Paper shortages: If you have printed anything during the pandemic, you have dealt with this. Paper mills have cut back on production, both in the US, and overseas which leaves a reduced supply of paper. Many US paper mills have closed or converted to packaging paper. Now over 50% of the paper used in printing comes from sources outside the us.  Contrary to popular logic, mail production increased during the pandemic and created more supply programs. This means that if you like a specific brand or finish on your paper, you may be out of luck, and any printing may take longer. If you were looking for a specific kind of stock, as well as higher post-consumer grade, you may need to take more time to print your pieces because sourcing of specific paper products will take longer.

Envelope shortages: Yes, there is an envelope shortage. If you try to get your hands on a number nine or a number seven envelope or do any kind of direct response mail where you need a window envelope, you have dealt with the need to plan over the last six months around the lack of envelopes. This doesn’t mean you can’t find any, but it may take your printer or your direct mail consultant longer to source them.  Especially if you’re dealing with projects in the hundreds of thousands of envelopes.

Collateral Media: Signs, hats, pens, T-shirts all have seen delays in 2022. The more specific your need, the more likely for delays.

Shipping delays: Most printers ship mail across the country and use trucking to do that. Because of a labor shortage in trucking, shipping is taking longer and there is also less availability on tracking routes. Because of home delivery all of this has made for longer shipping timelines and shipping delays.

USPS delays: Direct mail is taking longer when it comes to delivery due to labor issues, changes to the post office and how they are managing on the road. With an increase in the amount of mail that is going through the system, this has made it harder and harder for mail to be delivered on time.

Price increases for mail : Prices for paper, envelopes, and trucking have all increased from 5 to 30 percent during the pandemic. More prices will increase due to continued inflation.

Price increases for all mediums: This will include cost of air time, digital ads, shoots for media and likely costs for phone programs. Before you plan your budget, make sure you get up to date budgets from your team.  

Longer approvals for digital:  Due to needed security oversight, expect approvals on many platforms to take longer. 

Labor shortages and wage increases: In all mediums there are also widespread labor shortages and and increased costs to keep workers, for all kinds of industries. Which means things will take longer to get done, prices will increase and there will be greater demand and  in some cases less supply.   

What can I do?: I am not the voice of doom and gloom. Plan ahead, pick your mediums early, reserve media and order paper in advance. Communicate with your consultants (of all kinds) including, direct mail, digital, phones and media firms early and often.

Pay for paper ahead: You will likely need to put a deposit on paper ahead of time to guarantee that the paper will be there when you need it. This is a reality for most direct mail firms these days.  Make sure that if your organization or campaign is working with a firm, you are communicating with them in advance on what you think your volume will be for both this spring and fall, ahead of time.

Give options: Ask for options that may be different than what your traditional mail looks like. Different kinds of stock, envelopes, and kinds of treatment may make your mail faster and easier to deliver. Many will work with you to plan out your pieces and give you options to get your mail out on time.

Be creative: The good news is that interesting treatments and different kinds of mail may mean better pieces and more creativity on the part of mail firms and campaigns. 

Don’t panic: Yes, increased prices, paper supply,  shipping and labor shortages make planning and organization a must. There are going to be problems, but the earlier you plan and the more you engage the better your program will be. We've thought through what problems to anticipate and how to plan ahead to be prepared. Download our supply chain memo for comprehensive document that overviews all things supply chain, including issues and solutions. 

Supply chain resources:

Have questions about supply chain issues are real and for political campaigns and nonprofits? Drop us a note or download our resource guide here.