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Back-End Fulfillment 101 ½  

Production Solutions

Scene: Your home office, Zoom call number nine-hundred and sixty-three billion…

DM team: Let’s mail a back-end premium!

You: Great! We’ll need to talk ab-

DM team: How quickly can you make it happen?

You: We’ll need to resea-

DM team: Can we run with it for our appeal next month?


Isn’t it ironic that creating and managing a back-end fulfillment campaign isn’t all that fulfilling?

It takes time and planning (and more time and more planning), but for many organizations the results are worth it. If you’re thinking about diving into back-end premiums, or maybe you’ve recently had a meeting like the fictional one above, we’re here to help! We’ll begin with sharing what, precisely, goes into the fulfillment of your back-end premium. There are quite a few moving parts, conveniently outlined for you below.

    • Premium selection & supplier pricing
      • Campaign analysis (how many premiums do you expect to fulfill?)
    • Premium delivery schedule
      • Time commitment to donors

NOTE: Don’t forget to ask for a high-res digital image of your final premium for printing on any collaterals for the campaign (or low-res if your campaign is strictly digital).

    • Selecting the right supplier (location, size, capabilities)
    • Packaging
    • Delivery methods and associated cost
    • How long to run the campaign
    • Cadence of file pulls
    • How to fulfill outliers (those folks that dribble in months after the campaign has ended)
    • Warehousing costs

Though this is by no means an exhaustive list, it does offer a good place to start. If you’ve got the time, we’ve taken the liberty to flesh out some of the list above.


When it comes to premiums, if you can dream it, you can buy it. There are so many different options, and then levels within those options, it’s a topic deserving of its own post. For our purposes here, we’ll limit our discussion to how premiums drive your fulfillment campaign. Once you’ve selected and priced a premium (or several); it’s important to fully understand the delivery schedule that your manufacturer provides. Most importantly, you’ll need to ensure that the premiums will deliver to your fulfillment partner in proper time to meet the commitment of your campaign.

Most organizations typically offer a window of time to deliver on their promise to their prospective donors, say 4-6 weeks after receipt of a donation.  If you back out shipping time, picking and packing time, time it takes to process the files, cadence of file pulling and finally, the donation processing time, that 4-6 weeks gets eaten up pretty quickly. It’s critical to have the premiums in your fulfillment partners’ hands by the drop date of your campaign (or send date if you are handling a digital or SMS campaign).

So you’ve secured your premiums and have your schedule, how are you going to get these in the hands of your donors?

Selecting a supplier partner that specializes in fulfillment is your best bet to quickly handle any back-end premium campaign. They possess a vast amount of knowledge about packaging, postage, and cost-saving ideas you can leverage to get up and running quickly while minimizing expense. When selecting a fulfillment partner it’s important to keep in mind where your premiums are being manufactured (overseas generally come into a specific port, unless you are paying for air freight… do not recommend), where you will be sending your completed packages (all US, internationally, etc.), and the size of your campaign (how many skids will need to be stored, how many pieces are going to be fulfilled over what length of time, etc.).

All of these items will weigh in your decision of who to partner with; are they close to your manufacturer or port of entry? How much will freight cost to get your premiums to your fulfillment house? How much space do they have to store your items? Are they equipped and staffed appropriately for your project, small or large? Do they have experience in shipping internationally? Do they have multiple locations to fulfill large campaigns more efficiently across the US?

It’s a good idea to involve your fulfillment partner from the very earliest planning stages so that they can advise you as to what kind of materials you may need to pack and ship that glass ornament, or sustainable package offerings for your bamboo utensils premium, as well as the costs associated with all the available options.

Having a complete picture of the cost of the premium is critical to developing the right ask in your campaign. Be sure to research different packaging options, boxes vs. poly bagging, or costs associated with including a personalized or generic thank you insert for your donor. Each of these add to the total cost of that premium.

BTW: Did you know that fulfillment costs, including postage, can sometimes be MORE than the premium itself?

And speaking of postage, are you intending to mail first-class? Nonprofit? Will there be a weight surcharge? Shape surcharge? How does the class of mail play into your delivery commitment to your donors? Do you have the time to mail it nonprofit? Or is it a luxury premium for your Hi$ donors that needs to be trackable (Priority Mail or UPS) when it is mailed? Again, your partner can provide solid numbers for all options here as well.

How often are you planning on pulling that file of donors that are eligible to receive the premium? Weekly? Bi-weekly? In addition to packaging and postage costs, there are costs associated with running the file for each fulfillment effort, and those should be weighed against the number of names you expect to yield with each file pull. For example, $250 to fulfill 1,000 names is only $0.25 per name, but $250 to fulfill 5 names, well, you get the idea.

To that end, it’s also important to plan both when you will start (first file pull) AND stop the campaign with your partner. And once the campaign has ended, how do you intend to get premiums out to donors that come in late? (We all know it’s going to happen). One idea is to have a number shipped directly to your offices, where your donor services folks can handle the one-off requests. Your fulfillment partner can work with you on pre-packaging a set number for shipment and sending them to you for an additional fee.

Another, often overlooked, cost is warehousing the skids of materials both while the campaign is ongoing as well as after it is completed. For large premiums and/or campaigns, these storage costs can add up quickly. So though it is better to over-estimate your premium needs (you never want to run out), understanding the impact of having tons of expensive inventory leftover is critical to a campaigns’ success.

So, there you have it, Fulfillment 101 ½ (there was just too much to call it 101). Daunting, we know, which is why we’re here. Production Solutions lives and breathes all things direct mail. If it’s all too much, rest easy and know we’ve got you covered for your next back-end fulfillment campaign. Until next time, happy mailing!