Direct Mail for Nonprofits 101

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Direct Mail for Nonprofits 101

If you work for a nonprofit, fundraising is one of the biggest challenges your organization will face. Direct Mail is one of the most effective marketing methods for nonprofits and there are ways to make your campaign a success. In order to qualify for nonprofit rates you must adhere to certain rules – but following these rules will pay off incredibly in postage savings.

Types of Nonprofit Postage

First, you need to know about the three types of nonprofit postage: stamp, meter and indicia. All of these will have the same postage rate for nonprofits. The only difference is in the look of the piece. As your mail service we can use any of the three types.. Many nonprofits use stamps when sending out appeals – they look more important – and an indicia when sending informative mail, such as newsletters.

If you have your own permit with the post office, we can use that number on your indicia. If you don’t have a permit, you can use our permit number. When using an indicia, you pay the post office to all funds to the permit.

** Keep in mind prior to printing always double check that the indicia number is correct on the type you will be utilizing.

How to Obtain Nonprofit Status

You must apply with the post office to be eligible for nonprofit rates. To apply, complete this form and send it into your local post office: Expect this process to take a few weeks.


Utilizing your Nonprofit Status

Now that you have nonprofit status, there are a few USPS rules you must follow.

1. Quantity Counts

Nonprofit mailings are treated like standard mail by the post office with the same delivery standards. This means that you must have at least 200 pieces in order to mail. You may also qualify to mail if you have at least 50 pounds of bulky items. If you only have 190 addresses on your list, it’s worth it to address the extra 10 mail pieces to yourself since the postage rate for nonprofits is much lower. You will save money.

2. Double check eligibility.

There is a six-step process to determine if your content is eligible for nonprofit rates, which you can find here. The bottom line is that your direct mail cannot be selling something for profit.

3. Brand your direct mail.

You must include your organization’s name and return address on the outer envelope, and prominently on the inside piece, such as on the letterhead. The return address must match the address on file with the post office-approved nonprofit authorization forms. You should be doing this as part of branding your nonprofit.

You can find further details in the USPS’s Nonprofit Standard Mail Eligibility publication.

Money-Saving Checklist for Nonprofit Mailings

The first and easiest way to save money is to reduce your postage. Being a nonprofit, this is critical. Here are four more ways to save:

1. Update mailing lists.

Save on postage by making sure your mailing list is current. We can run a NCOA (National Change of Address) on your list to update addresses for people who have moved and drop addresses when new ones are not available. Make sure you are provided with any new information so you can update your in-house mailing list.

2. Check your design.

Run your mail piece designs by us – we can help you spot potential issues before you are charged unnecessary postage costs. Possible concerns include advertisements that would disqualify you from nonprofit eligibility, along with color and formatting that is not automation-compatible.

3. Check your weight.

Don’t overload your envelopes. For the best postage rates, keep the weight under 3 ounces. You can use fewer inserts or thinner paper stock to help keep you below the threshold.

4. Pay attention to paper.

Save on printing costs by buying paper on sale or getting it donated by a paper company. Also make sure you are not printing too many copies. Normal spoilage on direct mail is 10 percent, but in high quantities, that percentage will go down. Work with your mail provider to figure out the best quantity.

5. Mail with another nonprofit.

You can do a cooperative mailing with another organization and mail at nonprofit rates as long as both organizations are approved for nonprofit status with the post office. If the zoo partnered with the local food bank on a food drive, and both entities are registered as nonprofits with the post office, they are both allowed to send the mail at nonprofit rates to their separate donor lists.

6. Don’t share with for-profits.

You must only mail pieces that benefit the organization with the nonprofit authorization. You cannot mail on behalf of another company. For example, a business (for profit) approaches the zoo (non-profit) about sponsoring an event and wants to use the zoo’s postage permit for the mailing. This would NOT be acceptable, as the event is not benefitting the zoo.

Direct mail is a wonderful tool for nonprofits because donors like and trust the mail system. It’s also very cost-conscious when done correctly. Work with us to put together a personalized savings plan. Successful nonprofit direct mail is a balance between the story, the list and the design. When they all work together, you can exceed your fundraising goals.