New USPS Rule May Mean Higher Rates for Nonprofits

A ruling from the U.S. Postal Service may mean higher mailing costs for nonprofit mailers come June 1.

At issue is the personalization of nonprofit mail pieces that contain a “dual purpose,” says Ellenor Kirkconnell, assistant director of Washington-based Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. For example, a letter sent to a donor that highlights the amount of his last donation for tax purposes and also asks for a future donation would be considered a dual-purpose letter.

The basic nonprofit rate for sending presorted mail is 16.5 cents per 3-oz. piece. But nonprofit mailers of dual-purpose pieces pay up to five times that rate, or 83 cents per 3-oz. piece. “Depending on the weight of the specific mail piece, the new rates could be crippling,” Kirkconnell says.

In April 2004, the USPS announced that “advances in technology,” including the widespread use of computers to generate letters customized for individual addressees, warranted “more explicit guidance” to mailers in this area. The past fall the Postal Service published new eligibility rules to take effect on June 1.

The revised rules, Kirkconnell says, while written to clarify the existing rules in fact altered them. The new rule allows “personal information” such as the year or graduation from an alumni office or how much money you?ve donated, in a nonprofit’s standard mail piece only if all three of the following conditions are met:

* The mail piece contains an “explicit solicitation” for a product or service for sale or lease, or an “explicit solicitation” for a donation.

* All of the personal information is “directly related” to the advertising or solicitation.

* The “exclusive reason” for including each item of personal information is to support the advertising or solicitation in the mail piece.

The good news for nonprofit catalogers is that they are not affected, says Kirkconnell, because it’s clear that the catalog is a solicitation piece.

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