Nonprofit Mailing Rules Clarified

Posted by on July 8, 2005

[posted from CTCNet Policy Email]

Nonprofit Postage Rulemaking Threat Averted

On April 28, the United States Postal Service (USPS) and several key nonprofit sector mailing interests reached an accord, clarifying a set of postal rules regarding personalized mass mailings.

At issue were a set of rule changes, scheduled to take effect June 1, 2005, that would have affected the standards used to determine whether mass-mailed personalized letters sent by organizations through the postal service would
qualify for the Nonprofit Standard mail rate (currently $0.13 per piece) or the First Class rate (currently $0.37 per piece). Without the April 2005 clarifications in place, nonprofits would have faced the prospect of the higher mail rate– at a reportedly 300% increase in mailing costs– with stricter limits on the type of mail that could be sent.

In April 2004, USPS issued a set of proposed rule changes that sought to clarify what constituted personalized mail. Almost immediately, nonprofits expressed concern that the proposed rules lacked a clear understanding of standards and
widely-implemented practices utilized and followed by nonprofit organizations and the commercial vendors serving them. During the better portion of 2004, thousands of mailings were sent as examples by nonprofits from across the
country to the USPS Pricing and Classification Service Center in New York for review.

A coalition of six groups– the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation, the Direct Marketing Association of Washington, D.C., the Direct
Marketing Fundraisers Association and the National Catholic Development Conference– worked to educate USPS about nonprofit sector practices and needs regarding personalized mass mailings, especially with respect to communications
with members and donors. That same group pushed for better guidance and clarification to eliminate the duplicative, if not restrictive, parameters which had been proposed.

Under the new rules in effect, the following pieces of mass mail can be sent at the Nonprofit Standard mail rate:

— invitations to join an organization
— membership renewals
— offers or solicitations acknowledging the payment of a contribution or membership dues, that also invites the addressee to purchase goods or services available from the mailer or offered as a membership benefit
— requests for purchase or lease of goods or services from the specific organization described in the mailing
— requests to make a donations or purchase by visiting an organization’s Web site
— requests for additional donations or volunteer time
— requests for donations of resources, time, and/or services for third parties
— requests to enroll in an organization’s educational institution or program
— requests to return an opinion survey, petition, open letter; or to fill out a note or card
— requests or recommendations that the addressee read literature enclosed in the mailing or take any other action that relates to the educational or other qualifying purpose of the organization

Further clarification regarding the new rules, as well as an online listing of additional resources and recommended commercial firms to assist nonprofits with their mailing needs is available online from the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers.

Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers
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"Eligibility Rules for Nonprofit Standard Mail"
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