Costs for mailing appeals, thank you notes and newsletters can be really put a strain on a non-profit’s budget. Fortunately, the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers special non-profit pricing that is lower than regular mail rates. However, not every nonprofit is eligible to use these rates. To qualify, an organization must be authorized by the USPS and even then, not all mail is subject to the special rates.
We get it….it can be confusing. We’ve outlined the basics of what you need to know to help determine whether or not your organization is eligible and if it is what to do next.
Only specific types of organizations or clubs will be authorized by the USPS to take advantage of the lower postal rates. The types of organizations eligible include those formed to serve an agricultural, educational, philanthropic, religious, scientific or veteran purpose. Some political committees are also eligible. Organizations such as Chambers of Commerce are not eligible.
Nonprofit organizations must submit an Application to Mail at Nonprofit Standard Mail Rates with the USPS office that will be used for their mailings. On the form, nonprofits will have to state their organization’s purpose and confirm their profits are for the organization and not an individual. Supporting documents, including the IRS Exemption form which deems an organization is a 501(c)(3) must be included with the application. Once approved, the rates may continue to be used provided a bulk mailing is sent out at least one time every two years.
Bulk Mailing Application
Nonprofits wanting to send bulk mail will have to apply for a bulk mail permit and pay an annual fee. The fee varies depending on the mailing method the organization plans to use. The 3 mailing methods are postage meter, pre-cancelled stamps and permit imprint.
- Postage Meter – The meter must be purchased by the organization and allows nonprofits to print the postage directly on their direct mail pieces. The benefit of this method is the ability to track daily postage expenditures.
- Pre-Cancelled Stamps – These stamps look like normal stamps but sell at a lower rate to organizations holding a bulk mail permit. Using pre-cancelled stamps makes the mail appear to have been sent via First Class which many nonprofits find a benefit.
- Permit Imprint – This is the most popular method as it is the most cost effective. No special equipment is required and postage can be printed right on the the envelope from any printer. The Post Office will subtract the amount used from the nonprofit’s account. The downside to this method is the annual fee is higher than the other two.
Although now armed with a permit, there are still requirements a nonprofit must follow. Failure to do so can result in civil or criminal fines being assessed. All mailings must truly be for the approved organization and not another nor an individual. Advertising for other organizations is strictly prohibited. Each mailing must be a minimum of 200 pieces or 50 pounds to be eligible for the bulk mail rates.
Preparing a Mailing
Before bringing the mailing to the post office, the non-profit organization must prepare it. The organization’s name must be on every envelope as well as within the mailing. Nonprofits should utilize a certification program to ensure that all addresses are correct. Additionally, the mailing must be presorted by zip code before it is delivered to the post office for mailing.