The United States Postal Service has been struggling financially for the last few years. with pre-paying its future retiree benefits for a decade (2006-2016), a demand uniquely imposed on the USPS. Bush’s policy meant the service went from profits in the $1.4 billion range in 2005 to one that has laid off thousands of works, closed numerous branches, and still needs to raise postal rates in an effort just to stay open. So what he did to the postal service he did to the country.
This past Monday many postal rates changed. For example, first-class mail went up by a penny and its guaranteed one-day delivery (depending on distance) was removed. Or perhaps you didn’t notice?
Leaving aside the Bush Administration’s eight-year effort to sabotage the government, then point out how government is broken, the Postal Service certainly was blindsided by the internet. So much information (advertisements, coupons, newsletters, birthday wishes…) moves electronically nowadays that the rise in postal rates hardly warranted mention in the news or blogosphere.
Yet for nonprofits, for whom mail remains an important medium of outreach, the news is actually pretty good. Letter-sized mail for nonprofits has been slightly reduced, though the nonprofit Flat Rate (for 8.5 by 11″ envelopes) has been absorbed into the commercial Flat Rate – a rise of fifteen cents.
Roger Telschow, President of , a green printing service in Silver Springs MD, suggests some strategies to make the changes in postal rates work for your nonprofit. “Large acquisition mailings carry an elevated risk/reward ratio, especially for smaller organizations. Use smaller, more targeted mailings whenever possible, and choose lists with laser beam focus.” This effort requires your organization to keep an up-to-date database to avoid sending new mail to old addresses – a guaranteed loss.
Roger also points out the advantage of sending important materials First Class: “For timely issues like legislative alerts or high donor appeals, send them First Class. Note that new rates will make the second ounce a freebie.” That’s true, as we noted above, if the mailing goes out in a traditional No.10 envelope, not by larger flat rates.
Finally, he noted the need to pay attention to the metrics of your organization’s mailings – something any nonprofit should have always been doing: “Implement a strict data collection protocol. Collect information about giving or purchase amounts and dates. Is the constituent likelier to respond online or from print? Consider even an informal poll of donors. Why do people believe in you? Qualitative information from a few dozen conversations may reveal a lot.”
We appreciate, even if the impact and reaction to the rise in rates is not what it was a decade ago.