Nonprofit Direct Mail Guide: How to send and save like a pro

Direct mail is a wonderful tool for nonprofits because donors like and trust the mail system.

Even though fundraising is the biggest challenge nonprofit organizations face, there are ways to make your campaign more streamlined and successful. One of the most effective methods of marketing for nonprofits is direct mail. There are strict rules you must follow to ensure your direct mail piece qualifies for the nonprofit postage rate and knowing them pays off. They can actually help you save on mailings. Here’s how.

Types of Nonprofit Postage

First, you need to know about the three types of nonprofit postage: stamp, meter and indicia. All of them have the same postage rate for nonprofits. The difference is in the look. Your mail service provider can affix stamps or meter the mail. Your printer or mail service provider can add an indicia. Many nonprofits use stamps when sending out appeals – they look more important – and indicias when sending informative mail, such as newsletters.

If you have your own permit with the post office, use that number on your indicia. If you don’t, use your mail service provider’s permit number. When using an indicia, you pay the post office to fund the permit. When reviewing proofs, always double check that the number is correct.

How to Get and Make the Most of Your Nonprofit Status

1. Apply for eligibility

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.

2. 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.

3. Save by mailing more

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.

4. 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.

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. 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.

7. Beware of raffle tickets

When mailing raffle tickets, create them with a suggested donation. On any other piece that mentions the raffle, include “no donation required to enter” or add a checkbox that reads: “Please enter my name in the drawing. I do not wish to make a donation at this time.” This will keep the raffle tickets in compliance with the USPS.

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. Your mail service provider 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 your mail provider. He 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.

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 your mail service provider 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.

Learn how to save on postage costs with Pitney Bowes Presort Services.