Why pay more for postage than you need to?

Maximizing the financial resources in a nonprofit’s marketing budget can be a real balancing act. Even though there are digital and email options available to deliver a fund-raising message, there are many occasions where a traditional mailing makes the most sense.

As a graphic design company that creates fund-raising appeals including annual appeal mailings, marketing materials and more for nonprofit organizations, we hear a familiar complaint from nonprofits when they first approach us: they pay the United States Postal Service (USPS) too much for postage.

A nonprofit postage indicia can be utilized for mailings with a minimum of 200 pieces.

The good news is: with minimal effort on your part you can easily save up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in postage for your nonprofit organization. Understanding how to properly prepare mail and being aware of the options that are available make all the difference. For example, you can pay as little as $0.147 each to send a piece of mail.

In the Every Door Direct Mail program, or EDDM, the nonprofit postage rate can drop even more. A price of $0.086 per piece can get your mail delivered but additional requirements and limitations do apply which make this method of delivery less desirable for nonprofits.

Here are a few ways that nonprofits can save money on postage:

  • Be aware of the weight of your mailing. The nonprofit rate allows for up to 3.3 ounces versus 1 ounce for first regular class without an increase in postal fees. The USPS allows up to 2 ounces to be mailed at the first class presorted rate.
  • Be aware of the size and dimensions of your mailing. Certain sizes and dimensions will cost more.
  • Have your mail sorted, barcoded and organized
  • Obtain authorization from the USPS to mail at nonprofit rates
  • Utilize a mail house’s indicia to avoid the annual permit fee
Nonprofit indicia on professionally designed direct mail

What is an indicia?

An indicia is a rectangular indication to show postage prepayment by an authorized mailer. Basically, an indicia is used in place of a physical postage stamp and shows the USPS the permit information utilized to pay for a postcard, letter, self-mailer flat or envelope to be delivered.

An indicia can be utilized for mailings with a minimum of 200 pieces or, in the case of larger or heavier pieces, total weight must be at least 50 pounds (eg. 150, 6 oz. pieces). The mailings have special requirements on how and where they need to be delivered to the USPS, as well. An indicia will also save time because physical stamps don’t have to be applied to your mail pieces; they are pre-printed.

There are guidelines that need to be followed when preparing an indicia. Here is a partial list of requirements for your nonprofit indicia:

  • Line 1: “NONPROFIT ORG”
  • Line 2: “U.S. POSTAGE PAID“
  • Line 3: City and state where permit is held
  • Line 4: “PERMIT NO” and your permit number
  • The indicia must be legible and no smaller than 4pt text
  • It must appear to the upper right in relation to the delivery address

How much can your nonprofit save by using a nonprofit indicia?

Exact pricing will vary depending upon your list and whether it’s sorted into postal carrier routes. However, $0.147 each is the cheapest nonprofit (for noncarrier route mail) letter rate based on a #10 envelope weighing up to 3.3 ounces. If you mailed the same 3.3 ounce envelope via first class, it would cost the 3.5 ounce rate of $1.15 or 87.2% more!

Postage discounts are granted whenever you have many pieces of mail going to the same zip code. For example, if you have a minimum of 150 annual appeal letters being delivered to Morristown, NJ (zip code 07960), you will receive a lower rate than if you were mailing to 150 different zip codes spread throughout the United States. Similarly, there is a 3-digit rate. For example, if you have the requisite number of mail pieces going to Bergen and Essex Counties (of which all zip codes begin with “070”), the rate is just $0.164 per piece.)

USPS Form PS3624 application for nonprofit indicia

How to obtain a nonprofit indicia?

In order to obtain a nonprofit indicia, you will need to complete and submit postal form ps3624 (Application to Mail at Nonprofit Standard Mail Prices) along with required supporting documentation that will prove your nonprofit status. There is no application fee to complete the form. It can take approximately two weeks to receive approval once you submit your request so plan accordingly. Completing your application process online can save some time. Additionally, there is a $225 annual mailing fee that is required to maintain your indicia permit and the USPS reserves the right to revoke your indicia if you do not use it within a two-year period.

What happens if I don’t have my own nonprofit indicia?

You can use a nonprofit indicia from a commercial mail house if you do not have one of your own. You will also save $225 by not needing to pay the annual permit fee that the USPS charges to maintain a nonprofit indicia. However, you will still need to register and show proof of your nonprofit status, which may take approximately two weeks, then connect your status with the mailhouse indicia. Plan your schedule accordingly regarding the USPS nonprofit status or you could miss the nonprofit rate for your mailing is on a deadline.

Are there downsides to using a nonprofit indicia?

If your nonprofit meets certain requirements, making use of  a nonprofit indicia to reduce the cost of postage is a no-brainer. However, there are some things to be aware of:

  • Delivery speed can be drastically reduced versus first class mail (which takes from 1-3 days), to up to 21 days for nonprofit mail. Even though the USPS says “up to 21 days”, the pieces usually arrive within several days. Concentrated, local addresses have a good chance of arriving quickly, it’s just not guaranteed.
  • A minimum mailing of 200 pieces is required in order to receive the benefits of the indicia.
  • To have your own indicia, you need to mail at least once every 24 months or it can be revoked.
  • There are USPS requirements that need to be met and upheld.
  • The application process can take approximately two weeks. It’s faster than that if you file your application online.

How should you navigate USPS rules and regulations?

The USPS code book is long and confusing. There are many rules and regulations to follow and it is time well-saved to have Trillion help you design your appeals, postcards and mailings, and then organize the mailing. We understand the steps and timing in nonprofit mailings. We work closely with our trusted mail house partners as well as the USPS mail piece design analyst so we make sure your nonprofit’s appeals and mailings look great and are saving as much money on postage as possible.

Want to hear more? Give Trillion a call at 908.219.4703. You can also share a few details about your project or challenges with us in our contact form and one of our partners will reply to you promptly. You may also enjoy our article titled “6 Steps for an Effective, Successful Annual Appeal Campaign“.