But Didn't The Post Office Just Raise Rates?
Postal rates are going up on July 10th and, yes, they did just go up. The last increase was less than a year ago and, looking at the past 18 months, the increase averages between 16-20%. USPS is predicting they will go up another 3-5% next January. Here's a rundown on the costs.
Some in the nonprofit world may just shrug and say, "A letter? How old school!" However, nonprofits still account for about 10 percent of the mail that passes through the U.S. Postal Service and, used effectively, direct mail can still be an important part of a nonprofit's communications program. Some even argue that, as the overall number of letters people receive shrinks, mail is an even more effective way to get donors' attention.
So here are five ways to soften the blow of the rate increases.
Forever Is Now! If you have the cash, you can always stock up on Forever Stamps before the rates go up. This time around, Forever Stamps are only going up two cents, from 58-60 cents. No one knows what the next increase will bring. As nonprofits know, every penny counts.
Check Your List, Check It Twice - Sending mail that gets returned is always a waste of money, but with rates going up, you really don't want to have bad addresses on your list. You should be tracking your mail returns anyway. If you are large enough to afford the fee, you can use the Postal Service's National Change of Address (NCOA) service. Check with your donor database company to see if they offer NCOA checks with their programs.
Cull Your List - You don't need to send to every donor. Know who you want to reach and why before you launch a direct mail campaign. I write this as I think about the thick solicitation packet I still receive from a nonprofit about 10 years after I made my last donation. "Guys, I don't need another note pad and address labels with puppies on them. Seriously!"
Design With ROI In Mind - Understand your return on investment as you work with your designer and mailer. Will more weight bring in more revenue? In that case, higher rates are not a problem, but if it won't increase your revenue, why add that extra frill?
Mail Plus Email Equals Success - Direct mail can be a very effective tool, when used properly, but combining targeted direct mail with strategic emails can supercharge your campaign. Marketers frequently say that it takes several "touches" to motivate people to buy a product or, in the case of nonprofits, give to a cause. When you combine a letter with email and other digital communications, it can motivate donors to action. in fact, according to Nonprofit Source, "Marketing campaigns that used direct mail and one or more digital media experienced 118% lift in response rate compared to using direct mail only."
The bottom line is that postage rates will hurt nonprofits that do a lot of mailing, but there are many ways to soften the blow. If it makes your organization become more strategic about the way it communicates with donors, it could be a positive.
If we can help you develop an integrated communications plan to reach your donors, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.