The Chronicle of Philanthropy—New Postal Rates Will Boost Costs for Charities


By Timothy Sandoval

December 27, 2016

Nonprofits will pay anywhere from 2.8 percent to 4.3 percent more in 2017 to ship presorted fundraising, promotional, or informational letters, also known as standard-mail letters.

Under new postage rates set to go into effect January 22, many nonprofits can also expect to pay more to send standard-mail “flats,” like calendars and small publications, and first-class mail, such as personal letters.

How much a nonprofit will pay in total for postage depends on numerous factors, like the size and weight of a piece of mail and whether it’s sorted for delivery.

The rate changes will not hit nonprofit publishers as hard as increases imposed in 2015, when some groups saw postage costs soar by more than 10 percent. Organizations that send periodicals like magazines and newsletters will see no more than a 0.9 percent bump in costs to mail their publications, and many will likely see costs fall, according to United States Postal Service estimates.

Nonprofit publisher Guideposts, for instance, projects no cost increase in 2017 to mail its monthly magazine, said Jim Asselmeyer, the group’s vice president of operations and a trustee for the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. However, Guideposts expects a 2 percent increase in its overall postage expenses, which also encompass letters, flats, and books.

‘Marketing’ Change

The Postal Service’s decision to refer to standard mail as “marketing mail” starting next month is also worrying nonprofits.

Charities are concerned that direct-mail pieces that bear markings with the word “standard” will now read “marketing” and more recipients will throw them out.

“We don’t think it’s a good idea,” Mr. Asselmeyer said, adding that he hopes the post office will work with nonprofits to help them manage the change.

Mr. Asselmeyer said nonprofits that do extensive mailing also need to pay close attention next year to proposals to overhaul how the Postal Service determines annual rate increases.

A 2006 law forced the post office to tie postage rates to inflation, but the federal Postal Regulatory Commission will review that system in 2017 and could propose changes. The commission is accepting public comments until early spring.

“We’re kind of all in a waiting game for probably the next year to find out what is going to be the system going forward,” Mr. Asselmeyer said. Most nonprofit mailers prefer the current rate structure because it prevents large spikes in prices from year to year, he said.