Nonprofits weigh in with PRC Commissioners

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April 6, 2017

Notes from many friends in the nonprofit sector

Leaders in over 30 nonprofit organizations took the unusual step (for them) to write a letter or declaration to the Commissioners of the Postal Regulatory Commission. They urged the Commissioners to retain the current system of regulating postal rates. The future of nonprofit mailers is now largely in the hands of these four Commissioners until they issue their order in the fall of 2017. Then we will engage in a public process to determine how postage rates will be set and regulated.

We have provided brief excerpts from the nonprofit letters to the Commissioners below, along with links to the full comments.

Declarations by nonprofits in support of the Alliance comments:

American Lung Association: Craig Finstad, Assistant Vice President, Direct Response— “Above-inflation increases in the postal rates charged for market dominant products would hamper ALA’s ability to fight lung disease.”

Consumer Reports: Meta Brophy, Director, Procurement Operations— “Allowing the Postal Service to increase postal rates faster than inflation is likely to have a negative effect on our ability to acquire and retain customers and donors who support our operations and allow us to work with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier marketplace.”

Disabled American Veterans: Tracey Burgoon, Director of Direct Marketing— “Use of direct mail — primarily nonprofit outgoing and first class return mail — is vital to our organization’s ability to disseminate important information, raise funds, and fulfill its charitable purpose. Direct mail generates more than 85 percent of DAV’s annual donations and more than 90 percent of its membership dues.”

Guideposts: David O’Sullivan, Postal Affairs Manager— “Removal of the CPI cap, which would allow the Postal Service to increase postal rates faster than inflation, would have a crippling effect on our mission. We could not avoid the increased postal costs by substituting electronic channels of communication.”

National Wildlife Federation: Sandra Miao, Director of Membership— “Allowing the USPS to increase its market-dominant rates faster than inflation would increase NWF’s fundraising costs and reduce the funds available for our programs. NWF would immediately be forced to reduce the quantity of mail for its fundraising appeals and renewals, magazines, and other important publications and switch to alternative channels of communication. This would greatly impair NWF’s effectiveness: a large portion of our donors and target audience still prefer receiving print publications, which can depict nature and wildlife more vividly than, for example, telemarketing can.”

Letters sent to the Commissioners in support of the current system:

Alzheimer’s Association: Donna W. McCullough, Chief Development Officer— “Increases in postage above inflation will lead us to reduce the main elements of our critical mission. The Alzheimer’s Association advances research to end Alzheimer’s and other dementias while enhancing care for those living with the disease. The Association reaches millions of people affected by Alzheimer’s across the globe, and the post office is critical in these efforts.”

American Institute for Cancer Research: Kelly B. Browning, Chief Executive Officer— “The cost of mail for the charitable sector must remain affordable so that we can continue to serve our constituents, deliver vital programs and services and save lives. We strongly support the existing law regarding the way nonprofit rates are calculated and the formula for limiting increases in all postal rates (the CPI inflation cap on postage increases). These laws were passed by Congress to provide a stable and predictable model for charities and other mailers to rely on when planning their business activities. It is vital that these agreed-upon provisions remain for the financial security of America’s charities.”

American Lung Association: Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO— “Since the launch of the Christmas Seals© campaign 110 years ago – the very first direct mail fundraiser – direct mail has been a crucial component of Lung Association’s work. Today, direct mail generates over twenty-five percent of Lung Association’s income from public donations and remains the single largest source of donation income to the charity… If the CPI cap were removed and the postal service were free to increase postal rates faster than inflation, it would reduce the American Lung Association’s ability to raise significant funding using the mail to combat lung disease. Further rate increases would force ALA’s Board of Directors and management to divert resources away from direct mail operations and attempt to replace that revenue stream through alternative channels, which would also result in fewer first class responses.”

American Parkinson Disease Association: Stephanie Paul, Vice President of Development & Marketing– “We write today in support of predictable CPI-capped rates.”

America’s VetDogs: Wells B. Jones, Chief Executive Officer— “We strive to be prudent fiduciary stewards of our donors’ support. Postage increases greater than the general inflation rate will have a negative impact on organizations that rely on mail programs to fund their operations, including America’s VetDogs.”

Amnesty International: Tricia Hart, Director of Direct Response and Development Operations– “I am writing on behalf of Amnesty International and our 200,000 members nationwide to ask that you not change the current postal rate system. Stable postage rates that remain at or below the Consumer Price Index (CPI) are critical to our ability to fulfil our mission.”

Catholic Charity Appeal: Robert J. Corcoran, Director, Office of Stewardship & Development– “In conclusion, I would like to once again emphasize that a rate increase would be detrimental in our efforts to raise our goal of $8,000,000 this year and in the future. On behalf of all those desperate individuals and families who turn to the Church in Providence during their hour of need, I ask for your kind consideration in this matter.”

The Children’s Inn at NIH: Abby Case, Assistant Director, Annual Giving— “Last year, The Children’s Inn was able to help 1,572 children and families staying at The Inn by providing not only a “place like home” but also family meals, arts and crafts for the children, and calling cards so families can stay in touch while receiving treatments at the NIH. Knowing that postage rates are regulated using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) gives us peace of mind. Allowing the U.S. Postal Service to set its own rates and increase them at will would be detrimental to our mission. Raising the postal rate by even a few cents can have a far-reaching impact.”

Christian Appalachian Project: Guy Adams, President, CEO— “We are doing everything we possibly can to keep costs at a minimum so that we can serve people in desperate need here in the Appalachian region. We need your help and the help of the Postal Regulatory Commission. We simply cannot afford postage increases over the Consumer Price Index. I hope and pray we can count on you to understand and act on the importance of the CPI inflation cap on postage increases. Help us help people in need in Appalachia.”

Compassion International: Joe Cammaroto, Distribution Services Manager— “Compassion prides itself on being able to provide approximately 80% of the monthly support directly to the child, and 20% for operating expenses. A large part of being able to maintain that ratio is being able to utilize nonprofit postage rates. Increases above the CPI could put our mission in jeopardy as increased cost would cut into our 80/20 ratio. This in turn could force us to increase the monthly sponsorship rate. Compassion is a 65-year-old organization, and our history tells us that increasing the rate for sponsorship causes cancellations and lost support to the children. If our partners in the countries we serve do not receive the support they need, children will need to be turned away. These children will continue to live in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.”

Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation: Andrea Stancik, Executive Director– “Simply put, if postal rates increase significantly or unpredictably, then our programs and services are at risk. It would hamper our ability to raise funds for research. And we could not afford to mail out as many publications or offer our programs for free. More than 30% of the people we serve are unable to afford a postage stamp.”

The Elks Magazine: Phil Claiborne, Director of Circulation– “The Great Recession was a stress test of the CPI-U rate cap. With the infusion of exigent revenue, limited borrowing, network reorganization and head-count reduction through attrition, the USPS is achieving revenue slightly better than controllable expenses. They are progressing with delivery vehicle replacement and making great strides in delivery performance. Without the discipline of the cap, we shudder to think where we would be otherwise.”

Food for the Poor: Angel A. Aloma, Executive Director– “Increases in postage above inflation will lead us to reduce the main elements of our critical mission. As our mission is a life-saving one, it puts us in the horrible position of having to choose which child will be saved and which will face starvation and death. Please do not change the current postal rate system. It balances the objectives and factors required by law in a way that no replacement system could.”

Franciscan Mission Associates: Fr. Robert M. Campagna, O.E.M, Provincial and Director of FMA and Madeline Bonnici, Executive Director OFM Affìl. — “Our mission is to secure, through direct mail, material support for the work of the Franciscan friars in our missions in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador… We think you can see our concern if our mailings must be cut due to postage increases. Mail is an integral part of our success. Due to the recession and economic conditions our work and budget has already been affected. It has caused a reduction in funds raised and we cannot afford postage increases over the CPI.”

Guide Dog Foundation: Wells B. Jones, Chief Executive Officer— “The funding that comes from direct mail is vital to our operations, and its importance extends beyond the revenue it generates. As more people with disabilities discover the benefits of guide and service dogs, our waiting lists grow. It is imperative that we increase our donor base to meet the demand for these special animals.”

Jewish Voice Ministries International: Matt Panos, Chief Development Officer– “Increases in postage above inflation will lead us to reduce the main elements of our critical mission, which is to provide humanitarian relief to impoverished Jewish people in Africa and other parts of the world and to educate the Church concerning Israel and the Jewish people.”

Lupus Foundation of America: Shane P. Yost, Director, Individual and Foundation Giving– “Stable postal rates that remain at or below the Consumer Price Index (CPI) are vital to our ability to continue our mission.”

March of Dimes Foundation: Stacey D. Stewart, President— “As one of the largest nonprofit mailers in the country, we send over 65 million pieces each year, generating approximately 23 percent of our 2016 budget. Given this volume of mail, even a slight increase in postage rates would have a significant impact on our ability to continue these mailings and therefore to carry out our mission. In order to maintain this critical source of income, we would be forced to divert funds from other activities. Every dollar we are compelled to spend on administrative costs, such as postage, is a dollar that could be spent directly fighting prematurity and promoting positive birth outcomes.”

Marine Toys for Tots Foundation: H.P. Osman, President & CEO— “Removing the CPI cap would quickly lead to postal rate increases that would significantly reduce mailings, resulting in decreased revenue, and ultimately affecting our ability to reach as many less fortunate children as possible. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is strongly urging you to keep the CPI inflation cap attached to postal rate increases.”

Mindful: Andrew Karr, Chair of the Board– “Journalism in the internet age is a very challenging business, and our non-profit mission makes it that much more difficult to fund. Increases in postal rates above the rate of inflation will seriously impact our ability to continue to provide people with trusted, high quality content about mindfulness, and its impact on their health, their relationships and on society.”

National Catholic Development Conference: Sr. Georgette Lehmuth, President and CEO— “Each time postal rates increase our members have to make difficult choices. Do they continue to mail the same volume at higher rates or do they mail less in order to stay within their budgets? If they mail less, they will receive less income. If they mail at the same rate, the additional costs will result in less money available for services. Even minimal mail cost increases can impact our causes. Consider, for example, what difference will a loss of $10,000 make in the lives of those in need? Here are just a few examples: 8,000 less meals served; 2,000 less coats to distribute; 1,000 less places in shelters. The most requested items in food pantries are diapers. There would be 75,000 less diapers to distribute. This is why the current CPI cap is so critical to our charities. Postal rates above inflation will cripple our efforts.”

National Children’s Cancer Society: Mark Stoltz, President and CEO— “All of these vital program services are jeopardized by continuous increases in program expenses, such as postal rate hikes, and they only serve to diminish our ability to assist these families. On behalf of all of the families we serve I ask that you give serious consideration to ensure that no increase in the postal rate occur at this time. Please allow us the opportunity to assist as many children with cancer as possible.”

Oblate Missions: William B. Rondeau, Director of Fundraising– “Well over 50 years ago Oblate Missions started using direct mail solicitation as a way to raise funds to support their work with the most poor and abandoned. The direct mail appeals and campaigns have been the major source of operational income for the Oblates charitable efforts since those early days. Over the years US Postal rates have been on a steady increase; moreover, the Oblate Missions 2016 postal bill hit an all time high of $2,408,768.18. This number in now almost 25% of the total operational cost here in our San Antonio, TX location.”

PESI: Michael Connor, Executive Director— “Postage is a huge part of our budget. ln 2016, we paid more than $8.4 million. Any increase in postage – especially above inflation – will lead to decreased mailings. And fewer mailings hinder our mission to educate and instruct, and impact those in the helping professions that need these vital training to change and save lives.”

Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ: Terry Sanders, Vice President, Development— “The poor, the hungry, the homeless, the abused, and those suffering many other tragedies and injustices must have our help. The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, along with nearly all organizations in the U.S., rely on charitable donations to allow us to carry out our mission. Direct mail campaigns make up a significant part of our budgets. Approximately 75% of our income would be at risk.”

SOS Children’s Villages USA: Craig S. Sarsony, Chief Operating Officer– “We are heavily reliant on the U.S. Postal Service to help us raise precious funding for our programs and communicate with our Child Sponsors, our supporters, and our prospective donors.”

Trinity Missions: Colleen McEvoy Director, Integrated Fundraising & Communications– “In these trying financial times, it is important to remember those less fortunate. It is non-profits like ours that meet many of the daily needs for individuals and families who may fall through the gaps, who are struggling just to get by. They deserve our help…more importantly they deserve your help as well.”

WETA: Sheryl Lahti, Executive Director, Development Operations– “Be it the beautiful music and opera on Classical WETA or beloved programs on WETA TV such as the PBS NewsHour, Nature, NOVA, Frontline, wonderful documentaries by Ken Burns or the lineup of commercial-free educational children’s programs, member support helps WETA to produce and broadcast programs that educate, inspire, and entertain. A significant portion of those funds is raised through the U.S. Mail system, and our ability to raise those funds would be compromised through higher postal rates.”

Whitman Walker Health: David D. Mallory, Director of Annual Giving– “I am writing to you today on behalf of Whitman-Walker Health, our current patients, and the thousands of people living in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia who are unable to afford basic healthcare. Our mission is to be the highest quality, culturally competent community health center serving greater Washington’s diverse urban community, including individuals who face barriers to accessing care, and with a special expertise in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) and HIV care. In order to live up to our mission, we rely heavily on the United States Postal Service to raise funds and to communicate with our donors.”

Wounded Warrior Project: Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, Ret., Chief Executive Officer— “This month, Wounded Warrior Project registered its 100,000th warrior; over the past three months alone, we have registered 3,830 warriors and family members. These numbers demonstrate that the need for services is great and growing. Given this need, it is imperative that we keep mail costs to a minimum and maximize our efforts to connect, serve, and empower the population we serve.”