The U.S. Postal Service, in a major change to its eligibility rules, has proposed to exclude all merchandise from letter and flat-shaped Marketing Mail (formerly Standard Mail). The proposal, published in the Federal Register on August 23, 2018, would allow “[n]o merchandise or goods … of any type” to be included in letter or flat-shaped Marketing Mail, “regardless of ‘value.'” The restriction would apply to both nonprofit and commercial Marketing Mail.

The proposal, if it becomes final, could affect many nonprofit organizations and fundraising firms. Nonprofit fundraising solicitations often include merchandise as front-end or back-end premiums. Popular premiums include:

  • Paper goods (e.g., calendars, planners, grocery bags, address labels, pads of paper, greeting cards and postcards, postage stamps)
  • Other soft goods (e.g., socks, gloves, blankets, religious clothing, flags, and lightweight tote bags)
  • Small hard goods (e.g., rosaries, mini statues, pens, ornaments, mini flashlights, coins, and paper clips)

Nonprofit organizations also use Marketing Mail to circulate magazines, newsletters, or newspapers that cannot feasibly satisfy the subscriber or requester requirements for Periodical Mail rates.

For these kinds of matter, Marketing Mail is often the lowest-cost class of mail, and the most cost-effective channel of communication of any kind. (For a typical solicitation piece, the First-Class rate of postage can be 250% of the nonprofit Marketing Mail rate or more for the same piece.)

The Postal Service is accepting comments on the proposal until October 22, 2018. See 83 Fed. Reg. 42624 (2018). Venable helped the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers file comments on September 4, 2018.