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mailinglistWhen you run a nonprofit organization, it can seem like your days are full, solving one urgent problem after another. Looking and planning ahead is more than just a pipe dream; it's something that we often fail to even take into consideration. With the constant need to focus on the present, it's far too easy to avoid planning for the future.

Really, though, one of the best ways to avoid being in this constant stage of playing catch-up is to set up a system where you plan for events in advance. Proactive is generally far more effective (and less stressful) than reactive. Consider this your heads-up alert that it is time to start preparing for mailing season.

The Importance of Mailing Season
Many nonprofits report that the majority of their donor support arrives between September and January of each year. This is traditionally the time of year when people are most likely to think about making charitable contributions. In the United States, much of this interest in personal philanthropy is fueled by the holiday season that includes Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is also the time when both individuals and companies are making their final donations in order to positively impact their end-of-year taxes.

Savvy nonprofits have found numerous ways to tap into this spirit of giving, with the direct mail approach being a perennial favorite. By planning in advance now, you can make this process much smoother and maximize your potential return on investment.

Preparing Your Mailing
Doing a great mailing that gets a good response takes a lot of preparation, which is why you're being encouraged to start now. Sit down with your marketing, development, and volunteer management people, and create a timeline that ensures everyone knows their role and how to play it. There are a number of things to consider, and this checklist should give you a good starting point. Add to it, and keep it from year to year so you don't have to reinvent the wheel in 12 months.

  • Compile all mailing lists from donor/volunteer databases, outside sources, etc.
  • Learn post office regulations regarding size, weight, number of pieces, proper procedures, etc.
  • Choose a theme, motif, or message for each mailing
  • Determine who will do the graphic design
  • Determine who will write the text
  • Coordinate mailing components
  • Shop for bids on printing (don't forget envelopes and response envelopes)
  • Award the contract and incorporate the printer's deadlines into your plan
  • Plan for staff/volunteers to stuff/sort/seal mailing OR hire a mailing house

Choose the date you want the mailing to reach your audience, and work backwards from there to set reasonable deadlines for each part of the process. It may seem very simple and obvious now, but taking the time to set this process in motion now will save you from at least one project that is all about putting out all of those little "fires" that pop up on a daily basis.

Postage Rates
Many nonprofits are able to qualify for reduced postage costs through the USPS. Generally speaking, you can expect to save about 40%. In order to get these lower rates, however, it's important to remember that you must apply in advance. Not every nonprofit will qualify, so you'll need to check out the guidelines. An *Application to Mail at Nonprofit Standard Mail Rates* form will also be required (PS Form 3624).

Along with this form, you may need to submit articles of incorporation or your organization's charter, in addition to proof of your tax-exempt status. You should also include a list of organizational activities for the previous 12 months, a budget for the current year, a financial statement for the previous fiscal year, and any other documents that explain your organization (brochures, meeting minutes, newsletters, etc.).

Another discount may be available to nonprofits if the pieces for a bulk mailing are less than 16 ounces and the organization is willing to separate them according to individual postal codes. For other regulations, opportunities, and information on how to apply, visit the Nonprofit Standard Mail page of the USPS website. Keywords: nonprofits, fundraising, direct mail, mailing season, strategy, marketing

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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