Bulk Mailing: Cut Your Postage Costs in Half

Every Nonprofit that does direct mail marketing (sends out an appeal letter, or newsletter) should consider using a Nonprofit bulk mailing permit. They can be purchased from the post office for a nominal annual fee. It requires a little more footwork (hopefully you have some volunteers) but it will cut the cost of your postage in half.

The US Post Office is a monopoly when it comes to sending bulk mail. There simply is no other choice in the matter that can come even close to matching their efficiency and cost effectiveness. It also means you have to play by their extensive list of rules. Navigating the USPS website and publications can be a daunting task. In the next few paragraphs I will break down some of the basics for you and provide further resources to help make your bulk mailing trip a little smoother.

Signing Up For a Bulk Permit
To sign up for a Nonprofit Bulk Mailing Permit you must complete PS Form 3624, Application to Mail at Nonprofit Standard Mail Rates.  I suggest printing the form and filling it out before going to the post office. The form will need to be signed by someone in authority at your organization such as the Executive Director.

The form itself is rather simple, but there are a few documents you need to provide with the form.

  1. Your 501(c)3 letter.
  2. Your Articles of Incorporation.
  3. Several copies of your organizations brochures, newsletters, financial statements, meeting minutes, or membership applications.

Once you’ve completed the form and collected the necessary documents you must turn in the packet to whatever post office you will be doing your mailing from. This is important, you will only be able to mail from the post office you are turning the form in to and it must have a bulk mail department. You can deposit mail at another post office, but you must fill out a different form at that facility to be able to deposit there.

Assembling The Mailing
Once you have been approved for a permit you will be given an account number and a mailing number that you will need when you do your mailing. Let’s go step by step through the process of actually mailing out a newsletter.

Let’s assume you want to send out a one page appeal letter to 5,000 people. You must have a minimum of 200 to send via bulk permit.

The first thing you are going to have to do is get some envelopes. I have my envelopes printed at a local printer. I also like to use windowed envelopes, so I can have the persons name printed on my letter and folded so it shows in the envelope. This way I don’t have to deal with sticking labels or printing straight onto the envelope.

The Indicia
The most important part of you envelope is the indicia. The indicia is a little square that includes specific wording and your bullk mail number. The indicia takes the place of your postage and should be printed on the top right corner of your envelope. For standard bulk mail it should look something like this.Bulk Mailing Indicia

I like to print my appeal letters in house, and using a mail merge also print the names and addresses of the people I’m sending to on the letter. Once you have your envelopes printed and your appeal letter ready to go you will have to figure out how to get those letters stuffed into the envelopes.

Volunteers Are Your Greatest Asset
This is where volunteers will be your greatest asset. Volunteers are eager to help out in anyway they can, folding and stuffing envelopes is a simple stress free task they can help with. I personally do a monthly mailing of 5,000 appeal letters and have a small group of about 10 volunteers who consistently come in to fold and stuff. They love doing it because while stuffing they can chat and the whole group has become good friends. If you can’t find the volunteers to do this and don’t want to put in the time yourself you can take everything to a mail house and they can do all the sorting, folding, and stuffing for you – for a cost of course.

Sorting Your Mailing
One of the most complicated aspects of sending bulk mail is making sure everything is sorted correctly. The Post Office requires that all mail sent using a bulk permit must be sorted by zip code. You can do this by hand, if you have a small mailing or have the appeal letters print out in zip code order and just be sure to maintain that order during stuffing. I print my letters in zip code order and have trained the volunteers on how to keep them in zip code order.

Let me clarify what zip code order means. When sending out a mailing you may have only one zip code, say 95123. That’s simple and requires no special sorting. But if you have a larger mailing going to a larger geographic area you may have 95113, 95114, 95115, and 95222. Most likely all the 951** zipcodes can go in the same tray and the 95222 zipcodes would need their own tray.

Once you have your letters sorted, and put in trays (you can pick up the trays at most any post office) you will need to fill out a Postage Statement – Nonprofit Standard Mail form and bring it with you when you deposit your mail.

The postal employees are typically very good at helping you fill out the form the first couple of times you mail. Once you arrive they will weigh your mail and determine how many pieces you have as well as the cost.

Assuming you filled everything out correctly and properly sorted your mail, you’re all done and well on your way to significant savings!

Other off site Resources:
Help, I’m a Nonprofit and Need to Get Set Up to Mail at a Nonprofit Rate!

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14 thoughts on “Bulk Mailing: Cut Your Postage Costs in Half

  1. I need the new form for bulk mailing. We previously used 3602-N1, Jan. 2010. How can I find the new form?

    Gretchen Reed
    President, TRTA 0r Trumbull Chapter of Ohio Retired Teachers Assoc.

  2. I’ve set-up non-profit status with a permit for pre-cancelled stamps. The first time we used the service was very frustrating because we were told we needed to sort the letters into different bins based on zip codes, but we couldn’t find any resources online that told us how to sort the letters. I was also told that for each bulk mailing bin there is a printed barcode that matches the zip code(s), but I have not been able to find any information online that specifically tells me this information. Any ideas on where to find it? Thanks!

    Katherine

      1. Thanks for the link, Justin. It does give some information but I guess I’m looking for more specific answers, like whether I need to sort into 3 or 5 digits and at what point it’s worth doing one versus the other. I’m also trying to figure out how to get the mail tray labels that are now required for all mailing trays. I called our local bulk mailing office and was told that our post office should supply those free of charge if we don’t have the software for that–which we don’t. Have you heard anything that either corroborates or refutes this? Thanks for all the help–it seems like every step forward brings forth more questions.

        1. Katherine, yes the post office usually provides the tray labels for free. I just ask for more whenever I’m dropping off a mailing.

          I just do all my sorting into 3 digits, but you should probably talk to your local bulk mailing department at the post office because there are really so many complexities to the system. The bulk mailing departments are usually very helpful.

  3. Does anyone have any information on how to reinstate a nonprofit permit? We had one and let it go, but now need to reinstate it, and I can’t find any information on how to do that.

  4. Hi,

    We are a local Toastmasters club. As a Toastmaster club we are affiliated with Toastmasters International (www.Toastmasters.org) but are considered a seperate legal entity.

    My questions are as follows:
    A. Do you think we would qualify as a non-profit mailer?
    B. Do non-profit mailers pay an annual mailing fee? If yes, how much it is?
    C. We would mail postcards about our educational services and invite local community members to be a guest at an upcoming club meeting hoping they would ultimately join our club. Could we send a mailing with this kind of content in it and not violate postal service regulation regarding permissible content type?

    Thanks for you time and any advice you could offer,

    Steve

  5. This was very helpful – I am currently doing a bulk mailing and things are out of order and it is a nightmare to put it bluntly !!! The post office is very helpful but I feel so stupid that I cannot get it straight about how to sort, it can be very confusing and different each time I take to the Post Office.

  6. We have a non-profit bulk rate approval. Can we use this to send out postcards or do bulk mail things need to be in an envelope?

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