These postal tips for non-profit direct mail can make or break a charity’s bottom line.

Non-profits need to be very careful when designing their mailers. Your donor campaigns, invitations, flyers and other direct mail pieces need to meet all U.S.P.S. guidelines. This way you can take advantage of the highest postal discounts. The slightest mistake can have disastrous effects on deliverability and cost. Examples of errors may be as simple as a piece that is 1/8” too wide or using the wrong color

These are a few postal tips for non-profit direct mail.

A few things to keep in mind

Non-Profit Direct Mail

  • Avoid color envelopes that the USPS optical scanner cannot read. Dark green, browns and grays are difficult to read. Contrast is important so the machinery can read the bar-code. No bar-code, no automation discount.
  • Pay attention to size. The word “postcard” means something no larger than 4 ¼” x 6″ to the USPS. A card that measures up to 11 ½” x 6 1/8″ is considered a letter. Anything larger than that is considered a flat. Flats cost more money to mail.
  • Coated stock weighs more and can cost additional dollars to mail

Postal Tips for Self-mailers

  • On brochures and folded mailers, remember that the mail goes through conveyor belts.  If the fold is on top, 2 tabs are required on the bottom (1″ from each side). If the piece is stitched, the spine must be on the bottom. Remember, the piece has to stay closed to meet automated pricing discounts and to be delivered.
  • Pay attention to dimensions. If a letter exceeds any of the maximum dimensions or weighs more than 3.5 ounces, it is priced at the next shape category. If a letter exceeds ¼” thickness, it would be priced as a large envelope or flat.
  • You need to watch out for postage surcharges for Non-machinable mail:
    • Pieces that are rigid or contain odd shaped items. Examples are keys, coins, pens, magnets.
    • The delivery address is not parallel to the longest side of the mail piece. Make sure you keep this in mind when designing invitations.
    • Pieces enclosed in plastic material
    • Pieces that have clasps, strings, buttons, sealing wax or another type of closure device.
  • Keep in mind the aspect ratio (length divided by height) of the piece. If a piece doesn’t meet the specs, your postage cost can move from a machineable rate to a non-machineable rate.
  • Watch recycled paper – on some papers, the ink tends to bleed. This may mess up your bar-coding. As a result, this may cause higher postage and delayed delivery.
  • Remember the bar-code “clear zone”. You must allow 5/8″ from bottom.
  • Shaped mail – Check out Customized Market Mail – [email protected] for very funky shaped pieces that are guaranteed deliverable.

Don’t forget these Postal Tips. In non-profit direct mail, every penny is precious!

  • On standard mail, consider using “Or current resident” to insure delivery. Remember, standard mail is not returned.
  • USPS Informed Delivery – great for visibility and branding. Work with your rep at the Post Office and get on the Informed Delivery train
  • Translucent envelopes – USPS scanners have trouble reading many translucent envelopes. Consider lightening the address/bar-code area to enhance contrast.
  • Punctuation – It looks nice, but the USPS prefers no punctuation on addresses. Sometimes hand-written or ink-jetted addresses make periods look like commas or numbers. As a result, your mail can get mis-routed.
  • Window envelopes – Test the clearance around the address in window envelopes. Do the “tap test” to make sure there is 1/8” clearance all the way around.

I strongly suggest that before you finalize your mail piece you run it past your rep at the USPS. Each area has a “Mailpiece Design Analyst” who will review your mailer. This way you can be sure that you are meeting the USPS requirements. Consequently, this way you will make the most out of your postage dollars.

Informed Delivery

Informed delivery gives your non-profit the ability to incorporate a digital presence in with your direct mail – for free. When you use Informed Delivery, it will send an email to recipients with a picture of your mail piece to let them know what is coming in their mail box that day.

You can even provide a clickable link so that people can RSVP right then.

This is great for non-profits who want to have a presence in multiple marketing channels. It offers you an extra touch in terms of visibility and branding.

Take Advantage of the USPS

Take advantage of what the USPS can provide for you. They offer templates and samples to keep in your office to help you design your direct mail pieces. This will help you minimize your postage and maximize delivery.

Plus, their staff is genuinely eager to assist you!