First class stampA non-profit organization planned to design and send about 1,000 event invitations. To put it mildly, pre-planning was not their strong suit, so by the time they got their invites printed and addressed, they had to mail them First Class.

Oops, there went $300 down the drain! Granted, that’s not an earth-shattering expense, but for budget-strapped organizations, any cost savings are welcome.

Here’s the math: Invitation packages containing a 3-panel invitation, an RSVP card, and an RSVP envelope can easily weigh 2 ounces or more. The First Class Pre-Sort postage cost for 1,000 2-ounce letters adds up to about $539.

Non-Profit Pre-Sort Standard postage for a letter weighing up to 3.3 ounces is about $239! (Exact mailing cost depends on the degree of pre-sorting and automation that can be applied to the mailing list and the letter.)

The look without the price tag

Non-profitstampSome people think Standard Mail looks, well, lower class, due to the pre-printed permit box in the corner.

But you don’t have to settle for the mail permit on the envelope. You can apply a decent-looking non-profit stamp like this one.

You can also specify a handsome script font for the mailing address to make the envelope look less commercial.

Disaster Avoidance Tips

If you’re mailing 200 pieces or more, it’s worth looking into Standard Mail. These tips from the trenches will help ensure that your mailings are a success:

Work with a knowledgeable mail house

  • Select a printer that has an in-house mailing department or has a good relationship with an outside mail house. In-house will be the most economical choice. Postal regulations change often and will change again September 8, 2009, so working with folks who keep up with them is important. (Even with the cost of mail handling added, it’s likely to be less than First Class postage and less of a pain in the butt than having a bunch of volunteers stuff and lick envelopes!)
  • To take advantage of low Standard Mail (once called Bulk Mail) rates, your organization must apply for a mailing permit or rent one from the mail house. Non-profit organizations pay the lowest rate, but regular Standard Mail is still significantly cheaper than First Class. The mail house can arrange this for you.
  • The mail house will address-correct your mailing list and sort it for the highest possible mailing discounts.

Design to meet USPO size requirements and element positioning rules

  • Ask your mail house to advise you on the acceptable proportions and measurements for standard mail letters and explain how the new postal rules impact the type of project you’re designing.
  • Get postal approval of the envelope design before it goes to print. Most mail houses will take care of this for you if you send them a PDF of the front of the envelope.
  • Note that Standard Mail cannot include any handwritten notes inside.

Schedule the project to accommodate mailing time

  • If most of the addressees are in your region, the mailing will usually take about 3 to 5 days. For addressees on the other side of the country, mailing is allowed to take up to 2 weeks, although it doesn’t normally take nearly that long. One caveat: Standard Mail is not guaranteed to move swiftly through the system.
  • Do a work-back schedule based on the desired delivery date. A workable schedule for a 1000-piece mailing would be 5 to 7 days for printing, 1 to 2 days for mailing prep, and 5 to 7 days’ mailing time, depending on the mailing list.
  • Save time by sending the mailing list to the mail house at about the time print files are released to the printer.

Build the production schedule around the best drop date

  • Before building your schedule, ask the mailing specialist to recommend the most advantageous mailing day to meet your delivery date. That would not be the day Qwest sends out 300,000 phone bills!

Do you have any cautionary mailing tales or words of wisdom? If so, please share them below.