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Postal Service Tightens Requirements for Personalized Mail

March 10, 2005

Further interpretations by the U. S. Postal Service (USPS) of its revised regulations on when personalized mail pieces must be sent using first-class postage rather than lower-cost nonprofit standard rates are not proving helpful to the nonprofit community. The new rules, which take effect June 1, limit the use of personal information (such as a record of past donations) to an explicit solicitation if the piece is to be mailed at the lower rates. If the personal information serves a dual purpose, however, the mailing must go first class.

The rules, published October 27, 2004, did not define "personal information" beyond saying that it includes "any information specific to the addressee" and need not be unique to the addressee. Several policy clarifications, known in USPS parlance as Customer Support Rulings, issued since October illustrate how the rules will be interpreted. For instance, revised PS 262 finds that a mailing that includes a contribution history with a solicitation is eligible for standard rates. But PS 322 declares that the addition of the words "keep this notice as a receipt for tax purposes" renders the same mailing ineligible for standard rates because the personal information serves more than one purpose.

The Alliance for Nonprofit Mailers has developed a resource page on its Web site that provides a history of this rule change and links to many source documents. Institutions are encouraged to review mailings that are currently sent at nonprofit standard rates but may include personalized information. The admissions, development, and alumni offices are most likely to be impacted. Do you have examples of mailings that may be problematic? Share copies with Ellenor Kirkconnell, assistant director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, to help inform their efforts to seek greater clarity from the USPS. 

The NACUBO contact on postal issues is Anne Gross at 202.861.2544.