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Postal Rule Changed to Protect Nonprofit Use of Personal Information

(May 2, 2005) After a year of lobbying by a coalition of nonprofit organizations, including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the United States Postal Service (USPS) has amended its new rule to allow charities to use personal information in solicitations sent via Nonprofit Standard mail.

The new rule, which goes into effect June 1, originally would have forced charities to choose between including personal donor information in their communications and mailing at expensive first-class rates, or distributing generic materials at the cheaper standard mail rate.

However, the recent change carves out new a definition of 'nonprofit solicitation' that expands the purpose of a solicitation beyond just fundraising to include the raising of 'nonmonetary support.' Some examples of a mailing for nonmonetary support include:

  • A request that the individual join the mailer's membership organization or renew an existing membership
  • A request that the individual enroll in the organization's education institution or program
  • A request that the individual contribute other services in kind to the organization (e.g., volunteer)
  • A request that the individual complete and mail an opinion survey, feedback, evaluation form, petition, open letter, note or card.

The solicitation does not need to include any particular phrases (such as 'please contribute'), but there must be some content in any component of the mailpiece that indicates the action being requested. So long as the personal information being used is directly related to the solicitation, then the mail piece qualifies for nonprofit standard mailing rates.

Without this change, the new rule would have been extremely burdensome for the many charities that include educational materials with their fundraising solicitations. Under the old rule, if a nonprofit mailing piece were personalized beyond name and address, the purpose of the mailing would have been solely for fundraising. Thus, charities would have been forced to send the mail piece first class, adding additional costs as much as 20 cents per letter.

The official changes to the rule are included in the new USPS Customer Support Ruling, PS 330, titled 'Donation Solicitations and Other Computer Prepared Mailpieces Entered by Nonprofit Organizations.' A copy of the final rule without this change is available at the Federal Register.

AFP appreciates the efforts of all of its members who wrote to the USPS regarding this rule. AFP also wishes to thank the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers (ANM) for its leadership and efforts on this issue.

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