I have a firm rule when I receive solicitations from Non-profits. Being the Direct Mail geek that I am, I check the postage that was affixed to the piece. If the Non-profit mailed the piece using First Class postage, I throw into the garbage without even looking at it. If they are willing to waste their money by not taking advantage of Non-profit postage rates, I figure that they do not really need my money.

So, you could imagine my dilemma when my church sent their appeal mailing via First Class mail. Because I saw their logo and return address (a subject for another day) before looking at the stamp, I did not throw the piece into the garbage. However, I can guarantee that they will not be getting the $217 they are requesting from me.

What were they thinking? From experience, I would guess that they were more concerned with the piece being delivered at a certain time and did not understand the full impact of the extra postage costs they would be spending. The tragedy in this case is that they could have save a great deal in postage and still have it delivered when they wanted to with a little planning and effort.

Let’s start by focusing on the postage costs, so you can see exactly what I am talking about. As we have established, the biggest no-no in this case was sending the piece via First Class instead of Non-profit, but in this case, they also committed another “sin” by mailing the piece without the intelligent mail barcode.

I would almost guarantee that they decided to do this for the look of the piece; to make it look less like a solicitation and more like a personal piece. Well, as you can see by the picture of the envelope, the postal service cares only about the delivery of the piece once it is in their realm and sprayed a barcode on the piece anyway. I have seen wedding invitations, addressed in calligraphy come with a barcode sprayed on the bottom. All the church managed to do was give the postal service an extra $.035 per piece in postage and delayed the mailing they appeared to want to speed up because the piece had to go through an extra step and have the barcode added.

In addition, because the piece is “non-automated” (no barcode) instead of “automated”, the church also gave up additional discounts that they could have been entitled to. This mailing would have been concentrated enough to receive extra five-digit and AADC postage discounts. They gave up between an additional $.05 to $.08 per piece. For our purposes here, we will split the difference and say they paid an additional $.065 in postage on most of their mailing.

Next is the grand-daddy of them all; the difference between mailing the piece via First Class Presort and Non-profit. We estimate that the First-Class Rate would be $.46 per piece and $.185 per piece for Non-profit (both without the bar-code). That it a whopping $.275 per piece extra that the church paid in postage.

Now, you might think we are done, but there is one more discount that they left on the table by mailing via First Class versus Non-profit. As I mentioned, this mailing was concentrated and would have been big enough to make it worth while to drop ship the mailing to the SCF, which is the mail sorting facility in an area. By moving up the “food chain” as I think of it, you not only are putting the mailing in position to be delivered faster, you are entitled to the SCF discount which is an additional $.031 per piece. Now, because of the extra paperwork and delivery costs, it is not always worth doing this, but it would be in this case, because I would estimate conservatively that the mailing was in the 30,000-piece range and would have been worth an extra $930.00 in discounts. This discount is not available for First Class mail; only Marketing/Non-profit mail.

So, let’s add up the extra money that I estimate my church spent in postage. You have the $.035 per piece from not applying the barcode, plus the additional $.05 to $.08 a piece lost in additional discounts for the piece not being “automated”. You also have the $.275 difference between First Class and Non-profit, along with the lost opportunity of an additional $.031 per piece SCF discount. This adds up to a total of $.406 per piece in extra postage spent. Multiply this by a 30000-piece mailing at you are talking about $12,180 in extra postage paid. I would think this would go a long way for paying for the printing and processing of the mailing, which would lead to a greater ROI (Return on Investment) for the mailing.

I had also mention that my church could have saved the postage and still controlled (to some extent) the delivery of their mailing with a little planning. Throughout the piece, I hinted at various things that can be done, but in my next piece, I am going to discuss in my opinion, the biggest way to improve on the delivery of mailings – the use and discipline of using timelines.