The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) defines bulk mail as large quantities of mail prepared in advance by a business to receive discounted rates. To receive discounted pricing, businesses perform some of the work usually performed by USPS employees. All businesses can take advantage of bulk mail rates; however, nonprofit organizations pay lower rates than other business types. The USPS recognizes certain organizations as nonprofits: religious, fraternal, charitable groups, and others. Government agencies and social groups are not eligible.
Why Nonprofits Use Bulk Mail
Nonprofits use bulk mail for annual fundraising campaigns. Letters are sent to hundreds of donors, maybe even thousands for large national groups. Membership organizations may have mailings that go out to members on a regular basis. Nonprofits communicate with many people and organizations about their work. Bulk mail allows them to send large quantities of mail at reduced prices.
Nonprofit Standard Rate
Nonprofit organizations that apply to mail at the nonprofit standard rate submit PS Form 3624, Application to Mail at Nonprofit Standard Mail Rates, along with proof of nonprofit status and other documentation. This is not the same as applying for a permit to mail at the bulk rate. A different application, and an annual fee, is required to apply for a bulk mailing permit
Bulk Mail Permits
Nonprofits must complete an application and pay an annual fee to use bulk mail and pay nonprofit rates. The application and fee is submitted to the Business Mail Center the nonprofit intends to use. A separate application and annual fee is required for each Business Mail Center. Applicants select a payment method---pre-canceled stamps, postage meter, or permit imprint--and apply under that method. Each payment method has a different application.
Postage Payment Methods
Using pre-canceled stamps or a postage meter to pay bulk mail postage does not require a fee. Groups that choose these options pay only the annual fee for the bulk mail application. If a group chooses to use a permit imprint to pay postage, there is a one-time fee. This method involves setting up an account and making deposits. There are additional requirements for permit imprints, such as fees for inactive accounts.
Bulk Mail Preparation
Bulk mail users presort their mail by zip code, using trays, bindings, and other materials provided by the Business Mail Center that holds a group's permit on file. Instructions are available for preparing a bulk mailing, including approved content. Only domestic mail is allowed for bulk mailings. Once the mailing is prepared, the nonprofit must take it to the bulk mail facility, or Business Mail Center.
Bulk Mail Rates
Price is determined by several factors, including content, size, and distance. How many items are in a bulk mailing and the class of mail also affects the price. Nonprofit groups that qualify for nonprofit standard rates, will quality for nonprofit bulk mailing rates.
The USPS uses the terms "presorted" and "bulk mail" and "commercial mail" interchangeably. If you have a planned bulk mailing coming up, alert your Business Mail Center. For very large mailings, there are businesses that perform bulk mailings for a fee.
Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.