Last week the Postmaster General announced that to reduce the United States Postal Service (USPS) budget Saturday mail deliveries of most mail* would be stopped as of August to in theory save $2,000,000,000.
The timing of the announcement was propitious as I was with the best and brightest of the direct response world at DMA-DC. The general opinion of those in our unofficial survey: this decision was probably not going to make the USPS solvent and delivery is already atrocious so how much worse could it be?
While the ultimate outcome is unclear (a much bigger issue, in this blog’s opinion, would be a change in the nonprofit postage rate, but that’s its own box of worms to be discussed at another time), here are some thoughts on the impact of the loss of Saturday for mail for nonprofits:
- 52 less days for your message to be in front of your supporters. Monday through Friday will be the only days you’ll compete for their attention.
- Hence a 15% more crowded mail box. Sorting through catalogs, bills, commercial mailers and other nonprofits.
- A short term impact of changing cash flow projections for direct mail campaigns. With one less delivery day and mail not being processed on Saturdays everything will be later, cash, your newsletter, the solicitations themselves. “Short term” as in time this will be the new normal. Remember decades ago mail was delivered more than once a day!
- A possible shift in nonprofit budget dollars to both telemarketing and email to boost lost dollars from the loss of Saturday. This change, if it occurs, will be at the detriment of your organization. Telemarketing will improve your campaigns’ response rate over email but at an astronomically higher cost per dollar raised. And email campaigns while being “free” have a low and declining response rate from the impact of overly full email boxes and essentially non-differentiated emails from nonprofits. (If you do go this route, read our tips on email marketing so you can do it with success.)
- Increased competition for ever-declining direct mail eyeballs may result in a decline in both the number of donors and income.
- Nonprofits will have to get more creative: standing out in the mailbox may result in an increase in oversize or undersize package sizes, “bigger” incentives, and possibly, more color packages to catch that elusive donor’s eye. While a boost to testing and creativity may be a breath of fresh air to the tried and true of the industry, increased testing budgets and irregular package formats are bound to drive up cost in the mail.
- For those who compete with commercial mailers during key fundraising periods like the holiday season (for example with holiday catalogs) it would be wise to keep an eye on what the commercial side is already testing out to adjust to the change:
- Publishers like The Economist have been testing the impact of Friday delivery (impact on news cycle—if your organization has a regular magazine or newsletter that has time sensitive information, consider how this may impact your readership)
- Catalogers and other mailers have been looking for alternative delivery methods on Saturday—for example turning to private mailers such as UPS to understand the cost of bulk mail delivery
- The importance of augmenting your standard data set will allow a more complete view of your constituents’ relationship with your nonprofit will become key: with competition in the mailbox, finding ways to connect with constituents on other channels in a personalized way will be the winning strategy for agile organizations.
So before we dash ourselves on the rocks below what should you do to reduce the impact of service reduction?
The Solution: Integrate
Now is the time before August to evaluate channel mix and contact cadence so you are optimizing what is the correct campaign structure.
What is the balance of email campaign, direct mail, and telemarketing; now fold in online display and social media for awareness building to offset the erosion in delivery quality.
Nonprofits large and small are benefiting by testing into the mix of channels albeit for acquisition, renewal, major gifts, or membership. Each solicitation effort requires a different set of tactics born of rigorous testing.
Now is the time to pull together those staff and/or volunteers and your agencies to have them collectively brain storm how will be work together increase reach into all of your supporters.
Accept this change, if it happens, as an opportunity for you to step forward and to communicate with your supporters in a manner that touches them at the correct time and with the proper channel.
Let Miriam and I know how you survived August.
* Packages will still be delivered 6 days per week.
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