Nonprofit Requirements

The U.S. Congress authorized dramatically reduced postage rates in 1951 for nonprofits meeting certain eligibility rules. If your nonprofit uses direct mail to communicate with potential donors and others, you can save between 54% and 80% of the first class postage rate by conforming with standard mail guidelines.

This article provides an overview of the types of organizations eligible for nonprofit rates, how to apply to the USPS for nonprofit authorization, and restrictions you need to be aware of that make mailings ineligible for mailing at the nonprofit rate.

Is Your Organization Eligible for Nonprofit Postage Rates?

Who Is Eligible for Nonprofit Rates: Nonprofit organizations may be eligible for nonprofit postage rates if their primary purpose falls into one of the following 8 categories: religious, educational, scientific, philanthropic, agricultural, labor, veterans, or fraternal. However, many nonprofits are not viewed by the USPS as belonging in these categories, including general governmental organizations, trade associations, service clubs (such as the Rotary), civic improvement associations, chambers of commerce, automobile clubs and social clubs. An exception is made for the national, state, congressional and senatorial committees of political parties and certain voting registration officials, who can apply for nonprofit rates. To learn more about eligibility, visit here.

Applying for Authorization to Mail at Nonprofit Rates

How to Apply for Nonprofit Authorization: To begin the process, complete Form 3624 and submit it online or to the postmaster of the business mail entry unit where you are planning to drop off your mail, along with at least the following documentation:

  • Paperwork about your organization’s formation, such as your articles of incorporation, constitution or charter
  • The IRS letter of exemption from federal income tax

Other documentation you may choose to submit is outlined here. If you submit your application in person, it will typically take about two weeks for your application to be approved. Applying online can speed up the process.

Applying to Mail From an Additional Mailing Office: If your organization has been authorized for nonprofit rates at one Post Office, you can request authorization to mail at another Post Office by submitting Form 3623.

Sending Mail While Your Nonprofit Application is Pending: Until your nonprofit authorization is approved, you must pay postage at the higher standard mail prices. However, once your application is approved, you can request a refund of the difference by completing Form 3533.

Maintaining Your Nonprofit Authorization: You must make at least one mailing at nonprofit standard rates during each two-year period or your nonprofit authorization will be revoked for nonuse.

Is Your Mailing Eligible for Nonprofit Rates?

What Mail is Eligible for Nonprofit Rates: Each mailing needs to contain at least 200 pieces or 50 pounds of mail prepared following Presorted Standard Mail requirements. If you are using precanceled stamps from a staples near me or a company permit imprint, your organization’s name and return address must appear on the outside of each piece of mail. Otherwise, it is acceptable to prominently display this information solely on material on the inside of the mailing.
Mailings produced by more than one organization may not be mailed at nonprofit rates unless all cooperating organizations are authorized to mail at this rate. The only exception to this is that nonauthorized organizations can mail on a nonprofit’s behalf if the mailing solicits monetary donations for the authorized nonprofit without promoting the sale or lease of any goods or services and the nonprofit is given the name and contact information of each donor along with the amount of their donation. In general, if the nonauthorized organization receives something from the mailing (such as a share of the proceeds or potential future sales), the mailing is ineligible. If you are considering a cooperative mailing, click here to learn more.

Commercial mailing services may enter mail at nonprofit rates for an authorized organization if the relationship is a principal-agent relationship. In this case, the agent’s permit imprint number can be used as long as the nonprofit’s name and return address appear on the envelope. Learn more here.

Content-Based Restrictions: There are special rules for determining whether products or advertisements for products or services may be mailed at nonprofit rates. In general, in order for a product to be eligible for mailing at the nonprofit rates, it must be either a low-cost item (defined as costing no more than $10.50 in 2015), a gift or donation received by the organization, or the organization’s own publication that is published at least four times a year and contains no product or service advertising. Mailings containing advertising for credit cards, debit cards or similar financial instruments are not eligible for mailing at nonprofit rates, and special restrictions apply for travel or insurance advertisements. The USPS provides a six-step process you should follow to determine if your mail piece’s content makes it ineligible for nonprofit rates.

Find Some of this Confusing?

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