Nonprofit Mailer Finds Ways to Cut Postal Costs Redirecting Mail, Careful Shipping Helps Boys Home S

When Mark Kirchhoff from Father Flanagan's Boys Home met with executives at Metromail, Lombard, IL, early last year, he outlined his basic needs.

One, he wanted to drop 34 million pieces of mail — in multiple, weekly mailings — to new donors as part of a donor acquisition program from early October to mid-November. Two, he wanted to reduce operating expenses from prior years.

According to Metromail executives, Kirchhoff's wishes came true, thanks to the reorganization of some of its processes and to some U.S. Postal Service discounts. Kirchhoff, in fact, was able to lop almost $175,000 off his mailing bill.

“We saw the impact of the savings right up front because we didn't have to pay as much for our postage this year as we did last year,” said Kirchhoff, director of mailing operations for Father Flanagan's Boys Home, Boys Town, NE, a private organization for homeless boys and girls.

Throughout the year, the 81-year-old organization helps more than 30,000 children via a variety of programs, including group care, foster care, parent training and shelter care, at its 17 centers nationwide.

Here's what Metromail proposed for Kirchhoff. For starters, instead of using Metromail's one main mail production facility to generate its mail, Metromail used all three facilities — located in Rutland, VT, Mount Pleasant, IA, and Seward, NE — and divided the mailing based on geography.

For example, the company generated mailings for the Eastern part of the United States from its Vermont plant. Then, Metromail trucks delivered the mail to the closest USPS Bulk Mail Center or Sectional Center Facilities.

“Separating the mail helped reduce the customer's freight and shipping bills by about $33,000 dollars,” said Mike Monk, account executive at Metromail.

The redirection of the mail also increased the likelihood that USPS would meet the delivery dates.

“The advantage to the client here is that they got the money in the bank faster and they've added the donor names to their database in a more expeditious manner,” Monk said.

Next, Metromail took advantage of a USPS work-sharing incentive program that allows nonprofit groups to use a five-digit, automated bar-coded rate as opposed to the manual basic carrier route.

“The basic carrier route rate is charged when letter carriers actually manually sort the bundles of mail for that carrier route,” said Dave Policky, IT systems administrator at Metromail. “However, the incentive we used lets nonprofit mailers redirect that mail to an automated rate. Therefore, the customer pays less, and the USPS has to spend less time and money handling the mail.”

The incentive ended up saving $142,000. It also helped Metromail's lettershop processes.

“We eliminated an entire mailing tier — the basic carrier route — from our processes and instead used one our people best understood,” Policky said.

Besides Metromail's lettershop services, the Boys Home also used other services. Thirty-five percent of the mailing was based on Metromail's National Consumer Database, while the rest came from response lists through AZ Marketing. The Boys Home, which has worked with Metromail for six years, also used Metromail for merge/purge functions and its NCOA services.

As for the Boys Home, the experience turned out to be a good one.

“We truly believe that when you are involved in a major mailing, you'd better be mailing smart,” Kirchhoff said. “You'd better be paying attention to what's going on and ask critically whether or not it is the best deal you have going for you because you are spending a lot of money very rapidly.”

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