COVID-19 has ravaged many industries across the United States and the world and is now threatening the existence of one of the most pervasive services in the US – the mail service.
With “stay at home” recommendations, mail volume in April and into May has been down 30 percent, compared to the same time last year.
As a result, the Postal Service is projecting a $13 billion revenue shortfall this fiscal year because of the pandemic and another $54 billion in losses over 10 years.
Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Gerry Connolly said in a statement that the coronavirus outbreak was leading to plummeting mail volumes and that the USPS "is in need of urgent help" from Congress and the White House. Maloney and Connolly said the Postal Service could shut down by the end of the summer unless it received swift emergency funding.
So, what’s happening?
More of us are shopping online during the pandemic, and we are shopping for more things, but many businesses have stopped advertising, billing, and shipping – all services conducted by mail. Without that bulk and business mail, the Postal Service loses out on its bread and butter income.
Secondly, the initial US government’s $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package provided no funding to the USPS.
And all of this comes at a time when the post office has already been struggling with a sharp decline in mail volume as people and businesses switch to e-mail both for personal contact and bill paying. Mail volume in America was decreasing for years before the coronavirus arrived, even as package delivery soared thanks to the growth of online commerce.
USPS closing would certainly have a direct impact on everyday consumers. For instance, USPS provides “last mile” delivery for major shippers and carriers like UPS and Amazon. Mail is also the lifeline for many living in rural areas that often lack basic broadband, providing a critical connection for isolated communities.
Furthermore, the USPS is legally required to deliver all mail, to all postal addresses in all regions, at a flat rate, no matter how far it may have to travel. This accessibility and affordability are especially important to rural communities that live in poverty and to people with disabilities, who can’t afford the cost of a private business to deliver their daily necessities.
Mail is also how many in the US receive their ballots and vote. Should the post office close, many would lose their jobs; and if FedEx or UPS inevitably ended up filling the void, mailing rates would certainly go up.
Furthermore, for the disabled and elderly, medication delivery is a crucial service. More than half the people who get their medicine delivered are over the age of 65, according to a report from the National Community Pharmacists Association — and 54 percent of this group takes more than four different types of medication. If the USPS shuts down, then they will be left without an affordable option to access vital drugs.
The post office and nonprofits
Everyday consumers would not be the only ones feeling the impact of the post office disappearing.
Nonprofits would too.
You might be wondering why, in a digital age, should nonprofits care about the post office disappearing. After all, isn’t direct mailing a bit outdated when compared to all of the high-tech marketing campaigns we can create online?
Would you have guessed that 4 in ten Americans of all ages look forward to checking their mailbox?
Not only do they look forward to receiving a piece of mail but they tend to hold on to it for a long time. In an average household, mail is thrown out after 17 days
This gives plenty of opportunities for direct mail to get read or at least skimmed through.
This is why, even with the whole world going digital, direct mail remains one of the best tools for nonprofits to attract new donors and retain current ones. It’s a great way to connect with an audience, get their attention in a saturated market, and connect with them on a more personal level.
According to Nonprofit Source, marketing campaigns using a combination of direct mail and digital mail have a 28% higher conversion rate. And according to a 2017 report from the Data & Marketing Association, direct mail can have a median ROI of 29 percent, much higher than paid search ads. Response rates to direct mail can be over 10 times higher than those of digital marketing.
Some of the most successful nonprofit organizations out there use direct mail in addition to their digital campaigns and also to, ideally, directly complement their other campaigns.
Think of it like this: Your audience is overwhelmed by the number of emails they receive and the advertisements they see on social media and websites. Direct mail, on the other hand, is a tangible product in your audience’s hands.
And it’s the post office that makes sure that your mail ends up at their homes and in their hands, no matter where they live.
What does all of this mean for your nonprofit?
Losing out on another significant fundraising source would present a challenge for many nonprofits, especially those with an audience that doesn’t spend much time online.
Furthermore, the post office closing down would cause a great disruption in the nonprofit industry at a time when other forms of fundraising and communications have been put on hold because of the pandemic.
For example, most nonprofits have been forced to cancel in-person fundraising events activities that they depend on for income, starting to rely almost exclusively on online fundraising and direct mail.
Additionally, when it comes to direct mail, the USPS is consistently the most reliable and cost-effective, especially for small packages, like annual reports, gifts, “thank you” letters, and event invitations.
For example, USPS offers a discounted rate on mail sent via its service. Organizations that want to mail with nonprofit USPS marketing prices must first meet the Postal Service eligibility requirements, but then they can cut their postage spending from $0.291 per piece to as low as $0.173 per piece, which is an $11,800 postage savings on a direct mail campaign with 100,000 mailers.
Without an affordable way to send direct mail, it could be hard for many nonprofits to reach certain segments of their audience.
Finally, direct mail, as a fundraising method, has its own appeal. 41% of Americans of all ages look forward to checking their mail each day. And though older generations are more likely to say they enjoy getting mail, 36% of Americans under 30 also feel this way.
Study after study, experience after experience, case after case, has shown that a prompt, heartfelt, and personal “thank you” letter or note delivered by mail builds donor satisfaction, loyalty and value.
So…At a time when every fundraising dollar matters, the post office disappearing would take away quite a few. If nonprofits lost the USPS, especially now, they would have to partner with someone else for shipping, which would lead to increased shipping rates — losing valuable donor dollars.
The COVID-19 pandemic is more than just a health crisis — it has had a ripple effect, impacting the work of nonprofit organizations of all sizes and types. As the world responds to this new threat, many nonprofits are struggling with how to help their communities while also trying to endure the crisis themselves.
It’s understandable, therefore, that amidst the coronavirus storm, it can be hard to identify which sectors should be tossed into the lifeboat of priorities. The U.S. Postal Service, however, is certainly one of them — seeing that it ensures that every American has access to basic mail service.
Last but not least, out of all the fundraising methods out there, online fundraising is the one that doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon. Therefore, it’s becoming more evident than ever that nonprofits need to invest in robust and reliable online fundraising software and smart, creative virtual fundraising strategies and tactics. Online fundraising will help you reach your current and prospective donors, increase your reach and find new ways to draw support for your cause.
GiveForms helps you raise more with less effort, making it easy for you to accept donations online. With intuitive and beautifully-designed donation forms, you can get started with online fundraising in no time!