I don’t think I’m reading this incorrectly, but it seems that a religious organization, whether or not it is incorporated (a state I wouldn’t recommend) or has an affirmative IRS 503(c)(3) ruling (that’s a recognition as a public charity by the federal tax authority, for my overseas readers) is eligible to apply for a nonprofit mailing permit. This permit could make mailings quite cheap.
From the USPS (postal service) Domestic Mail Manual section 703
A religious organization is a nonprofit organization whose primary purpose is to:
a. Conduct religious worship (e.g., churches, synagogues, temples, or mosques);
b. Support the religious activities of nonprofit organizations whose primary purpose is to conduct religious worship; or
c. Further the teaching of particular religious faiths or tenets, including religious instruction and the dissemination of religious information.
This could be quite an advantage to a small church trying to make an outreach through direct mail, or a ministry that makes mailing its main activity, and is small enough to not warrant formal recognition.
Does anyone know if this is actually the case?
Our congregation stopped using the non-profit bulk rate for the newsletter because the USPS rules were turning it into a bureaucratic headache.
The minimum mailing required to qualify for the reduced postage is 200 pieces. For a smaller congregation like ours (approximately 136 members and 100 households), this means that we have to bulk-mail twice as many newsletter copies that our current membership requires.
There are extra copier/printer and paper costs required for the extra newsletters to make the minimum bulk mail rate threshold.
There are office administrative labor costs involved with the printing and bundling by zip code that is required for bulk mailing. To get the reduced postal rates, you have to pre-sort the mailing for the Post Office.
Many lay-led UU congregations that have no paid office staff will forgo the bulk mail route for their newsletter and will just slap a stamp on it instead.
Because of these bulk mail complications, our congregation has stopped using bulk mail for the newsletter and has moved to the following alternative:
** small number of newsletters mailed as first-class postage for folks who want and/or need it delivered this way
** paper copies of the newsletter available for the taking in the lobby area for visitors and members
** electronic PDF copy posted to church web site and publicized via the the web site, announcement-only email list, and Facebook page
The short answer is yes, churches do qualify for the reduced mailing costs.
But they may not work for smaller fellowships and smaller congregations because the policies for using them are complicated.
hard to beat email and pdf files.
What Steve said — exactly what we went through a couple of years ago when I was in a small church. The whole thing was an administrative nightmare. The labor costs alone (and in a small church, volunteer labor is a scarce commodity, too) made the non-profit bulk mailing unprofitable.