BY DEANNA BICKFORD
These days, it seems the entire non-profit sector is abuzz about the big changes from Canada Post starting March 31st.
We’ve heard about “the death of direct mail” so much that it has become a meme in our sector. For those of us who see direct mail’s tremendous capabilities to support the work of our causes and our clients’ causes, any reports of mail’s impending death would seem greatly exaggerated.
Even so, the recent announcements by Canada Post do appear to signal a precipitous decline in the health of our postal delivery system—dealing a blow to both Canadian consumers and non-profit organizations who rely on direct mail to communicate with their supporters.
And we know many supporters of non-profit organizations—particularly those from the Civic and Boomer generations—still prefer to receive mail over any other type of communication. So what comes next?
Feeling the burn
With both the steep escalation of first-class rates and the proposed eventual phase-out of home delivery, it will be more challenging for non-profits to continue to reach their constituents. It’s clear that even for those organizations who can afford the new first-class rates, they will likely be paying more for less in the near future. Canadian consumers will also feel the shift—perhaps especially our seniors and those with physical limitations that may prevent them from accessing a community mailbox.
As fundraisers, what can we do?
Imagine Canada, the national umbrella for Canadian registered charities, launched a timely reply on January 20th with a letter to the Hon. Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, and copied to officials at Canada Post, urging them to engage with key stakeholders in the charitable sector to identify the issues and potential solutions.
Such solutions include establishing a pricing structure for charities that “reflects the mailing realities facing charities and would encourage them to remain robust users of Canada Post services.” Imagine Canada points to Australia as a model, where broad consultations with the charitable sector there led to the understanding that “charities have postal needs that are substantially different from other mail users.”
I’m looking forward a reply to this well-argued letter that reflects the sentiments of so many in our sector!
Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet seen Leah Eustace’s article, it’s well worth the read—and she tackles the question of “what now?” head-on.
Here are a few things I took away from her very timely words:
- Plan ahead and budget for the changes (beginning March 31st)
- Conserve needed funds by sending tax receipts by email where possible
- Consider metering mail for small jobs that don’t require a live stamp
Last but not least, this is a great time to get involved in discussions taking place in our sector and among our professional associations such as AFP. In the short-term, please urge your associations to advocate on behalf of charities for more comprehensive consultation, and press for a special non-profit rate for first-class postage. And over the longer-term, let’s not forget our fellow Canadians who may be especially impacted by changes to home delivery in the near future—they too deserve to be heard.
I suppose it may be a bit cheeky—though fitting—to suggest that perhaps non-profits and their constituents should collectively engage in a letter writing campaign? I know quite a few donors who would be happy to oblige…