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Our blog, D Brief, shares succint expert advice, trends, tips, and ideas for marketing communications tactics—focusing on print, Web, social media, and promotional products—from a corporate visual identity perspective. We welcome your thoughts so we can learn from each other.

Direct mail: First class, standard, or nonprofit?

We have a nonprofit client who was recently faced with a decision on how to mail an important fundraising event invitation: First Class, Standard (a.k.a. Bulk), or Nonprofit.Blog: Direct Mail - First Class, Standard, Nonprofit

You might think because the client is a nonprofit agency, Nonprofit mail is the obvious choice. The cost savings of Nonprofit postage rates is definitely a huge factor. First Class can be three times the cost of Nonprofit. But the difference in delivery time is just as much.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) will not guarantee specific delivery times. However, here are some guidelines based on our experience:

First Class* = Up to 4 business days
Standard* = Up to 15 business days
Nonprofit* = Up to 15 business days

It’s true, I’ve received a mail piece within 2 days of mail drop—even using Nonprofit. Timing can depend on how busy USPS is at drop mail time and the amount of mail in production. During a very busy mail period, the winter holidays for example, First Class will be handled first, then Presort Standard, and lastly Nonprofit.

Clients have to weigh delivery times against cost. And if a mailing MUST be received in homes within a short time frame—more importantly than any cost savings in postage—First Class is the best way to ensure that.

Following is a chart I created to make the comparison easier:


First Class*

Presort Standard*





Up to 4 days

Up to 15 days

Up to 15 days


*Based on Letter-size mail piece weighing up to 1 ounce with 3-digit/5-digit discounts, inkjet barcodes, minimum 500 pieces, and mail drop at USPS Sectional Center Facility (SCF), November 2011 postage rates.


Postage costs are determined by size, weight and thickness of the mailpiece, as well as the class of service (First Class, Standard or Nonprofit) and quantity of the mailing. D Media can help you qualify for automation discounts by sorting and barcoding your mail project, as well as adhering to other postal service requirements. Our mail shop bar codes each piece and drops it at a USPS SCF which will save time over dropping the pieces at a local post office.

For a USPS pricing calculator that can you help determine Domestic Business direct mail postage costs, visit http://dbcalc.usps.gov/Default.aspx

*Note: This information is subject to change without notice. For the most up-to-date direct mail cost and delivery, please request a quote.

One Response to Direct mail: First class, standard, or nonprofit?

  1. gina says:

    Would love to see updated with current postage rates. Most helpful breakdown of information I’ve seen. Thanks!

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20 January 2012