With Hurricane Harvey barely in the rearview mirror and with Hurricane Irma churning through Florida, I’m sure every fundraiser who uses the U.S. Postal Service is wondering, “Should I mail or not mail?”

To The Agitator, with its roots in direct mail, this is both a donor-centric question and an organization-centric one.

If you mail a massive acquisition campaign right now that includes Southeast Texas, Louisiana and Florida zip codes, you’ll appear insensitive if not downright mendacious to prospective donors. Same with donors on your house file, unless you’ve made a special effort to tailor your message to recognize their plight.

On the organization-centric side, should you be taking the financial risk of never-delivered or slowly-delivered mail…mail left sitting on post office loading docks… mail sidelined in a transport system that will place higher priority on getting food and medicines into those stricken areas?

Of course, you’ll have to answer those questions for yourself.  If I were calling the shots I wouldn’t be sending mail to those areas for weeks — or perhaps even months — other than communications that show your concern for donors living there.

Assuming that any sane direct mail manager would think this way, I called Ben Harris, the President of Production SolutionsAs far as I’m concerned, Production Solutions is the Swiss watch, the gold standard when it comes to direct response logistics. Sure enough, when I reached him he reported that they were already ‘culling’ zip codes to Harvey and Irma-affected areas for the 100+ nonprofits they serve.

Here’s how Production Solutions is approaching the issue.

Mail Already Printed and Addressed. Production Solutions has presented its clients with two recommendations or plans to choose from:

1)      Harvey & Irma culling plan: TEXAS ZIPS: 770, 772, 773, 774, 775, 776, 777 and 778

FLORIDA ZIPS: 330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 340 and 349

2)      Irma-only culling plan: FLORIDA ZIPS: 330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 340 and 349

Mail in the Preparation Process. You’ll see from the downloadable grid below that Production Solution has prepared, they break out the two Hurricane-affected areas into two categories – full USPS Sectional Center Facilities (SCFs) that they have already begun culling, and 5-digit zips that the US Postal Service has given them.

Although, in the case of the Harvey-affected areas, both the SCFs AND the 5-digit zips are technically OPEN, Production Solutions is suggesting to their clients that they continue suppressing them for the time being.

In the case of the Irma-affected areas, both the SCFs AND the 5-digit zips are CLOSED officially by the US Postal Service and Production Solutions is recommending those addresses be suppressed from your mailings currently in production.

Click to download the Production Solutions Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Suppression Lists.

Ben also confirmed my hunch that trucking (the principal mode of nonprofit mail transportation) is in short supply and for some logistics providers may be a problem because of the high demand for trucks nationwide that are being diverted into the hurricane zones. This, of course, is likely to delay getting nonprofit mail into the mail stream. So, one more reason to think about your immediate mailing plans.

The Agitator will keep you updated as we learn more. But for now, a word to the wise…

…and a well-deserved Agitator Raise and big thank you to Production Solutions for sharing this timely information.



This article was posted in: Communications, Direct mail, Donor acquisition, Donor Centricity, Integrated fundraising and marketing, Nonprofit management.
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