June 24, 2018

Nonprofits Could be Forced to Pay to Save the Postal Service

It’s difficult to find numbers that don’t contradict each other, some reports say nonprofits are doing better than expected in this uncertain economic environment while others insist it’s still rough out there, especially for organizations that rely on donations to get by. For nonprofits, it doesn’t matter how the year is going, it may soon cost more to send out those pleading donation mailers.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is looking at a 2 cent increase for first class mail, an 8% increase for periodicals (just what the doctor ordered for struggling print publications) and a 23% increase on parcels. While they have not specifically mentioned an increase in nonprofit mailer pricing, the PRC has already identified certain “underwater” mail classes, non-profit mail being one such case.


As is, authorized nonprofits get a price break of about 40% over commercial mail prices so you could see why a struggling USPS might go straight for non-profits when looking for additional revenue sources to close its $7 billion budget gap.

Overall, postal prices are expected to rise 4 – 5%, a huge jump from the legally allowed .6% the Postal Service can use to adjust for inflation. Seeing as how we supposedly haven’t experienced any inflation this year, the jump is that much more disheartening to mass mailers.

Not surprisingly, there’s a nonprofit set up to focus on postal issues around nonprofit mail and they’re all over it. Said Tony Cooper of the Washington-based Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, the USPS delivery system “is a system that’s built to handle about 300 billion pieces of mail, and they’ve got about 170 billion, and it’s set to decrease. It’s basically twice as big as it needs to be. It’s that excess capacity and costs that are creating the need in their minds to do this.” Hear that, USPS? Cut the fat before you start going after the little guys.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

It’s difficult to find numbers that don’t contradict each other, some reports say nonprofits are doing better than expected in this uncertain economic environment while others insist it’s still rough out there, especially for organizations that rely on donations to get by. For nonprofits, it doesn’t matter how the year is going, it may soon cost more to send out those pleading donation mailers.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is looking at a 2 cent increase for first class mail, an 8% increase for periodicals (just what the doctor ordered for struggling print publications) and a 23% increase on parcels. While they have not specifically mentioned an increase in nonprofit mailer pricing, the PRC has already identified certain “underwater” mail classes, non-profit mail being one such case.


As is, authorized nonprofits get a price break of about 40% over commercial mail prices so you could see why a struggling USPS might go straight for non-profits when looking for additional revenue sources to close its $7 billion budget gap.

Overall, postal prices are expected to rise 4 – 5%, a huge jump from the legally allowed .6% the Postal Service can use to adjust for inflation. Seeing as how we supposedly haven’t experienced any inflation this year, the jump is that much more disheartening to mass mailers.

Not surprisingly, there’s a nonprofit set up to focus on postal issues around nonprofit mail and they’re all over it. Said Tony Cooper of the Washington-based Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, the USPS delivery system “is a system that’s built to handle about 300 billion pieces of mail, and they’ve got about 170 billion, and it’s set to decrease. It’s basically twice as big as it needs to be. It’s that excess capacity and costs that are creating the need in their minds to do this.” Hear that, USPS? Cut the fat before you start going after the little guys.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Related articles

Non-Profit Organizations Feeling the Pain of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance

You’ve already seen me rail on SOX and I’m not the only one.

Skeptical CPA, Accounting Onion, Business Insider’s John Carney, Re: The Auditors (and Francine here on Going Concern). Need I point you to more?

I am not classically trained in recognizing Service threats but this certainly feels like one.

Accounting and Tax Tips:

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded tax-exempt organizations to make sure they file their annual information form on time. In 2010 the tax-exempt status of any non-profit that has not filed the required form in the last three years will be revoked.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires that non-profit organizations that do not file a required information form for three consecutive years automatically lose their Federal tax-exempt status. This requirement has been in effect since the beginning of 2007.


The costs of compliance begin to add up and suddenly it starts to reek of 404(b); compliance for the sake of compliance does not equal nor even assist transparency.

I spoke to Chris Leach, a former not-for-profit auditor who has served on several NFP boards, who gave some insight into the problem with the 990. Let me tick off just a few “concerns”:

• Some of the smaller non-profits don’t have anyone on their board qualified to do the 990. It’s not a 1040 and problems are numerous.

• NFP board members are exposed to liability, being forced to “sign off” on 990s. That should sound familiar to any auditor who has been at the job for longer than ten years or so.

Increased regulatory pressure has been proven to distort true financial condition, not necessarily make it any more transparent.

Any of this sound eerily familiar?

Many boards do not have members equipped to adequately review and sign Form 990, so they are still exposing themselves to liability as a result of improperly filed forms. “Bad publicity is the largest implication in my view, especially for organizations facing financial stress, and even more so in this economic environment,” Chris told me. “Beyond that, from a board member’s perspective, the biggest problem would be misstatements on the Form 990, which could potentially lead to personal liability for the board.”

Chris is slightly more reasonable than yours truly, saying “Just the simple day-to-day administration of tax issues puts pressure on smaller not-for-profit organizations. [However], when a not-for-profit organization isn’t a worthy steward of its donors’ trust, donors feel betrayed, so they want more transparency.”

Fair enough. Bring on the transparency (and the headaches?)!