Churches still share the Good News freely on Sundays, but mailing newsletters to members has become more costly and complex thanks to newpostal bulk-mail regulations.|
"If we kept doing everything the same way, including the way we print them out and fold them, our paper costs would have tripled," said Mary Brodd, administrative assistant at St. John's Lutheran Church in Rock Island. "We would be going from about $200 to $600 year."
She said changes include using heavier paper or inserting newsletters into envelopes, and folding them in certain ways and taping in certain places.
"For a lot of congregations who don't have a lot of money, they've had to stop mailing newsletters, and go to emailing them all instead," said Dawn Anderson, communications coordinator at Trinity Lutheran Church, Moline. "The upside of this is I've been pushing the emailing of these for four years."
Emailing newsletters is greener and allows churches to keep information such as an events calendar more current, she said. People also can enlarge type sizes as big as they want when printing out information from emailed newsletters to make it easier to read, she said.
"But I don't think we'll ever get away with email only," Ms. Brodd said. "There will always be a population of older or homebound members who won't have an email option available to them, and there will be people who will still want it in paper form."
"At Trinity, we've encouraged people to sign up for the online newsletter, and we hope to switch to mostly email at some time," Ms. Anderson said.
Bulk mailings have gone from about 700 newsletters to 400 so far, dropping Trinity's periodical rate to mail newsletters from about $80 to about $60 to $70, she said.
However, paper costs have increased with a switch from 20-pound stock to the heavier 28-pound stock, "and for some churches, that extra expense is really tough to take," Ms. Anderson said.
Making it costlier for churches to mail newsletters or other bulk items and losing business at a time when the United States Postal Service faces a serious budget crunch is "unfortunate, but certainly not intentional," said Steve Valett, a bulk-mail technician at the Milan Processing Center.
"And it's not just for churches, or nonprofits. It's for anyone who does what we call folded self-mailers," he said.
"The reason the postal service has made the changes is because they are machining so many of the mailings, and if a newsletter is not heavy enough or isn't closed properly, pages get wrinkled or undone and causes a jam to stop everything in its place and leads to added repair costs," Ms. Anderson said.
Jams destroyed some materials, which meant churches were wasting money on paper that never made it to church members, Mr. Valett said, adding that about 30 percent of bulk mailings were thrown away when people moved without leaving forwarding information, and before some kind of return-address procedure was approved.
Postal service workers asked some bulk mailers to submit sample mailings to see if they would stand up to the machines long before new regulations went into effect on Jan. 1, Mr. Valett said.
"We wanted to establish a standard to know that they could be processed without being ripped or torn apart," he said. "Not much is sorted by hand any more. It's almost all by machine. At the processing center at Milan, I'd say 99.9 percent is processed by machinery to keep postage down as much as possible."
As a result, some bulk mailers are sending items less frequently or have decided to put items into envelopes and mail them that way, he said.
However, envelopes also add to mailing costs, Ms. Brodd said.
None of the changes came as a surprise to local churches, Ms. Anderson said."They gave us plenty of warning. The post office has been telling us about this for a year or more.
The local Postal Customers Council held workshops on folded self-mailers in November, and again on Wednesday, to update people, Mr. Valett said."Plus all the information about this can be found on the usps.com website."