Earlier this month, The Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers was invited to speak at the Office of the Inspector General of the US Postal Service about the relationship between the USPS and the nonprofit sector. Stephen Kearney, the Alliance’s Executive Director, invited several of us from the sector to talk about our organizations and how postal issues and concerns impact our missions.
I shared a number of thoughts on this with over one hundred people from USPS. Since then, I have reflected more deeply upon NCDC’s role as advocate on behalf of its members and the relationship between the charitable religious nonprofit sector and the United States Postal Service.
Here are some of my thoughts.
For fifty years, the National Catholic Development Conference has assisted faith-based and, primarily, Catholic institutions in the ministry of philanthropy by empowering members to promote our common Gospel mission: Inspire our communities and better our world.
Before I continue, I would like to just say something about the purpose of philanthropy. It is not about money. It is about an individual’s desire to advance the cause or to expand the mission of a movement or organization about which he or she feels very deeply. It is about wanting to make a difference through engagement in that mission. It is never about simply maintaining the “status quo.”
In essence, that is what our members do. They advance the Mission of Jesus. Here is what NCDC does to help our members fulfill that mission.
What do we do?:
- Provide professional education
- Keep our members abreast of issues and concerns that impact their mission advancement efforts
- Offer opportunities for networking, mentoring and peer to peer support
- Advocate on their behalf
Who are our members?:
- Ecclesial institutions such as dioceses and parishes
- Religious institutions who serve in various ministries as missionaries, educators, health and human service providers
- Devotional societies and spirituality centers
- Faith-based educational, health and social service agencies
- Faith-based social justice advocacy groups
- Faith-based emergency relief and outreach agencies
What do we help our members do?:
We empower them to advance their missions, which are clearly rooted in faith-based values and, in the case of our members, in the context of the Gospel and the Mission of Jesus. We help our members witness, proclaim, invite and engage others in responding to the cries of those who are poor and in recognizing those who are seen by many as the least among us, as brother and sister. We support our members’ efforts to challenge people of faith to bring hope, healing and peace to our world. Our faith motivates us to give but does not discriminate regarding those who receive.
What does the United States Postal Service help our members do?
- Educate and inform our donors and potential donors
- Challenge others to want to make a difference
- Build and nurture relationships with our Partners in Mission
- Offer opportunities for our partners to become more engaged with us
- Create communities of faith and support
- In our language, build the Kingdom of God
Where do we see the future of our relationship with the Postal Service?
- For almost of our members, the mail is still a primary source of initial contact with others
- For all of our members, the mail is a critical piece of communicating with those with whom we have formed a relationship and, coupled with social networking, it enhances a sense of community and partnership
- For all of our members, the mail offers a primary means of support for our missions. If mail is mishandled or lost, critical funding for our ministries is lost.
- For all of our members, the mail offers a unique opportunity to build a community of faith and support.
- We pray with and for our donors
- We journey with them in faith
- We grieve their losses and celebrate their joys
- We send them cards, prayers, reflections and symbols of faith
- We offer them opportunities to send healing and comfort, hope and congratulations to others
So, yes, we use flats and yes, we use inserts as instruments of blessing and grace. Thus, the Federal Register’s recent proposal regarding inserts will have a devastating impact on these spiritual works of love and mercy.
Are we concerned about the rising costs of using the postal service? Yes, we are.
We are concerned that postal rates and postal regulations will inhibit us continuing to engage others in our missions and our ministries which make such a difference in our world.
Every time there is a rate change our missions are impacted. Our budgets are tight. Mission is primary.
While we work hard to mail smarter and more intentionally, eventually, we can only mail as much as we can afford and are forced to mail less. In the end, it is those most vulnerable who will suffer, whether they are in need of food, shelter, someone to hold their hand or someone to pray with them. In the long-term, programs may have to be dropped, shelters and pantries closed and those most poor become more desperate.
The less we can communicate effectively with our partners in mission, the less they are able to remain engaged and involved.
Each time we reach out to others inviting them to partner with us in our mission, we always invite them to reply back to us through the mail AND we always thank all our donors, whether they give to us via our websites or through the mail by sending a written acknowledgement. Often younger donors comment to our members about how nice it is to receive a note of thanks in the mail. We send notes of prayer.
We never underestimate what a personal note in one’s mailbox can mean because for us it is always about relationships and for the sake of the Mission. We do not use the mail to find new markets. We use the mail to nurture relationships and build communities of faith, hope and love, recognizing everyone as brother and sister.
Our mail reminds our world that all of us are called to act with justice, to love tenderly, to serve one another, and to walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)