Postage rate hikes threaten member outreach

Publications like Illinois Country Living magazine are crucial to keeping electric cooperative consumer-members informed on local news, meetings and cooperative advocacy efforts. But rising postage costs are causing problems.

Additional rate increases “could be crippling to these important publications,” said Ryan Hall, communications director for the Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association (MECA) and editor of Rural Montana magazine. “The magazine is the top way that we reach and connect with our members every single month. Readers rely on it for that connection to their co-op.”

Taking effect in July 2024, the U.S. Postal Service has approved rate increases of nearly 8% for first-class mail and marketing mail and an almost 10% jump for periodicals. This postage increase represents the sixth increase in three years.

Statewide publications give co-op members information on cooperative programs, director elections and making homes more energy efficient, said Scott Gates, senior editor of Carolina Country, the statewide magazine for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

“What’s more, many members prefer to receive monthly bills by mail,” Gates said. “And digital communications, though important, simply cannot connect with and educate members as well as a physical magazine like [these] statewide publications.”

Along with the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, cooperatives and their allies are pushing back against the proposed rate hikes. Collectively, statewide associations mail over 12 million magazines every month. According to a survey by Cooperative Insights, magazines are still the top way that members get co-op communications.

In Illinois, more than 192,000 magazines get mailed to electric cooperative consumer-members from 20 electric cooperatives every month. Each of these magazines include national, statewide and local cooperative news, and several co-ops use the magazine to post official notices for annual meetings.

“We are urging the Postal Regulatory Commission to revisit and decrease these recent, burdensome rate increases,” Gates said. “These costs directly impact co-ops and their rural members, many of whom already face economic challenges.”