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The Cost of Electioneering

A reader familiar with Dartmouth’s outreach to alumni writes:

In “Responding to Rick Routhier” you wrote that he “had the good fortune some weeks ago to author a letter which Dartmouth College, at what I can only imagine is a massive expensive, mailed to all 65,000 living alumni.”

Haven’t seen the piece, but assuming it was a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 letterhead sent out in a #10 envelope via Nonprofit Standard Mail Presorted 3/5, the expense would probably be around $50,000 — the price of two and half partial scholarships through the Dartmouth College Fund (See #5)

Here’s the breakdown (prices vary with the cost of paper, but these are numbers from real invoices):

Letter (printed—don’t compare to the blank stuff you get off the shelf at STAPLES): 130 reams (500 sheets) @ $125/ream = $16,250
#10 Envelope (printed): 130 boxes (500 per) @ $137/box = $17,180
Nonprofit Standard Mail Presorted 3/5: 65,000 x .189 = $12,285
Adminstrative*: 65,000 x .05 = $3,250
Total: $48,965

*”Administrative” includes “hard” costs, e.g. the unit cost of sorting, folding, addressing, and stuffing the letters at a mail house and “soft” costs: the time College staff spent reviewing, discussing, approving Routhier’s letter, coordinating printing, etc.

This is a low-end figure. If you’re mailing 65K, you’re obviously printing more than that just in case there’s a problem at some point in the production, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if “administrative” costs were double what I’ve quoted.

So, there you go.


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