Last week, our lovely friends at Handled With Care, which manages our bulk mailings, called us with a shocker. We had prepared more than a thousand pieces of mail for our winter solicitation—our big fundraising appeal—and the U.S. Postal Service was refusing to send our letters out. The reason? Our legal name is “Oakland Children’s Fairyland, Inc.,” and the return address on our envelopes is “Children’s Fairyland.” Apparently they need to match—exactly.

What?

We’ve been bulk-mailing (a class of mail for sending out large numbers of identical items at a reduced rate) letters for years, and never had this problem. To say that our collective blood pressures rose into the stratosphere would be an understatement.

Our mail-house guru Damon called it “a common occurrence,” but that wasn’t much consolation. Handled With Care has 200 clients, about a third of them nonprofit organizations, and processes more than $2.5 million in postage each year. Damon told us one organization was denied the nonprofit rate because the return address name lacked the word “the,” which was the name on file with the Postal Service.

Damon explained to us that the Feds have cracked down now that the Postal Service is experiencing severe financial challenges. “You’d be amazed at the kinds of things people want to pull,” he says. He said some for-profit organizations have used nonprofits as a cover to send out mail at a greatly reduced rate. This sort of fraud has the Postal Service on high alert, and Fairyland got caught in the sweep.

Our development director Ann Singer played the Sweet Little Fairyland card for all it was worth. She explained that the two Fairyland names represented one organization. Supervisors were contacted. Nails were bitten. Hairs turned gray. After hours of back-and-forth, we were granted a reprieve, and our mail was allowed to flow freely.

As Damon sees it, the mail will always go out—it’s just a question of how much you’ll have to pay for the privilege. For most nonprofits, the reduced rate is the only way we can afford to spread the word.

We now have PS Form 6015 to fill out before our next mailing. It’s a form for an organization’s name change. We haven’t changed names; we just use a shortened version of our official name. Hopefully there’s a form for that, and we can get it filled out before our next bulk mailing.

We’d like to special-deliver a big “thank you” to the Oakland postal workers who helped Santa—and Oakland Children’s Fairyland, Inc.—this holiday season. To all of you who have received our year-end appeal, please know that we are grateful for your contributions … in every season.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

 

5 Responses

  1. FJK

    Every time I’ve done a bulk mailing I’ve run into a different issue with the USPS. We, too, have a non-profit permit – but there is no clear resource point at the post office and so often the discretion seems almost a personal choice at the different counters/hurdles the piece needs to cross before it is mailed. I had something similar happen but luckily elsewhere on the piece the “official” name was listed so they let it go.

    Reply
  2. Jordan

    Everyone loves a good story, but I hope the purpose of this one is not to vilify the USPS, which is already embattled by an onerous Congressional mandate that it – unlike any other government agency or private company in the nation – pre-fund all of its retirement obligations for 75 years. And to boot, they’ve been saddled with terrible management that is working against the best interests of the USPS, which delivers mail to every household in America for far less than any other private delivery service.

    When it comes down to it, it sounds to me like everything worked exactly like it should – your mailing didn’t meet the policy (which seems pretty sensible to combat fraud), you contacted the USPS, and after they verified you aren’t scammers, they let your mail go through. What’s wrong with that?

    Reply
  3. RandyF

    The regulation is that the “Authorized” Non Profit name, and address, of the organization MUST appear on the outside of the mailpiece, or, in a prominent location on the inside.

    This is not a new regulation it is just been enforced more strictly as of late. Another thing is that the PS Form 6015 is not all that is necessary to change a name. You cannot simply complete the form and change your Non Profit name. You must also officially change your name with your state bureau of Incorporations as well as with the IRS.

    In this case, you could have used “Childrens Fairyland” on the outside, as long as you had the full name of ‘Oakland Childrens Fairyland Inc” on the inside. The USPS didn’t pull the name out of the air. The organization provided the documents with that name.

    Most anything you need to know about mailing at Non Profit rates is in the Publication 417.

    http://pe.usps.gov/text/pub417/welcome.htm

    Abuse of the Non Profit rate structure has been running rampant for quite some time. Sorry that you got caught up in the “sweep” of bringing the Non Profit mailers back into compliance with the regulations, but it happens. I deal with these sorts of things every day in my job. It is my job to ensure that the regulations are being followed and proper postage is collected.

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  4. Melissa

    We had the same problem at Chabot – for many years our envelopes were printed with a return address that was simply “Chabot Space & Science Center” which is the brand that the public knows. Out of the blue a couple of months ago our mailing was denied and we had to scramble to reprint new envelopes that said “Chabot Space & Science Center Foundation.” The USPS rep said that this wasn’t a new regulation, but that the post office was more intensely scrutinizing. My only complaint is that an organization that’s been lax around a regulation like this – the USPS – should give a heads up to nonprofits that they are going to start applying the rule…that would have saved us money in the waste of several hundred envelopes. Not a huge loss, but every dollar we stretch is a dollar we can put into our direct service to the public.

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  5. RandyF

    I can see where that would be an issue. Are there two different entities? I have in my office, with each of the several hospitals that have permits with me. For instance, there is the Meteor Medical Center, not the real name. There is also Meteor Medical Center Foundation and even Pastoral care at Meteor Medical Center.

    Three different groups, three different purposes. Only one can use the name Meteor Medical Center.

    It is about identification. I may not wish to give to the hospital itself but do want to support the foundation for other reasons. If they did not include Foundation in their solicitation, I could easily think it was the hospital, and into the trash it goes.

    As I stated earlier, the full authorized name and address of the organization must appear on the outside of the envelope, usually as part of the return address, OR, in a prominent location on the inside. Simply using letterhead type of stationery can cover this requirement.

    Now that it seems that many more areas are finally enforcing the regulations, can’t wait to see the outrage when the Non Profits try to send raffle tickets. Yes, there are very specific regulations about that based on the US Code, not just USPS regulations.

    Reply

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