Cooperative Mailings Update: Guidance, Congressional Challenges
WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Dec. 15, 2003) - The decision by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to essentially eliminate the cooperative mailing rules has been challenged by several members of Congress. In addition, a coalition of nonprofit umbrella groups (including AFP) has developed guidance for charities as they seek to work with professional fundraisers.
In November, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Reps. David Obey (D-WI), John Olver (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to the USPS asking that the agency reconsider its decisions on the cooperative mailing rules. All of the lawmakers serve on House and Senate committees that have oversight of the Postal Service.
The cooperative mailing rules stipulate what type of mail is eligible for lower, nonprofit mailing rates depending on the relationship between the charity and the for-profit entity.
Earlier this year, the USPS rejected most of the conditions suggested by organizations that were concerned that the elimination of the rules would lead to abuse of the nonprofit mail rates. AFP had joined with the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers and other organizations in developing an alternative proposal that would have kept some criteria while expanding options for nonprofit organizations.
In their letter, the lawmakers cited the case of Vantage Group Inc, which paid the federal government $4.5 million to settle charges of postal fraud. They warned that additional abuses will be legal under the new cooperative mailing rules and called the new requirements inadequate.
The Postal Service has yet to officially respond, although some officials have said they expect the new rule will benefit nonprofits. AFP continues to work to see the cooperative mailing decision by the Postal Service amended or overturned to provide greater protections for both charities and the giving public.
In related news, a coalition of nonprofit organizations has developed guidance for charities who seek to enter into contacts with professional fundraisers. The guidance notes that while the Postal Service has removed some restraints on fundraising arrangements, charities still have a fiscal duty to enter into contracts carefully and with all due safeguards and restraints.
The guidance provides nine tips for charities about what rights and responsibilities should be included in every fundraising contract. Many of the tips are part of the compromise language that AFP and other groups lobbied the Postal Service to include in their decision on cooperative mailings. Most charities may already be aware of these guidelines, but AFP recommends that members review the document in light of the new Postal Service decision.
To download the guidance, click on the PDF document under Attachments below. (Please note that you will need Adobe Acrobat to open this file.)