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Direct Mail: Paying For Your Undeliverable Mail

(Oct. 6, 2008) In an effort to cut the amount of undeliverable mail it processes, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is requiring mailing lists be updated and verified more frequently. Nonprofits that are not aware of the new rules may find themselves paying first class rates on their standard mail (nonprofit discounted rate) mailings.

The USPS is increasing the minimum frequency of Move Update processing from 185 calendar days to 95 days prior to the date of mailing.

The deadline for compliance with the new standards is Nov. 23. To comply, mailers must update their mailing lists to account for recipients who have moved every 95 days at minimum. For example, a mailing entered on Nov. 23 must bear names and addresses that were updated no earlier than August 20.

“In fiscal year 2004 the Postal Service handled 9.7 billion pieces of UAA [undeliverable-as-addressed] mail at a cost of $1.8 billion,” USPS notes in a press release. “The new standards will result in better address quality by removing incorrectly addressed pieces from subsequent mailings, which in turn will reduce undeliverable-as-addressed mail.

In order to meet the new Move Update standards, a mailer must update its addresses using one of five methods approved by the Postal Service. For a list of those methods and other information, click here. The method recommended by most mail houses is the National Change of Address (NCOA) update method.

“In my opinion, NCOA is the easiest and most effective method of cleaning the list of UAA mail,” says AFP member Phyllis Robinette Burns, who owns and operates Burns Mailing & Printing Inc. in Knoxville, Tenn. “Not only does it keep the nonprofit within the specifications of the USPS, but is an effective way for nonprofit organizations to keep current with their donors who have moved. It reduces printing, mailing labor and postage of mail that would never reach donors.”


Nonprofit organizations that do not update addresses they mail to within 95 days, verified by submission of a Certificate of Move Update Compliance (PS Form 6014), may be charged more for the mailing.

“The big thing that will impact all discounted mail including First Class and Standard (nonprofit) mail is that after an undetermined grace period, mailings that have undeliverable addresses in their mailings will be charged retroactively for the bad addresses,” Burns explains. The USPS does not at this time know how long the grace period will be.

“If the UAA exceed a certain percentage, and again this is undetermined by the Postal Service at this time, the nonprofit could be charged first-class postage on the entire mailing,” continued Burns. “The Postal Service will check the mailing with a system called Merlin but the mailers will not know until several days later if their mailing failed the Move Update or if they have reached the set percentage of undeliverable mail that requires them to be charge first class postage.”

For additional information, go to or contact the post office where you enter your mailings.

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