Often when you make a charitable donation in response to a direct mail campaign, you’re asked to put a stamp on the prepaid envelope. It’s another way to help the organization save on costs. And for a nonprofit, those savings can add up.

The prepaid envelope is known as business reply mail (BRM) — a service from the U.S. Postal Service in which a sender provides a prepaid postage envelope or card to the recipient. When a recipient puts their own stamp on the piece, the sender can request refunds from USPS by submitting the mailpiece with the postage affixed along with the required refund application. After deducting a fee to process the request, the Postal Service then refunds the remaining amount to the sender.

Companies or organizations must file for a BRM permit if they want to use the service. Most of those permits are registered in Washington, DC. Using our data analytics tools, our audit team identified the Washington, DC, Main Office Window as having issued the most refunds in the nine-month period between March 2016 and January 2017.

We decided to review the Washington office to make sure controls were in place and effective for issuing refunds for postage. As our report noted, if controls are not followed, “improper payments may occur and go undetected.”

We found areas for improving controls, in particular regarding properly training  employees so they are aware of all requirements of BRM refunds, including knowing to calculate processing fees. We also recommended employees ensure that a witness is present when processing refunds and that a supervisor signs off on destroying the mail when done.

BRM is a valuable part of a direct mail campaign. Giving customers multiple ways to respond to an offer is a way to boost overall response rates. And in that regard, BRM is an important service for USPS, as it enhances mail’s value.

Tell us about how you use BRM. As a sender, do you include BRM in your direct mail campaigns? As a recipient, do you put a stamp on the BRM if the organization requests it? Why or why not? 

Comments (5)

  • anon

    I used to work for the P.O. and am now retired. I was always under the same impression that a stamp did not help the cost for the business reply envelope. Of course things might have changed over the years but I'm not sure. I guess you could always just use one of your own envelopes and write the address on it yourself. That way you know the charity is getting even more from the money you contribute.

    Feb 20, 2018
  • anon

    I "used to" always provide my own stamp on BRM until instructed by my own, local post office branch that it "did no good, the US Mail charges the recipient anyway, you're wasting your money". Judicial Watch's envelope added the instruction, "Your stamp saves us nearly one dollar in postage and fees from the Post Office". Quite a difference,.. Yes? I was troubled enough to go to the NET,.. the office of Inspector General is nearly the final word. Apparently the cost to the recipient would be more than the 49 cents it cost me. Do the branches have incorrect information, or was this a pro-company ploy to assist in profit? I was thinking of sending a communication to my legal team,.. but think I just did.. Judicial Watch.

    Jul 16, 2017
  • anon

    I cannot do any business with the USPS - charitable or otherwise. I cannot access my mail, or get any help resolving issues. Including from the IG. This is an abuse of authority, and of postal programs.

    Jun 26, 2017
  • anon

    I put stamps on BRM but I also ink out the bar codes, numbers and print on the return envelope thinking it would save the charity money since my stamp was on it the charity would not be charged for postage. I guess I goofed. I will just place a stamp on the charity's return envelope and not cross anything out. DUUHHHH

    Jun 19, 2017
  • anon

    As a donor to many charities, I try to put a stamp on BRM when I can. That way I know the organization can save some money on administrative fees and hopefully put that money to use in a more programmatic area.

    Jun 19, 2017

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