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?