Use outside service bureau for ward mailing?

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RossEvans
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Use outside service bureau for ward mailing?

Postby RossEvans » Wed Dec 03, 2008 5:17 pm

Our ward leadership is considering an idea to employ the services of a commercial mailing house to facilitate the bishopric's upcoming Christmas mailing to our large ward roster. It may save some postage and effort. The list would be extracted from MLS.

I know of no Church policy that would preclude this, but I don't know everything. Can anyone point to policy or precedent to the contrary, or is this essentially a judgment call for the Bishop?

Presumably the outside company has business policies in place to protect its customers' privacy and not copy their mailing lists for any other purpose, although I have not been in the loop to inquire about that directly.

Thanks in advance.

techgy
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Postby techgy » Wed Dec 03, 2008 5:26 pm

boomerbubba wrote:Our ward leadership is considering an idea to employ the services of a commercial mailing house to facilitate the bishopric's upcoming Christmas mailing to our large ward roster. It may save some postage and effort. The list would be extracted from MLS.

I know of no Church policy that would preclude this, but I don;t know everything. Can anyone point to policy or precedent to the contrary, or is this essentially a judgment call for the Bishop?

Presumably the outside company has business policies in place to protect its customers' privacy and not copy their mailing lists for any other purpose, although I have not been in the loop to inquire about that directly.

Thanks in advance.


Years ago, when I was in a Bishopric, we did a monthly mailing using the local post office. We addressed the envelopes ourselves to each family by printing up mailing labels. We then did a bulk mail at the post office at reduced rates. I think we had to have a 200 pc minimum but that wasn't an issue with the ward we had. You'd have to check with the Post Office in your area to see what their bulk rates are, but I would believe that the mailing could be handled by members of the ward and then done as a bulk mail without the expense of an outside firm.

RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Wed Dec 03, 2008 10:35 pm

Techgy wrote:You'd have to check with the Post Office in your area to see what their bulk rates are, but I would believe that the mailing could be handled by members of the ward and then done as a bulk mail without the expense of an outside firm.


My exploration of a DIY approach to bulk-mailing hit a feasibility problem. USPS charges $180/year just for the privilege, before postage. And the commercial software and database required to preprocess the mailing list would cost about $120, which would only be officially usable for two months. It would not be possible for a ward-sized unit to recover those costs in postage savings, and those sums are a non-trivial hit on a ward budget.

(It's too bad, because owning that software tool would provide ancillary benefits in validating and standardizing the addressesin MLS for other purposes, such as supporting geocoding and identifying invalid addresses of members.)

So I'm back to wondering if the use of a mailing house is acceptable.

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Postby russellhltn » Wed Dec 03, 2008 10:45 pm

boomerbubba wrote:So I'm back to wondering if the use of a mailing house is acceptable.


My first question is "what would they charge"? I suspect the cost is a non-trivial increase over the postage.

As for the work, hold a PEC or Ward Correlation meeting to stuff the envelopes. If it's anything some of the ones I've been to in the past, it might be the most productive meeting of the year. :D
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RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Wed Dec 03, 2008 10:58 pm

RussellHltn wrote:My first question is "what would they charge"? I suspect the cost is a non-trivial increase over the postage.


My understanding is that our cost would be about 32 cents per item compared to 42 cents for ordinary first-class postage. If there are any hidden fees I am not aware of them. Our ward has almost 600 families.

So assuming these facts, it would be a matter of saving $60 and doing little work vs. paying the higher costs and doing a lot of work..

techgy
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Postby techgy » Wed Dec 03, 2008 11:31 pm

boomerbubba wrote:My understanding is that our cost would be about 32 cents per item compared to 42 cents for ordinary first-class postage. If there are any hidden fees I am not aware of them. Our ward has almost 600 families.

So assuming these facts, it would be a matter of saving $60 and doing little work vs. paying the higher costs and doing a lot of work..


As I had indicated it was years ago that we did the bulk mailing. Obviously things have changed since then.

How about passing out the letter to families that attend church and mailing those that don't attend? Since this is a one-time holiday mailing, I'm betting that it wouldn't be that difficult to get some help in the ward to stuff envelopes and get address labels on them. With a little help the envelopes could be passed out during Priesthood and Relief Society to home teachers and visiting teachers and to those who attend. This would probably get a fair percentage of the ward covered at almost no cost.



Then those envelopes that remain can be mailed.

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Postby RossEvans » Thu Dec 04, 2008 12:01 am

Techgy wrote:How about passing out the letter to families that attend church and mailing those that don't attend? ... Then those envelopes that remain can be mailed.


That is certainly an idea worth considering if saving postage is the primary consideration. But my twisted clerk's mind says there is much to be said for a central mailing to the whole ward -- not just for delivering the message content, but for the practical purpose of putting all MLS addresses through the USPS "Address Correction Requested" test. We happen to have a major problem with many lost sheep on our roster. and even active members can forget to give their new contact information to the clerks. We need all the tools we can get just to maintain the list, and the annual Christmas mailing is one such tool.

In fact, I am intrigued by your experience with monthly mailings. If we could afford it, monthly or quarterly mailings would be worthwhile to catch moves before the forwarding trail goes cold.

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Postby techgy » Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:14 am

boomerbubba wrote:..... We happen to have a major problem with many lost sheep on our roster. and even active members can forget to give their new contact information to the clerks. .......

In fact, I am intrigued by your experience with monthly mailings. If we could afford it, monthly or quarterly mailings would be worthwhile to catch moves before the forwarding trail goes cold.


Our monthly mailing was for the purpose of a ward newsletter. We did it for several years and it worked very well. Tracking members who had moved was done by sending a "tracer letter". This was a letter addressed as usual but with the words "postmaster do not forward, address correction requested, return postage guaranteed." If the address of the member had changed the letter would come back to us with the new address.

In regards to your problems with members who have moved and not corrected their address, if they are attending, then it would be easier and cheaper to just hand them out in person. If you don't have good addresses then the mailing wouldn't be helpful.

If I were in your shoes, I'd hand out what I could, then put my efforts into a mailing to hunt down those who either don't attend or whose address is incorrect. This would at least get the Christmas greeting out to the majority of the ward.

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Postby RossEvans » Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:55 am

Techgy wrote:Our monthly mailing was for the purpose of a ward newsletter. We did it for several years and it worked very well. Tracking members who had moved was done by sending a "tracer letter". This was a letter addressed as usual but with the words "postmaster do not forward, address correction requested, return postage guaranteed." If the address of the member had changed the letter would come back to us with the new address.

In regards to your problems with members who have moved and not corrected their address, if they are attending, then it would easier and cheaper to just hand them out in person. If you don't have good addresses then the mailing wouldn't be helpful.


I think such a mailing would be very helpful because it more rigorously identifies the fact that the address is bad. (All mailings should routinely include the relevant instructions to the Postal Service requesting address-correction service.) From the clerk's practical point of view, this is really the more important purpose of the mailing; delivering the message content is just a spiritual bonus for the recipients. Of course, the biggest problem is really with the inactive members, who comprise a large majority of our ward roster.

Getting back to the monthly newsletter mailing, I think it is a great idea. The problem is that it likely would not be affordable today. I suspect that for most wards, the annual Christmas mailing is the only mailing they can afford to send to the entire ward list. That has been the case in the wards where I have served in the clerk's office. Perhaps budget funds could be found for a quarterly or mid-summer mailing as well.

Our quorums and Relief Society distribute newsletters via home and visiting teachers, but I suspect the teachers usually eat the cost of any postage themselves. If all that postage is reimbursed, it becomes a big sum relative to a typical ward budget. Again, I am mostly focusing not on delivering the message content, but on using the Postal Service as an administrative tool to help track members who are not being visited. If they are being visited, then we should know their address. The practical truth is that there are many members on the ward books who do not fit that pattern.

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Postby cannona-p40 » Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:53 pm

boomerbubba wrote:That is certainly an idea worth considering if saving postage is the primary consideration. But my twisted clerk's mind says there is much to be said for a central mailing to the whole ward -- not just for delivering the message content, but for the practical purpose of putting all MLS addresses through the USPS "Address Correction Requested" test. We happen to have a major problem with many lost sheep on our roster. and even active members can forget to give their new contact information to the clerks. We need all the tools we can get just to maintain the list, and the annual Christmas mailing is one such tool.


Note that the USPS address dmatching software that your bulk mailer will use will only tell you whether or not the address is valid, and not whether the people living there are who you think they are. Also, I don't believe that the USPS will return undeliverable mail pieces to the sender that are mailed at bulk rates

Interestingly, if you look at the raw USPS database, you will see that it only contains address ranges. It is not an actual list of addresses. You can thank congress for this, as they passed a law a while back which prohibits the Post Office from publishing databases of mailing addresses. So, theoretically, just because an address is reported as valid by the USPS address verification database, that does not mean that that address actually exists.

Aaron


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