Access to Nonprofit Preferred Rates in Jeopardy Due to New Intelligent Mail Requirements, but the Alliance Takes Leadership of Solving the Problems at MTAC

The Situation

With USPS electronic submission of postage documentation (eDoc) and Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes becoming required in 2015 in order to retain maximum nonprofit postage incentives, Mail Service Providers (MSPs) who merge multiple nonprofit jobs into a single presort to maximize postage savings were faced with limitations to list every nonprofit mail owner’s identity in the eDoc to PostalOne. Unlike for-profit mailing where By/For identity is only required if the mail owner has more than 5,000 pieces, nonprofit mail owners must be identified regardless of the number of pieces due to claiming nonprofit rates.

This was quite a change for MSPs who have for years provided this data in hard copy print format. Several issues arose out of the requirement: first, the ability of presort software vendors to be able to capture the data electronically into Mail.Dat or Mail.XML in order to transmit to PostalOne: second, the MSPs’ ability to validate the nonprofit mail owners Mailer’s ID (MID), Customer Registration ID (CRID), Nonprofit Authorization (NPA), or Permit are all linked in the PostalOne database; and most troubling was the quality of the data held by the USPS intended to link the MID, CRID, NPA, and Permit of a mail owner to validate their authorization to claim nonprofit rates for their mailings.

The Solution

Early in 2014, Alliance representatives on the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) began working with software vendors to determine whether any of their software packages were capable of processing multiple nonprofit mailing lists of a dynamic nature into a single presort. We learned that the dynamic lists would be very time and labor consuming, along with posing tremendous potential for error, which could impact the ability of the MSP to upload eDoc successfully to PostalOne.

At the same time we were working with presort service providers and speaking to MSPs and MTAC members sounding the alarm regarding limitations we had discovered among software vendors. Parallel to this we began speaking with those at USPS Headquarters who were in the process of building a database to house the MID and CRID data not only for nonprofits, but any MSP requiring the use of MID or CRID data in their eDoc.

After months of persistence we were granted MTAC Work Group # 160, Mail Owner & Nonprofit Identification in eDoc, which Dennis Kaylor, an Alliance MTAC representative from Our Sunday Visitor, co-chaired for the industry. The most troubling issue for the Work Group was the meager quality of the USPS MID and CRID database. As a result of the Work Group effort, the issue was brought to the attention of both USPS and industry around data quality.

At the close out of WG # 160, we opened a Task Team to look at data quality. Another outcome of the Work group was that the USPS agreed to create a MID, CRID, NPA, and Permit validation tool on the Business Customer Gateway (BCG). We took the opportunity to validate the USPS data against data we had gathered from the Pricing and Classification Service Center (PCSC) data on nonprofits and the MID, CRID assignment tool created by the USPS. The results were sobering, and ultimately led to the USPS attempting to validate our list through their multiple data matching means. The findings of the USPS we believe led the Postal Service to the postponed date for requiring every nonprofit mail owner being represented in eDoc.

The discovery by the USPS from the over 6,000 customer lists we provided with MID, CRID, and NPA data was not only sobering but also a turning point for the USPS to go back and revisit their data quality and the transparency of data exchange between the PCSC and the MID/CRID database held at Postal Headquarters. While the focus was around nonprofits in eDoc, the data cleanup is vital to for-profit MSPs as well.

The Result

The USPS has pushed back the mandatory date for nonprofit representation in eDoc from the original proposed date of October 2014 to currently April 2015. Of greatest significance is the work the USPS is investing to improve its data quality. They are working to rebuilt how MID and CRID assignments are provided, by adding validation that looks at Name, Address, City, State, and Zip to assure duplication of customers is minimized, thus reducing the dilution of the data. Cleanup efforts also are underway to eliminate duplications in the PCSCs nonprofit database to provide greater validation around physical addresses of the nonprofit and to remove legacy numbers, also known as Additional Office of Entry NPA numbers. Efforts also are underway to minimize instances where a nonprofit may hold multiple nationwide NPA numbers they are actively using, where the single nationwide NPA number should be utilized.

Through the PostalOne Help Desk the USPS will be rolling out a tool in early September to provide a means to upload up to 100 MID, CRID, NPA, or Permit numbers and receive back data related to the nonprofit to allow an MSP to validate their data prior to attempting to submit an eDoc. The return of the data can take up to five days depending on workload of the Help Desk.

Coming in July 2015 will be another tool requested by presort service providers to be able to upload either a MID, CRID, NPA, or Permit number and be returned a YES/NO response regarding the mail owners’ eligibility to claim nonprofit rates.

One of the goals of the USPS is to do away with the Ghost numbers currently utilized by Post Offices to link a customer’s nonprofit number to a paying Postage Permit. While eDoc will still accept Ghost Permits, the Postal Service now would like to move to using MID, CRID, or NPA numbers to validate nonprofit eligibility, and to validate nonprofit mail owners eligible to continue to claim nonprofit rates. A final reminder to mail owners is that even though a MID, CRID, NPA, or Permit Number can be utilized to authorize nonprofit rates, a MID must be used in eDoc if the mail owner or MSP is requesting data distribution such as ACS or IMb tracking.

As an MTAC Representative of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, we began requesting change in early 2012. While change begins with a simple request;, its takes teamwork and the persistence of the Alliance and it members to get the job done.