Customer Support Ruling
Membership Benefits – Labor Unions and Similar Organizations
UPDATED January 2017
This Customer Support Ruling discusses the eligibility of membership benefits for labor unions and similar organizations in a mailing at the Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail (nonprofit) prices of postage.
Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) 703.1.6.7 provides that an authorized nonprofit organization’s material is not disqualified from being mailed at the nonprofit prices solely because that material contains, but is not primarily devoted to, references to and a response card or other instructions for making inquiries about services or benefits available from membership in the authorized organization, as long as advertising, promotional, or application materials for such services or benefits are not included.
Descriptions of membership benefits, including the use of adjectives, terms, conditions, and brand names, are permissible when they are a minor part (less than half) of a solicitation or renewal request for membership Payments. However, the solicitation or renewal request in which, to a minor degree, membership benefits may be promoted is considered to include only a printed letter to prospective members or to current members whose membership is about to expire, and not to any separate, distinct, or independent brochure, circular, flyer, or other documents. Such separate documents will be considered advertising if they contain any advertising, promotional, or application materials.
Exception: A separate document prepared by the authorized organization, consisting of one sheet, will be considered to be part of the solicitation letter if it describes the organization’s membership benefits and the solicitation letter itself does not describe the organization’s benefits, but instead refers the reader to the separate document. For example, the cover-letter may state, “Please see the enclosed sheet for a description of our member benefits”; but the cover-letter may not state, “Please see the enclosed sheet for a description of our outstanding member benefits,” or otherwise describe any of the terms or conditions of the benefits.
An argument has been raised that not all nonprofit organizations are able to take advantage of the rule, because they do not use direct mail to solicit new or renewal memberships. Instead, some organizations, such as labor unions, use their monthly newsletters to promote ongoing and renewal of membership.
When such organizations do not solicit membership through direct mail, they may, under the same conditions outlined in DMM 703.1.6.7 for a direct mail solicitation of membership or renewal of membership, solicit membership renewal by printing in their newsletters a full-page reproduction of a facsimile of a letter of solicitation. The facsimile solicitation letter must contain the usual elements of a letter—e.g., letterhead with the name of the organization, date, salutation, signature block and title of officer, etc.—and the mailpiece must otherwise follow all the other guidelines set forth above.
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