Delay to Tibet Relief Fund Christmas appeal mailing after letters 'held hostage'

A dispute between the mailing house Accelerated Mail & Marketing and the postal provider Citipost could cost the charity up to £12,000 in lost donations, claims its chief executive

Direct mail: dispute led to delays
Direct mail: dispute led to delays

A charity that supports people in Tibet is expecting to raise only about 25 per cent of what it would usually make from its annual Christmas appeal after its postal provider held the letters "hostage" because of a dispute with its mailing house, the charity has said.

Philippa Carrick, chief executive of the Tibet Relief Fund, which funds health and education projects for Tibetans, said the charity had planned that its direct mail appeal would reach households on 25 November. But the first mailings were delayed because of a dispute between the charity’s mailing house, Accelerated Mail & Marketing, and the postal provider Citipost.

She said the mail had been "held hostage" by Citipost because of the dispute and estimated that the delay to the letters being sent out was likely to cost the charity between £10,000 and £12,000.

Carrick said the charity, which had an income of £412,000 in the year to April 2015, made an average of between £15,000 and £16,000 over the past five years on its Christmas appeal.

"There is some dispute between the two companies and the postal provider decided to hold a quantity of mail the mailing house sent it to be posted," she told Third Sector.

The matter was eventually resolved, according to Carrick, after the charity offered to pay Citipost directly and set up an account with the company.

Citipost then agreed as a goodwill gesture to send the appeal out as a priority mailing, despite not having received the charity’s payment – though it took more than a week to agree to this.

By this point, TRF’s appeal had been delayed by nearly three weeks, said Carrick.

Despite repeated attempts to contact AM&M, a representative from the mailing house could not be reached for comment in time for Third Sector’s deadline.

Carrick said: "Obviously we will get income, but we won’t get nearly as much as we would have done.

"Our winter appeal is one of four direct appeals we make to our supporters, so it’s vital for our income flows and is also the one where we thank supporters".

She said she planned to ask AM&M to make up the shortfall if this year’s appeal raised less than the charity’s five-year Christmas average.

Carrick said the situation should serve as a warning to other charities that they could be at risk in the case of a dispute between their mailing house and postal provider.

"It’s taken a huge amount of time and frustration," she said, adding that TRF would not be working with AM&M in future.

A spokeswoman for Citipost said: "We are happy with the goodwill gesture we have made and glad the mailing has gone out as scheduled."

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