Some rules for using email as a communications tool
Once you have built even a small database of members/supporters who use email, begin contacting them regularly by email with quality information about your activities and issues.
A word of warning about "spamming" before you progress any further. Spam is junk e-mail. Previously many people who have purchased something over the Internet, had their e-mail address published on a web site or have subscribed to a news service or who have participated in news groups or mailing lists, get spam. This is because these public sources can be harvested for e-mail addresses. Some ISPs and other Internet businesses have sold lists of their customer's e-mail addresses to spammers. This is now considered to be very bad form. Spammers have been known to use programs to randomly generate e-mail addresses.
Spam has become so prevalent that it can compromise and slow down the whole network. There is now a big anti-spam movement and there are various spam filters available to filter out and delete spam. There are also movements to have spam regulated by law.
That being said, subscribers sometimes have short memories and can forget that they joined your list of their own free will.
To assist you in developing a system for protecting yourself and your supporters we have adapted a set of sensible protocols developed by Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC (MAPS). The rules are based on general principles of Netiquette (The etiquette of using or abusing the services provided across the internet) and are equally applicable to sending of regular emails as they are to sending newsletters.
MAPS is a not-for-profit California organization established to defend the Internet's e-mail system from abuse.
Rule 1: The email addresses of new subscribers must be confirmed or verified before mailings commence. This is known as "double opt-in."
When your volunteer/activist/member gave your organisation their contact details, including their email address, did you ask them whether they wish to receive electronic information? This is a very important question, because sending unsolicited newsletters to members can quickly damage or ruin your relationship with an individual member.
As almost every service or organisation on the Internet now offers to send people weekly or monthly updates on their activities, it is very easy for people to have their email boxes filled with junk emails about services they do not care for. Filtering through 100+ unsolicited newsletters or advertisements in your inbox can be tiring at best and extremely frustrating at worst.
The simplest way to ensure that a member reads your newsletter and maintains a positive image of your organisation is to allow them to choose whether they receive the newsletter or not. Your default assumption should be that the member does not wish to receive your newsletter.
Of course, this does not always apply. If you have an existing membership base and commencing an email newsletter service, then sending an un-requested email is acceptable.
No one is added to the list until he or she has replied to an email message confirming sign-up. This prevents someone from signing up an email address without the owner's knowledge
No one should be sent more than one invitation to subscribe. If the don't respond to the first ask then take them off the mailing list straight away.
Rule 2: Make it easy to unsubscribe. Provide a simple method for subscribers to terminate their subscriptions. In terms of netiquette, there are few more offensive acts, than continuing to receive information from an organisation after the person has requested the service to stop.
Whoever is in charge of managing the distribution lists for your newsletter must know how to remove individual members from the list. This process must be a priority, as your organisation's image will suffer severely if you do not attend to your subscribers wishes.
Rule 3: Give subscribers alternative ways to contact you other than email or a web site. Giving your phone number, fax number, and/or physical address on each mailing is enough.
Rule 4: Keep your mailing list updated. People move around or the organisation no longer wishes to maintain its subscription. Unwanted emails only cause annoyance and waste everyone's time.
Rule 5: Take adequate steps to ensure your mailing list is not used for abusive purposes. Guard your mailing list with your life and limit access to it
Rule 6: Tell subscribers how you intend to use their information. Rule 7: Tell subscribers what the mailings will be about and how frequently you will send them.
Just because sending an email to one person is as easy as sending it to three hundred people do not bombard people with a stream of continuous emails. It is better to send larger emails that contain all of the information for a given period, rather than continual short snippets. Otherwise, you risk filling members email boxes with largely irrelevant emails and damaging your reputation. It is also important to send newsletters on a regular basis, even to the point of sending your newsletter at the same hour, on the same day of each month.
For example if your members know that you send your newsletter at 8am on the first Monday each month, they are more likely to look out for it and read it.
If you ever are accused of sending unwanted emails and you are following these rules, you will be able to prove your case. This is a good reason to keep all records of each subscription request.
Now that you are prepared to begin contacting your members on a consistent basis, your next steps are to think about what you want to communicate and how you want to go about it.
Our Community Pty Ltd www.ourcommunity.com.au ABN 24 094 608 705
National Headquarters: 51 Stanley St, West Melbourne Victoria 3003 Australia
(PO Box 354 North Melbourne 3051 Victoria)
Telephone (03) 9320 6800 Fax (03) 9326 6859 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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