IT Helpdesk: Email Newsletters

If you plan to send out bulk emails, don't use your regular system, says Anne Stafford

Q: We've got a huge database of supporters to whom we send regular newsletters. Many of them would prefer to receive an email, but we don't know how to manage that. What should we do?

A: What's the wrong way? Send 1,000 emails using Outlook with a huge Word document attached. That'll clog up a lot of mailboxes.

What's a slightly better way? Send emails using Outlook but upload a PDF version of your newsletter to your website and provide a link to it from your email.

What's the ideal way? Use an online tool to deliver an HTML email designed to use your organisation's branding. In that email, you can put links to individual news items and the donations page on your website.

Managing email addresses is time-consuming, especially given that one in five people change their address each year. So let supporters subscribe and unsubscribe themselves. Put a simple online form on your website requesting new subscribers' names and email addresses and, at the bottom of emails, put a link that allows people to remove themselves.

Recipients should opt in to receive email newsletters, so you might have to ask supporters for permission first.

There are online applications that provide tools to manage your subscribers and code to insert forms on your website: MailChimp (free for up to 500 subscribers, plus charity discount) and Vertical Response (free to charities for up to 10,000 emails a month).

Anne Stafford is programme manager at iT4Communities. Send questions to questions@it4communities.org.uk

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