What is your non-profits email policy?

Now that this historic election is over with, let’s get back to some non-profit basics.  This weeks rockstar question is “What is your non-profits email policy?”. And I’m not talking about internal (although feel free to share) I am talking about external.  In your org what constitutes a “mass email“? Mailing over 500 people? When do you add the unsubscribe line to your emails? How long before doing a eBlast to 200,000 people do you have to put in a request? Who do you use to send your emails? Mansell, Acxiom, Lyrus or just a gmail account?

Let me know and I will give out some prizes for the first couple of people to answer. I’m anxious to hear what people are doing in the non-profit space.


  1. email….we do it all in house and use constant contact for external html. They support a lot of non-profits so we get a good deal. Everything we send has unsubscribe option. Most email blasts we do are >10000, so usually it takes about 1 week to get a clean list from IT. hope this helps!

  2. We are a k12 public school district in TX. We run our e-mail newsletter through Constant Contact which provides the “safe unsubscribe” option for all e-mails. I think that is is important to have that option for users especially in our case when students graduate and families no longer wish to receive our information.

  3. We also use Constant Contact, which I’m really not fond of as much anymore. For us, a “mass email” could be anywhere from 10-800 people, but we needed something other than Outlook. We also use several yahoo groups and their email functions, which has the unsubscribe feature at the bottom. When time allows, I plan to check out myemma.com to see if that will make managing our small, but numerous lists more easily than what CC does.

  4. Like biznic, our “mass emails” vary from 60 to >6K. We don’t have a policy, per se. Our program/method depends on what we’re sending. We use Constant Contact as well as mail merge through Outlook. We have an unsubscribe option on everything, but an insanely small amount of people unsubscribed last fiscal year, which is a true testament (I think) to our rockin’ marketing gal.

  5. We send hundreds of thousands of emails a week for several business units. The policies we have adopted are crucial to our survival. We are challenged by an old organization of several affiliates who have always kept their own data bases. That was fine in the days of direct mail, but with email, an undisciplined house file policy could make sure you are black listed everywhere, never to deliver a message to an inbox again.

    Keeping our mail ‘white listed’ is one of our highest priorities, so when shopping for an ESP (email service provider) we required that their ISP relations were managed at the VP or higher level. Having executive level responsibility on deliverability is the difference between delivering 500 a day or 500,000.

    We are extremely conservative with list maintenance. We require double opt in for appends and registrants alike. That means, when you sign up you check a box explicitly stating that you wish to receive, then we send a confirmation email to the address registered, requiring you to confirm your intention by clicking a link.

    Those are some of the bigger issues from my POV, I hope some of my colleagues will come on and tell you about some processes and lead times. Hope this helps.


  6. Hi David!

    We don’t think about email as MASS or not. We think about it as targeted. Sometimes that means we’re emailing 37 people about something, sometimes, 12,000.

    Whatever the size of the mailing (and we mail directly from our database), we ALWAYS include unsubscribe information, as well as links to our privacy policy.

    Another thing we feel strongly about is that the emails need to come from real people. We rarely send emails from addresses like “info@.” That way, if someone has a question or comment, the reply goes to a real human.

  7. From these comments, it’s looking like a Constant Contact world out there, and that’s what we use, too. Our various lists range in size from 10 to about 800. As other commenters have indicated, the unsubscribe option is always included.

    I’d be interested to hear about the other email clients you’ve mentioned. Constant Contact has some limitations, such as only allowing people to join your list from a signup box at a single URL…and we have multiple sites.

  8. As an office we just started using Constant Contact a few months ago. It is pretty easy to use, I like it. Next, we have to get any email sent to groups approved by our Director before we can send them out, she likes to read everything before we send and receive a copy. Finally, we add a subscribe/unsubscribe button to all emails sent to large groups at the end.

    Personally, I use the old reliable outlook group to send to my smaller groups of volunteers or agencies. I always add a line that if you wish to not receive these emails let me know and I will remove their name.

    Hope this helps.

  9. Like Holly, we don’t think of email in “mass or not,” but in targeted niches. It’s been an internal challenge to get people to start thinking quality of response vs quantity in blasting, but folks are starting to see the benefits. Our broadcasts vary dramatically. So some of our event emailings could have 30k.

    Re: timing, in the past it’s been a week to 10 days lead time for production. This has lengthened further because the demand is increasing for more emails. We’re moving towards formalizing promotion plans for all of the depts and fundraising platforms. That way we’ll know the entire year’s activities. It’s not easy changing an organization’s culture, but it’s helping us see more cross-platform possibilities.

    Re: list management, we always include an unsubscribe link on every email. List hygiene is important to our marketing/fundraising success.

    And unlike others’ comments so far, we use Convio. It serves as our fundraising, CMS and eCRM tool. Mixed blessing re: costs, but it’s a fully integrated tool, which is important to us.

  10. We here at the American Cancer Society High Plains use at least three different tools. Convio, Axicom and Mansell. All emails include the unsubscribe link as well as our physical address so you can snail mail us if you need to be taken off the list.

    I run a lot of campaigns through Mansell and we try and get a two week lead time on all those emails to pull the correct list and design artwork.

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