e-mail strategies in organizing

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Thu Nov 15 10:47:56 CST 2007

[ed: about a third of the way down is an interesting discussion of 
e-mail strategies that you may find of use.

From: Human Rights Tools <editors at humanrightstools.org>

(Mailing list information, including unsubscription instructions,
is located at the end of this message.)

Dear readers,

If communicating and disseminating information is important to your 
organisation, then you will probably find this newsletter very useful - 
its all about using email for effective outreach.

But before, we start, we have some announcements to share:

Which countries are coming up for review at the Human Rights Council? 
Well, you will find the list here:

If your organisation would like to submit information about these 
countries, hurry up, the tentative deadline is 20 November. Read more here:

If you are interested in human rights impact assessment, Human Rights 
Impact is organizing its second conference, which will be held in the 
Netherlands on 29 and 30 November:

If you are going, please let us know how it went, what you learned, what 
were the most useful tools presented. We could include your report in an 
upcoming newsletter.

Our job board is now probably the best place on the internet to find a 
human rights job: employers love it and we have had some very 
interesting positions announced over the past months:

We strongly advise you to subscribe to the email-alert feature, which 
will send you each vacancy, the instant it is published. You can expect 
one email per week. Even if you are not looking for a job, you may find 
something interesting for a friend!

Our blog page is a very popular part on our site - we now have over 50 
bloggers in the community, so there are new posts every day!

Well, we have some good news: the blogger community now has an animator 
in the person of Heléne Hedberg. She introduces herself:

" I am a Swedish girl in my twenties currently studying a Human Rights 
programme in Stockholm. I have been involved in some UN voluntary work 
besides being part of a lot of church related projects and a mission 
organization called MAF. Besides studying, I am involved in an 
after-school center for mostly immigrant kids in one of the southern 
suburbs of Stockholm (Varberg), which takes a lot of my time. I also run 
a blog under the name of undialogue:

I am happy to take upon the role as an animator for this community 
centre for human rights bloggers and try to develop it and give it that 
real community feeling we've all been longing for. Lets make it into a 
joint effort. Emails containing ideas, thoughts or reminders are more 
than welcome."

Heléne can be contact at: helene at humanrightstools.org


Michael Gilbert wrote the article below in 2001, but we feel that its 
still just as relevant today. In fact, the best would be for you to read 
it now - its short, sharp, and well written:

The point Gilbert makes is simple: non-profit organisations spend to 
much time, money and thought on their websites, and not enough about on 
developing an email strategy. He shows us that email is a much more 
personal medium - most people usually read most of their emails, which 
are seen as calls to action.

Besides, your visitors may never even find your website in the first 
place - unless you send them there! Let them sign up for an email 
newsletter or email alert system, so they can trust you to remind them 
to return when you have something to share. Otherwise they may forget to 
come back... This is even more important if your target audience has 
slow internet access, and only goes online to check their mail.

OK, so thanks to Gilbert, we know we need an email strategy. A good 
place to start is with an email newsletter. Some advice from our own 
1. Don't publish too often, or nobody will read you anymore. Don't feel 
obliged to be regular, just write when you have something you really 
need to say.
2. Put a very visible sign-up box on every single page of your website 
and not only your home page - many of your visitors don't enter through 
the home page.
3. Rack your brains really really hard about how to make your newsletter 
useful to your readers - this will increase its chances of getting 
forwarded onwards to others. Work hard on this, and get the opinion of 
4. Consider using an informal, engaging, lively style - who wants to 
read yet more politically-correct and bland institutional-speak? Give it 
an edge, make it distinctive, find your style.
5. Include links back to specific pages on your website where readers 
can learn more. But also link to other stuff, so as to make it even more 
useful (see point 3). You are not the centre of the world ;-)
6. Ask for feedback, engage your readers. You probably won't get much, 
but the few who respond will always have very something interesting to 
tell you.
7. Run a spell chek before sending, and always prof read.
8. Don't make your newsletters too long - not like ours!

We find that Human Rights Watch make a very effective usage of email 
newsletters to keep people returning to their website: you can subscribe 
to the general newsletter, but also to a multitude of specific ones 
depending on your geographic or thematic interests. This helps you 
filter and access the information you already need as soon as it is 
published - but it also helps them make sure you keep on coming back! So 
why don't you do something similar?

But what technology to use?

Well, whatever you do, don't use your normal email client (Gmail, 
Outlook, etc). We have noted that many human rights organisations still 
send their mass mail using their normal email, in chunks of 100 or so. 
This is really something to avoid, for four reasons:
- people can see the other persons you are writing to, which is not very 
professional or considerate of their privacy
- many of the intended recipients will never receive these bulk mails 
because they are intercepted by spam filters
- there is no built-in unsubscribe information, which is not proper 
netiquette and can make people angry (see below)
- Its not efficient: there is no sign-up from your webpage, previous 
issues are not automatically archived online, there are no RSS feeds, etc.

Instead, we recommend to use a mass mail manager which can be installed 
onto your website. And we have some good news for you: the best ones are 
actually completely free! The great thing with these systems is that 
your readers can sign-up or unsubscribe by themselves from your website, 
so managing your list is completely automatic. Technically, it becomes 
as easy at using webmail.

There are two types of mass mail manager. The first: the newsletter 
managers (one-to-many broadcasting) like Dadamail (free and very good, 
we use it) and PHP List (also free and even betters, HREA uses this). 
The second: the mailing list managers (many-to-many), like Mailman (also 
free and feature-laden):
Dadamail: http://mojo.skazat.com/
PHP List: http://www.phplist.com/

There are of course many other alternatives, and Idealware provide a 
useful overview here:

If you need more help in choosing the ideal mailing list of newsletter 
for you, then watch this NTEN webinar (50 USD), or the accompanying 
slideshow (free):

Some will argue that a blog can also be considered as a good outreach 
method, like a newsletter or mailing list, and of course they are right. 
Blogs also allow you to make much more attractive layouts, and integrate 
photos and videos very easily. But blogs do not allow you to broadcast 
like an email newsletter... unless you install the Feedburner services, 
which allows your faithful readers to sign up and get email alerts 
whenever you publish something. Frankly, we are surprised that so many 
bloggers do not use this free and excellent service.

And what if you don't have any email addresses to start off with? Not 
much point in sending your email newsletter to.... nobody! Well, there 
are two things you can do. Obviously, collect all the emails you can 
from colleagues, partners, and friends. But you also can harvest email 
addresses from the internet: you will be surprised how many people leave 
their emails on forums, in databases, in workshop reports.

The best way is to purchase an email spider, which will suck up email 
addresses from the internet according to key words that you choose, such 
as "human rights uganda". We have used the following software and found 
it really good: Email Spider Easy (75 USD): http://www.email-tool.com/

This brings us to the issue of ethics and netiquette. Frankly there is 
nothing as annoying as being signed up for a mailing list against your 
will, and having no way of being able to unsubscribe. This is spam, even 
if its done for a just cause and not commercial profit.

So always to use an opt-in policy: its perfectly acceptable to send 
potential new readers an invitation to subscribe to your newsletter, 
especially if you have targeted them carefully. But always leave it up 
to them to choose whether they want to sign up or not. Likewise, include 
unsubscribe information and links in all subsequent email newsletters. 
All good newsletter managers, like Dadamail, will handle this 
automatically, yet another reason to use them.

.. and you want to learn more about using email for outreach, visit this 

What do you think? What is your experience with email outreach and 
advocacy? We can publish your comments in a follow-up issue.


We welcome and appreciate your comments and feedback - simply respond to 
this email. Do you know of a resource or event which should be better 
known by the human rights community? Please tell us, we can profile it 
in an upcoming newsletter.

We hope your enjoyed this newsletter and found it useful:
- Please help us by forwarding this email with your friends and colleagues.
- If you have not yet subscribed, do so here: 

What’s next? You'll just have to wait and see! We lots of nice stuff in 
the pipeline for you, and the next issue is coming really soon.

That's all for now! Best regards and good luck in your efforts,

Daniel D'Esposito, editor
editors at humanrightstools

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