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.)
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:
ANNOUNCEMENTS: UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
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
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
Heléne can be contact at: helene at humanrightstools.org
MAIN FEATURE: THE POWER OF EMAIL
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
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):
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
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
More information about the Colist