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Example(s) of Tool

  • Sympa: Sympa is the open-source email list tool that has powered ONE/Northwest email list hosting services since late 2002. It's very simple, extremely inexpensive, but offers a relatively limited feature set. It's a great starting point for low-budget groups or people just wanting to dip their toes into email newsletters. It's also good for folks who need to send to very large lists or very frequently at low cost.

    Good candidates for Sympa:

  1. Have no budget for email newsletter services
  2. Need a system that requires minimal setup effort
  3. Don't require advanced functions such as click-through tracking, polls & surveys, and forward-to-a-friend
  4. Have the abililty to compose their own HTML email messages using tools such as Dreamweaver (plain-text messages are also an option)

  • Mailman If you are hosting your website with a commercial shared hosting service, there is a good chance that your hosting package already includes Mailman for free.   Check your website control panel.  This email listserver tool will allow you to post a plain text or graphic message to a large distribution list by sending the message to a specific email address.  DCN's SimpleSite can set up a very easy Mailman form to subscribe/unsubscribe:
    Mailman itself provides a wide array of policy options, which makes the list easy to manage to fit different situations.  Also, when combined with other Plone tools such as the form folders, it's even possible to collect data other than the basic name/email  (e.g. ).  Additionally, exporting the list of subscribers can be done with a two-word command via email.


  • Outlook Outlook and other standard email browsers will certainly work to send a couple dozen emails, even ones with complex formatting and images.  However, this method has some substantial disadvantages.  First, putting lots of email addresses into the BCC field (the standard procedure for emailing to a large anonymous group) may cause your email to be flagged as spam.  Second, you’ll have to manually manage your list. There's a lot of effort involved in adding new subscribers, deleting those who request to be removed, and monitoring emails that are returned. Remember that you are legally responsible for removing those people who request it.  If you send more than a few dozen emails at a time, or send to a list on a periodic basis, you should look beyond these standard email browsers.


  • There are three online tools that allow you send emails to a list for free: Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, and Topica’s free service.  These three tools are very similar to each other:  they allow you to create a list with an unlimited number of people and send plain text emails to that list.  While most typically used for discussion lists – to allow a group of people to email each other – there’s no reason you can’t use them to send text-only emails to a group.  Additionally, there are Online Policy Group: The OPG is a nonprofit organization which offers free lists to “"nonprofit organizations and individuals who are under-represented, underserved, or facing unfair bias, discrimination, or defamation" and Riseup: A “radical tech group” that offers free lists that “must be used for radical social change.”

    People can subscribe or unsubscribe by sending an email to a particular address.  All three show substantial advertisements at the top of the email messages you send, and none allow you to track how many opened an email or clicked on a link.  The emails are sent off the services’ server, so the service will handle some of the issues around deliverability and blacklisting.


  • Electric Embers NPOGroups:  NPOGroups has perhaps more in common with tools like Yahoo Groups than the other services in this section – it provides a similar service without the advertising and a bit more control over the list.  It doesn’t easily support HTML formatting.  It is priced on a sliding scale, starting at $10/month for 2500 subscribers, and $5 per extra 5000.


  • GraphicMail:  GraphicMail offers 5000 emails (in total) free to nonprofits (notable branding for GraphicMail is included in your emails in this free version; the branding can be removed for additional cost). Additional emails are about half a cent per email.  The tool has solid editing and reporting tools, including a HTML editor that allows you to create your own templates.


  • Network for Good powered by Groundspring Email Now:  A good basic service, with solid deliverability and reports.  If you want to send formatted newsletters, you must create them in a different tool and paste the HTML in.  At $29.95/ month for 10,000 emails and $1 or less for every 1000 thereafter, Groundspring is affordably priced for mid-sized llists, and becomes a great deal for bigger ones.  Groundspring is a nonprofit itself and is committed to the nonprofit sector.


  • ConstantContact:   A commonly used tool in both the business and nonprofit worlds, ConstantContact provides solid templates, segmenting, and reporting features.  The pricing scheme is friendly to small lists:  $15/month for under 500 subscribers, $30/month for under 2500, and so on up to $150/month for up to 25,000 subscribers.  However, several people mentioned trouble with spam filters when using ConstantContact.


  • Emma :  Emma is a good solution for those who want to send good looking formatted emails without messing around with HTML.  You can install a custom template (designed by you, a consultant, or by Emma themselves) and then easily change the text and images for each newsletter.  It has solid reporting tools.  It’s $30/month for up to 1000 emails, $45/month for up to 2500, and so on through a number of levels, reaching $600/month for 100,000 emails.


  • CampaignMonitor : Intended for web designers who can build their own HTML emails, CampaignMonitor doesn’t provide any template options, but offers good custom fields and reporting functionality as well as solid deliverability.  At $5 per email campaign, plus $0.01 per email, the service is very affordable for small lists but probably overpriced for large ones.


  • Topica :  In addition to its well known free service, Topica offers a solid paid option.  The tool offers sophisticated website integration, lots of custom fields, and powerful list segmentation tools as well as the standard newsletter template and report functions. It’s $50/month for up to 5000 subscribers (ask about an additional nonprofit discount), but goes up quickly from there: the next level is $250/month for up to 25,000 subscribers.


  • WhatCounts : WhatCounts offers premium email blasting software worth considering if you have a large list and are serious about investing in your email communications: it starts at $600/month for up to 50,000 emails. Emails are sent from an IP address dedicated to your organization, which eliminates the problems of being blacklisted for other people’s emails, and they offers several different APIs to allow you to integrate your email list with other constituent databases.


  • CoolerEmail: For those who love to innovate with their email accounts take a moment to visit CoolerEmail and start creating and making your email account the coolest ever, customizable and capable to handle emails and general data in such an efficient and precise way. Multi-language, integrated contract manager, flexible templates, easy to use even for those not very familiar with email management are just some of the many features available within Established since 1999 they support multiple email accounts and offer a flexible and email account management with certified experience with major companies like Oracle, Sieble, Onyx. According to some published testimonials, they deliver a high quality customer service that will exceed your expectations besides their technological advantages that enable you to develop a powerful email management tool.


  • MailChimp: Pay-as-you-go, no contract; $15/500 credits; $60/2,000 credits; $200/10,000 credits; $500/50,000 credits.  MailChimp offers a pretty good setup if you only send messages out a few times a year. The pricing structure allows you to buy as many credits as you need for the year. The interface is clean but lacks the tools that a "power-user" would require. If you need to segment your lists or do any heavy member management inside the control panel, you're probably better off going with another service or doing it all from outside of MailChimp. On the other hand, MailChimp offers all the basics you need and a good editor. They also offer one-shot add-ons that let you preview how the message will look in various email clients such as AOL, Hotmail, Outlook, etc.


  • ListRocket: Setup fee: $39.00/$99.00; month-to-month, no contracts; $19.50/monthly - 2000 emails per month; $34.50/monthly - 5000 emails per month; $65.00/monthly - 10,000 emails per month. The strongest points are the excellent "webload" function, the preview system and detailed reporting. There is a low to medium learning curve when setting up the account depending on you needs. Overall, ListRocket seems to be a well rounded service with a good number of unique features not found in other services (ex. member bookmarks, live preview, "RocketProxy", etc). The price is about average for most self-serve ESP services.


  • Jango Mail: Setup fee: $500 (usually cut to $100 as a "special"); month-to-month (billed quarterly), no contracts; $50.00/monthly - 2500 emails per month; $100.00/monthly - 5000 emails per month; $200.00/monthly - 12,000 emails per month. There is a medium to high learning curve depending on your level of comfort with all the settings available. Jangomail offers you a lot of control, but sometimes too much control for the average user. For power users and especially programmers, Jangomail has a lot to offer, especially if you want to connect to external databases from within the Jangomail interface. One word on spam scoring: the few test messages we sent came up with high spam scores from SpamAssasin due to them being on the URIBL "grey list", as well as not having valid SPF records. It's a surprise considering that Jangomail offers the user of Domainkeys if you are able to modify your own DNS settings. Visually speaking, when you're used to modern desktop programs and visually appealing websites, Jango's GUI interface looks like a throwback to the old Netscape days - very bland and clunky. The main functions are spread out among tabs at the top, but from there you're presented with a multitude of buttons and links to drill down to eventually find what you're looking for. Time for a new interface!


  • Listbox: Setup fee: none; billed monthly, quarterly, yearly via credit card; $15.00/monthly - 5,000 emails per month; $30.00/monthly - 10,000 emails per month; $45.00/monthly - 15,000 emails per month. Listbox is an effective tool but rather odd in the way security is setup. In essence, Listbox is based off of the workings of a traditional "list-serv". It's important to understand that your account is based on the principal that when you setup your list, you are added to the list, therefore you have login access to it. This works OK but it's different from other services that don't connect list membership to login/administrative rights. Setup as a "list-serv", members of the list  have rights to send to the list if you allow it, along with "moderators" who can manually approve or deny messages. One thing that would be nice is if you didn't have to enter 3 credentials (list address, email address and password) to login to your account. On most sites, it's just username & password. Listbox makes effective use of AJAX and dropdown field selections. An example might be the "Edit" link dropdown in the Subscribers list. These options may be easy to overlook, so it's important to pay attention to hints on the screen to get the most out of ListBox. There is good online help to explain things if you get stuck


  • Bronto: Setup fee: none; annual contract; $150/monthly - 2,500 emails per month; $200/monthly - 5,000 emails per month; $300/monthly - 10,000 emails per month; $400/monthly - 15,000 emails per month.  Bronto is one of the most solid services out there for a self-serve based service. It's got a lot under the hood, and it's got ample online help to answer most of your questions. For the geeks, there's a list of advanced features under Help. Bronto is above average in terms of navigation and ease of use. There are a few things that could be changed to make things a little more intuitive. But these are minor issues once you understand how the system works as far as list creation and where to access the send reporting.  My biggest complaints are that you can't redirect people who opt-in/out to a page on your own website and the fact that they use "web-bugs" for open tracking, which will generally undercount your opens and in some cases may interfere with delivery. The only major obstacle for most self-serve clients will be the price, which is quite a bit higher than most, starting at $150/month to send to 2500 recipients. It's assumed that for corporate clients who don't mind paying a premium, Bronto could be a good choice.


  • MailerMailer: Target emails based on interests, demographics or custom questions. Personalize each email automatically (dramatically increase readership). Automatic subscribe/ unsubscribe.  Templates to create and preview email newsletters, product sales campaigns and more. Automatic formatting and delivery of HTML or text email.  Send preview email to yourself.  Schedule date and time to send your email messages.  Automatic tracking and flagging of invalid email addresses.  Instant  purging of duplicate email addresses. Comfirmed opt-in.  And more!


  • Sparklist: Sparklist provides companies world-wide with affordable hosted email marketing software. Our customers know Sparklist as an email solution that provides a simple interface, advanced functionality, powerful reporting, and extremely reliable technology. Our longstanding commitment to our customers' email marketing needs make us a leading choice for hosted email marketing and delivery solutions. With Sparklist’s total self-service email marketing solutions, you’ll have an  affordable, secure and easy to use tool for delivering mass email marketing communications to your customers, right from your desktop.


  • eZine Director: Website subscription form. Schedule future campaigns. Failed email processing. Auto-reply filter and log. Reuse HTML templates. Sequential auto responder. Collect demographic data. Analyze campaign response. Block and filter warning. Subscription cancellation report.


  • Patron Mail: PatronMail enables you to create professional e-mail campaigns, send them to your targeted lists, and track your results.


  • Intellicontact: Intellicontact is also friendly for small lists, at $9/ month for 500 subscribers and $12/ month for 1000. It has a great HTML email editor – not only can you create emails based on their pre-packaged templates (as is typical), but you can create your own templates. This would allow an HTML savvy staff member or consultant to create sophisticated to be used by their less HTML savvy colleagues.


  • Vertical Response: Vertical Response is mostly differentiated by its pricing scheme – it is priced by the number of emails sent. At $1.50 per hundred emails, it can be quite affordable for small lists.


  • Exact Target: Whether you need easy-to-use email marketing tools or a powerful one-to-one communications platform, ExactTarget delivers.


  • AWeber: Deliver timely email newsletters and offers with our Broadcast tool. Create and send your newsletters now, or schedule them for later. Pick from over 50 pre-made templates, use your own, or create messages with the built-in editor. Segment subscribers, send split tests and track your response. Fast and reliable delivery


  • If you interact with your constituents primarily by email, the tools listed above should work well. But if you are also tracking their actions, donations, or what they look at on your website, you’ll need to think through how you are tracking and integrating all this data. At a minimum, look for email software that allows you to import and export data in useful formats.

    You may want to consider software that can manage all of your constituent data and activities, rather than using a separate eNewsletter tool. There are a number of online integrated tools that handle a broad swath of internet features. Democracy in Action has a particular focus on and strong support for email campaigns; it starts at $100/month for up to 3000 subscribers. eTapestry, GivenGain, MemberClicks, LocalVoice, Convio, and Kintera are integrated tools that might also be of interest.


Information about each tool is offered for general reference. DCN is working on a pilot project with 6 local nonprofits to test tools, and to identify those to add to the DCN Nonprofit Internet Toolkit, after project evaluation Fall of 2008.

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