Getting “Personalized” E-mails/Newsletter to Many People on a Regular Basis

One of the important roles in ministry is getting the story of ministry to our various constituents. Whether it is a newsletter to donors, a prayer alert to prayer partners, a event update to students, or follow-up report to the university, we often required to communicate with large numbers of people quickly and yet in a personal, warm way. In the past, we wrote personalized letters in a month long process, or had a week-long phone bank or something like that. In recent years, it many of us have been blind copying people on e-mails. This is a great way to communicate quickly and to many, but, with spam filters, other mass e-mail, we have no way of knowing if the people we are trying to communicate with (and who have asked to be communicated with) are actually getting the messages we send.

That is where e-mail solutions like iContact or ConstantContact become very handy. As iContact puts it:

“iContact [and also ConstantContact] allows businesses, non-profit organizations, and associations to easily create, send, and track email newsletters, surveys, and autoresponders. We believe that email marketing should be really easy and have built and designed iContact from the ground up to give you all the features you need while still making it easy enough for anyone to create permission-based email marketing campaigns with high deliverability.

Outside of the pricing scheme, ConstantContact, a regular advertiser on commercial radio offers a very similar service. In terms of pricing, iContact offers their service for $9.95 ($107.46 annually) if you are working with contact lists of 250 or less, $14 ($151.20 annually) for 500 or less, etc. In addition, they offer a 20% discount for people work for non-profit organizations. Constant Contact is a little bit more pricey and has most of the same features but has a much larger user base including many of the Baptist Student Ministries, Campus Crusade members and many other ministries.

Why would I use this and pay instead of sending out lots of e-mails using my free gmail, yahoo, or hotmail account?

One thing that spam filters look for, especially the ones like gmail, yahoo mail and hotmail use, are many email to many of their subscribers from one e-mail address. They will automatically block e-mails when they see such occurrences. Constant Contact and iContact work with the major e-mail and anti-spam filter programs to keep the messages they send off of spam lists, promising to these e-mail providers that they will do everything in their power to make sure all the e-mail they send are asked for and are not spam. This is why close to 98% of the messages get through.

Another nice feature of services such as these is that they are able to track the “open,” “click” and “forwarding” behavior of people who receive the e-mails sent by them. This allows you to find out what percentage of people actually opened your messages or clicked to your links. This gives you a sense of how successful or attractive your messages and campaigns are and also to whom you have to send additional information, perhaps through other means. This tracking is on the conservative side because it assumes that the people read your e-mails in its html form seeing all the pictures. (It uses the download of the pictures from the server to do the tracking)

In addition, people can add themselves to your e-mail lists. This is very useful so people who really believe in what you do, can forward your messages to others and if they like what they see, they can automatically join your e-mail list. People can also automatically remove themselves from your list. This helps to keep your messages from becoming a nuisance to those who aren’t interested.

In addition, you can segment your contacts. In other words you can send one set of e-mail to perhaps your prayer partners, and another set to perhaps potential donors and other to donors and a fourth to volunteers and students. You can have many different lists and sublists. You can populate this using any of your existing databases (Outlook, excel, text, etc.). Both also teach you the basics of using their powerful tools to get the story out in the best possible way.

I am a regular user of iContact and find a very useful in getting the story out to my prayer partners and donors. I send a weekly prayer update and a monthly newsletter. I can now get a prayer letter out in about 10-20 minutes to my 120 prayer partners. A newsletter to the 300+ subscribers takes a little longer. With the attractive templates, these emails even looks nice. But the nice thing is I can see that at least 35% of the people regularly open the messages I send and are likely praying for our minstry. That is a huge encouragement as we go and do our ministry. I really believe that it is this regular communication that has been the basis of a relatively stable support and prayer base, even in these difficult financial times.


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