Marketing via e-mail is one of the most powerful and cost effective tools open to non-profit organizations today. And as strange as it may seem to some, using Outlook (R) or even Yahoo (R) or Hotmail (R) for this purpose is doing e-mail poorly. These applications were not designed for marketing and have significant limitations that can actually be a negative to all of your hard efforts. As the U.S. Postal Service says in ads, the mail must get through. Having your e-mail opened is another challenge; first it needs to land in the recipient’s “In box”.

Here are our top reasons why you need to use an e-mail marketing service:

1. You must be CAN-SPAM Compliant. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. Even if your nonprofit is sending from / to a country without regulations, those in the know, know. At the very least it raises a ‘not legit’ or ‘spam’ flag to the receiver.

2. You do want your e-mail delivered. Many ISP’s do not like bulk mailing; some limit your volume for a particular message. Professional e-mail service providers usually have established relationships with the major ISP’s to be certain the mail gets through.

3. You will need stats. Without them, you are clueless as to the success rate of your e-mail campaign. How many were actually delivered; how many were opened; how many clicked through to your site. All valuable tools unless you like flying blind.

4. You need to manage all your data. Regardless of the size of your mailing list, this is time consuming. If you are updating your records manually from bounced e-mails, mistakes happen. E-mail service providers automatically include housekeeping. No question they can do this for less money and more efficiently than your organization. And they are timely. Count on it; it is their revenue model.

5. Everyone needs to read the same message. Some of your recipients will prefer to read incoming e-mail on a Blackberry (R) (this means text). Others on Yahoo Mail(R) with HTML graphics. Formatting is crucial and needs to happen without fore thought. Don’t count on remembering to update your own software. With any e-mail service provider, whether new design features or new technology, this is automatic.

6. Privacy is paramount. E-mail service providers have secure, password protected storage, to save your clients’ personal data. How many people in your office can access your address book? If you are a typical organization, the answer is more than should.

The U.S. has now reached the 95% mark on how much of total e-mail sent is spam. Everyone is burdened, regardless of how good their filters are. As a non profit, you need all the help you can get.

Remember, with e-marketing, the main focus is to have your message read.

(originally posted December 16, 2007)

additional reading: This recent update from Idealware, A Few Good Broadcast Email Tools, where technology experts chime in on what eNewsletter tools work well for them.