Emails to volunteers from nonprofit getting flagged as spam.
March 5, 2014 4:03 PM   Subscribe

I help manage a small nonprofit that regularly sends out batches of emails notifying people of upcoming opportunities. Either we're experiencing an upward trend in flakes, or some of our messages are being flagged as spam, or banished to a gmail tab. Looking for pragmatic solutions for increasing our (suspected) delivery rate.

Our current workflow:
- Volunteer visits our page, fills out an availability survey.
- Orientation coordinator (orientations@our) sends out notice of orientations to appropriate batch of people. Email is composed in gmail, but sent via our domain SMTP, as bccs.
- Volunteer attends orientation, and is then contacted by a scheduler (scheduling@our)

I know that gmail filtering is a black box, but am wondering about a few things, and am open to all variety of feedback.

- If someone adds orientations@our to their address book, I expect that will increase odds of other address@our emails getting through, worthwhile assumption?
- If we simply post a mailto: link on the confirmation page, and ask people to rattle off a quick "hey" email, will having our domain in their sent email help?

I'm open to all sorts of suggestions. I've never seen a situation where 2 people can effectively share a single address, but that would obviously be a step in the right direction. TIA!
posted by Jack Karaoke to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Are the orientation emails being flagged as spam, the scheduling emails, or both?

It might be easiest to use an email service provider like Mailchimp*, Emma, or Campaign Monitor, especially if you're sending "batches" of email on a regular basis. So the orientation coordinator would use that, and then the scheduler would send individual scheduling emails as normal. (Assuming that the scheduling emails are sent individually.) It's so much less stressful to let someone else handle the deliverability issues, legal requirements, etc. Plus most services have some nice-looking templates that are compatible with mobile devices.

* Mailchimp has a free level, and depending on how many emails, that might be good enough.
posted by epersonae at 4:24 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're sending bulk emails, you need to use something other than straight Gmail.

One option is email marketing software like MailChimp. We use it at my small company and it's really easy and user-friendly, and the emails look good even using their drag-and-drop templates. I think it's free for less than 2000 recipients. I've never set up MailChimp from scratch but I imagine it's very easy. Among other things, MailChimp's servers are "whitelisted" by domains. Basically they are known to be non-spammy, and to suspend users who are spammy, so they have a high delivery rate.

Another option would to use a listserv like Google Groups.
posted by radioamy at 4:55 PM on March 5, 2014

There's been a noticeable drop in responses to the initial orientation email. When contacted via text, people report that they didn't receive an email - though the person in charge of orientations@ hasn't dug deep on this and verified that messages were flagged.

We use Mailchimp for some other mailings, but recipients for this one are selected by looking over the results from the availability survey. If Mailchimp had more sophisticated segmentation tools, that would work, but as-is, I don't think it suits our current workflow. I'll take another look at it though.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 4:55 PM on March 5, 2014

The problem is that you're sending from Gmail. When you send emails to more than a few people via a service that is intended only for personal use (like Gmail), the emails will be flagged as spam by many mail servers.

The best solution would be to put together a spreadsheet of volunteers that you can import into MailChimp for these emails.
posted by anotheraccount at 5:05 PM on March 5, 2014

So, you're saying they get a survey, then based on their answer a selection from the survey-takers receive the orientation email?

You can do this with a subscriber list. Of the "group of people from Survey 1" or whatever.

Here is how to create a list on Mailchimp. And how to import a list.

So your steps should look something like:

- Send initial survey
- Gather list of people available from survey
- Add list of people from survey into excel (or CSV or TXT file.)
- Create a list in Mailchimp of those surveyers you selected and upload your subscribers list (excel, csv, or text)
- Send a blast to that specific list with the orientation email

I have not used Mailchimp, but I have used other services. There may be other ways to do this, and you can always call customer support and ask them the best way as well.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:21 PM on March 5, 2014

> The problem is that you're sending from Gmail.

I was under the impression that by using our domain SMTP server credentials, we avoid this risk? Would it really be better to send straight from the squirrelmail interface?

> You can do this with a subscriber list.

I've managed segmented Mailchimp lists before, but the last time I checked they weren't sophisticated enough for what we need. But I will take another look at it, and also call to see if they'd offer tech assistance.

> Create a list in Mailchimp of those surveyers you selected and upload your subscribers list

But they'd have to opt-in right? For an email campaign that will likely send a single email..

Thanks all. I might seem to be shooting stuff down, but I am thinking on each answer.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 6:33 PM on March 5, 2014

From what I'm reading, Mailchimp basically says that if they are aware they will receive emails then it's fine. You just also need to include an unsubscribe link which is automatically in all emails. That page is basically saying that they need some sort of proof of an opt-in to receive emails from you.

Can you create a checkbox in your survey that allows you to send them an email?

"By checking this box I opt-in and authorize [company] to add me to their email list for my orientation instructions. I am aware that I can unsubscribe at any time to future emails."
... or something

Again, just call or email Mailchimp and they can probably solve a lot of this faster than internet strangers since you know everything that you need to have your list do.

Or.. just tell people to check their spam as part of the process?
posted by Crystalinne at 9:10 PM on March 5, 2014

It's not just the sending from Gmail, it's that you're sending as blind-carbon-copy. That means your recipient isn't in the typical "to:" headers. And that's often a sign of spam.

I'm not sure that going to Mailchimp will solve your problem, however.

I would probably do a mailmerge to send them out. Each message goes out to a unique user and looks like a stand-alone message and not like a blast. Outlook will do it (though it's complicated) and there may be other solutions.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:25 AM on March 6, 2014

Just happened to come back to this thread. It might be a PITA, but you can upload ad-hoc groups to MailChimp and send to that segment only.
posted by radioamy at 11:26 AM on March 17, 2014

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