So, I thought this would be easy. I’m looking for a church email list management solution that I thought would be pretty simple. But apparently the features I want aren’t that easy to find. Here’s what I’m looking for:
- The ability to send emails to different segments of a master list (youth, prayer requests, announcements, etc.)
- An opt-in form online for subscribers with the ability to have users choose from multiple subscription lists and manage their preferences in one place
- Here’s where I’m having trouble:
- The ability to send a message to a list segment (i.e. youth only) from my email. I don’t want to have to log in and do a huge HTML email template thing. So, I want to send an email to something like HopeLutheranRandomYouthEmailString@email.com and it automatically initiates an email to everyone in the youth segment of my list.
- The ability to add people who are allowed to do the above. I want the secretary, the lady who manages our prayer chain, and the youth intern to be able to send out emails to their lists as well.
With all the advanced email marketing solutions out there, I figured this would be no problem. In fact, I don’t really even need a fancy HTML newsletter. I just want to get information out to the appropriate groups. I’ve researched the following options and they don’t work for whatever reason:
- LISTServ – This is really the solution I am probably looking for, but it’s kinda complex and expensive. I’m still unsure if it has the ease of use for subscribers to manage their preferences, too.
- MailChimp – Everyone I talk to who has used MailChimp loves it, but it won’t do what I want. I love their subscription forms and user management. It would be easy for anyone to subscribe to and manage different email lists. The problem is that there is no way to send from email directly to a list without logging into the MailChimp website.
- ListBox – This almost had what I wanted, but there was no way for users to add themselves to multiple lists at one time. Each separate list needed a new form to be filled out.
- JangoMail – I think this might do what I want, but it’s a bit pricey compared to the others.
I feel like I’m looking in all the wrong places. Surely there’s a way to do what I want to do for a reasonable price. For the amount of functionality a service like MailChimp offers at a great price, I really don’t want to pay through the nose for the simple features I’m looking for.
Does anyone have any suggestions?
Andy Sahl says
I use constant contact. They give us a good deal as a church/non-profit. It does everything you ask except being able to send an email straight from email. This would be a nice feature, but I don’t mind going through their website to send emails.
One big advantage of Constant contact is that they have a pretty good success rate of not getting labeled a spammer. I assume some of the other services also do this, but a home grown solution may not do this for you.
If I was going to be the only one using it logging in wouldn’t be a problem. But I want to allow people who aren’t so tech savvy to be able to easily use the list.
Thanks for the thoughts.
Andy Sahl says
I set up an email in constant contact and then just copy the format week after week. It’s pretty simple, but I guess the term “tech savvy” is relative. Our church began using my constant contact account, so I added features and started billing a line item not in the youth budget (both agreed to by church administrator) FTW!!
I’m no Disciple of constant contact, it just works, nothing special though.
adam mclane says
First off… that’s a pretty lame reason not to like Mailchimp. I guess that’s the joys of doing marketing in a legal way… you can’t do it instantly. (Yes, churches have to obey CAN-SPAM laws too.)
OK, a suggestion. We use Google groups. Kind of like a listserv with benefits. 🙂
Haha, I was just waiting for you to say something about the amazingness of MailChimp.
With a double opt-in feature and unsubscribe links in the footer of every email, I don’t know why we’d be breaking any spam laws (which I admittedly haven’t studied).
By the way, thanks for taking the time for reading my lil’ old blog in the midst of crazy season for you.
Earl Janssen says
Being part of the ELCA gives you a great price break on Constant Contact.
Lars Rood says
Constant Contact is the best site. I don’t use it right now because my church is in the dark ages but I have used it and found it’s the best.
gavin richardson says
i was going to say Google groups can do the whole distribution of information with a simple email address. has some more capabilities to add to that, it can be a pretty cool web tool.
i have our youth in a web datebase on http://www.youthtracker.net (300 a year) and i can pick out what leaders can log in to email or txt to what members/groups/event lists that i want. its pretty elaborate that way, but its not html so you wouldn’t feel compelled to make it all pretty.
i use http://myemma.com for our newsletter emails, but use the youthtracker for smaller distributions or singular announcements.
Hi Matt, Amanda from MailChimp here.
We actually do allow users the ability to email content directly to MailChimp. Here’s some additional info from our blog: http://eepurl.com/xel
Unfortunately though, we can’t allow you to send an email straight to your list due to security concerns. Basically, it’s dangerous if someone gets hold of your list’s unique address. We know you could probably do a good job keeping it all private, but we’ve got 170k users. We just can’t allow this type of vulnerability on such a large scale.
However, it is possible to do what you want using MailChimp with a few modifications.
Many blogs have an email-to-post option. You could email posts to your blog this way, then use our rss-to-email tool to send out to the appropriate list. The updates would go out on the following day of course, but so long as the updates are not super urgent, it’s a nice free way to get it done. Not only that, but really powerful, because you can then use your mobile device to upload lots of frequent updates with photos, etc. (more about RSS-to-email here: http://eepurl.com/dUAb)
Of course, you might not like all these posts going to your church’s *official* blog. So one solution is to setup another more private blog where the updates go. Tumblr and Posterous are both free, hosted blog platforms that support email-to-blog posting.
Thanks for the reply Amanda. I’ve thought about the RSS-to-email function and may end up going that route.
Steven Aves says
What’s the problem for other people to “log in?” If it’s a function of where to go and the login information then get Roboform (I can’t work without it) at roboform.com. It’s free for less than 10 web site logins.
BTW, I neglected to thank you for your postings about BlueHost and WordPress. I used your tutorials and signed up for BlueHost for my business. I did use the link to Bluehost from this site so I hope you got credit.
It’s mainly because most of the HTML newsletters aren’t as straightforward as they claim to be. I know that a few people who would need access to this function would be frustrated by it. I think I’ve found a solution and will likely write about it next week.
I’m glad my wordpress series was helpful. Thanks for going through my site to sign up.
Steven Aves says
Ah, I was afraid of that. I’ve been looking at some of those Email newsletter services too. The “easy to create your own” pitches are becoming as much of a joke as “easy to follow” instructions for putting together your child’s new toy. You know, the ones written in Korean, translated into Portuguese, then into English .
Were you able to find something that worked with all of the criteria that you wanted? You listed everything that I would like to see in an email service.
I wish. I’m not aware of anything. It has been a while since I’ve looked though, so maybe something has come up.