Sending bulk emails


This page describes how to send out bulk emails (to CAN members, typically) using CiviCRM. For this we use the 'CiviMail' component of CiviCRM. You can find more detailed information about CiviMail here.

Access to the system

First, you'll need to make sure you're set up with the required privileges to use the system. Get someone with admin rights on the CAN website to give you access to CiviCRM, if you don't have it already. When you have access you should be able to log in to the CAN website and go to the CAN CiviCRM page.

Email addresses

If you want bulk emails to appear as if they are coming from your own email address (or some other one), you will have to make sure that address is registered as one that CiviMail can send from.

To manage these addresses, click the 'Administer' menu in CiviCRM, then choose 'CiviMail' -> 'From Email Addresses'. Some addresses are already set up there, and you can add more.

Groups to send mailings to

You can use CiviMail to send a bulk email to any group set up in the CiviCRM system (as long as that group has been set up as a 'mailing list' group). There is a list of the various groups we have set up in the system here. You can send a bulk email to more than one group at a time. You can also exclude certain groups from receiving your email.

The most commonly used groups for bulk mailings are:

  • CAN Network: all current financial members (except those in local groups that don't use CiviCRM)
  • Friends of CAN: all Friends of CAN (doesn't include Friends of local groups)

There is also a Local Friends group, which contains the send email addresses for the Yahoo! groups used for friends of local advocacy groups. Because of anti-spam measures used by Yahoo! groups, you can't send a bulk email to this group using CiviMail. You can however send a normal email to it, e.g. by choosing Search -> Find Contacts to find all contacts in the 'Local Friends' group, then select them all and choose 'Send email to contacts'. (This is how we send e.CAN out to local friends groups.)

Sending a mailing

From the Mailings menu, choose New Mailing. There are five steps to creating a new mailing, with a separate screen for each step. You can go back to previous steps at any time if you want to change something.

Select recipients

First, give your new mailing a name.

Then select which groups you want to send it to, from the Include Groups box, and click the Add button to add them to the recipients box at right. (You can also remove groups from that box if you change your mind about them.) Similarly, it's possible to choose groups you want to exclude from your mailing. You can also include or exclude all receipients of a previous mailing.

Track and respond

Choose whether or not you want to use CiviMail's 'track and respond' features. What these do is allow you track whether people have opened the email they receive from you, and/or clicked any links in the email.

While this can give useful information, it works by forging the links in the email, which increases the likelihood of your email being picked up by spam filters and relegated to the trash. In general it is safest to turn these features off, by un-ticking both the 'Track click-throughs' and 'Track opens' check boxes on this page.

Mailing content

 First choose the appropriate From email address, from the drop-down list. You can use a pre-defined template for your email if there is a suitable one already prepared. Specify the subject line of the email.

For the content of the message, you can either type it directly in ("Compose on-screen"), or upload from a file.

In either case, you can specify both HTML and plain text versions of your message. Most people use HTML email nowadays, though a few still prefer plain text. If you just put in HTML, someone using a plain text email client may not be able to read it, though in many cases their email client will probably try and convert the HTML to reasonable-looking plain text. If you want to be sure it comes out looking good as plain text, specify the plain text version yourself in the "Plain Text Format" section on this page.

You can specify a header and/or footer for your message, if suitable ones have been defined. Otherwise, you can just put that content in the body of the message.

Three things you need to include in every mailing are an opt-out link (so people can click to opt out of further mailings) and CAN's physical address and email. CiviMail won't let you send the mailing without them, and they are required under NZ law anyway. There are 'tokens' set up in CiviMail to put these in your message:

  • opt-out link: type in "{action.optOutUrl}" (including the curly braces- but not the quotes) at the appropriate point where you want the link in your mailing- usually somewhere near the bottom. When you send the mailing this token will be replaced by a functioning opt-out link. Usually you'll want to prefix it with a line like "Don't want any more emails from CAN? Click here:".
  • address: the token to use for this is "{domain.address}"
  • email: the token to use for this is "{}"

Test your mailing

There are two ways to test your mailing. It's a good idea to use both, before you send it to lots of people.

First, you can send a test message to a specifed email address (or group). Typically you send it to yourself, then open the message you get and check it looks OK.

Second, there is a preview of your message on this page you can also use to check it.

Schedule or send

Finally, send the mailing. You can either send it immediately (which is usually what you want) or schedule it to be sent at a later date or time. Click the Submit Mailing button to finish.

Monitoring your mailing

Once you've submitted the mailing, you can monitor it to make sure it's been sent correctly, and get information about e.g. addresses that have bounced.

From the Mailings menu, choose Scheduled and Sent Mailings. This brings up a table of all past mailings, including ones in the process of being sent. Click on the Report link next to your mailing to get a report on its progress.

Don't panic if you choose to send your mailing immediately, but it shows up as 'scheduled'. It usually takes a few minutes to be processed by the system before it's sent out. Delivery to large groups can itself take some time, too.

It's a good idea to check out the bounce report for your mailing. If there are lots of bounces (particularly from paid-up CAN members) then let the membership secretary know so they can check them out and follow up with members if necessary.