Mailing list

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In many ways, your mailing list is your most important tool for communicating with your community. Having a list of email contacts can allow you to send targeted and whole group emails and e-newsletters to promote events and to update everyone on your progress.

Collecting contacts. The power of this tool comes down to the number of contacts you collect. Make sure you take every opportunity to record contact details at events, meetings and any other time when you meet interested individuals. Having a way for people to subscribe to your mailing list via your website and social media channels will also help.

Organisation and content. Organising your email communications into regular e-newsletters, sent monthly or quarterly, is likely to be better than sending ad hoc messages (although sending brief reminders just before an event or meeting can work well). Ideas for content could be gathered by referring to minutes from meetings and looking back at recent posts on your website or social media channels.

Style. Making emails concise and to the point is vital – no one is going to read very long emails, and you can always include weblinks to more information if anyone wants to find out more. Really think about what will be interesting for the reader, especially for those who aren’t closely involved with the details of your project. The details of your planning application or financial model may be fascinating for you, but might not hold your readers’ attention to the end of the page.

Online platforms. There are a range of online platforms available for managing contact lists and sending out group emails and e-newsletters. Most of these are free up to a certain scale and can enable you to form sub-groups within your contact lists for sending more targeted messages. Two examples are MailChimp and GroupSpaces, but compare what is available through different sites’ free packages to find one that suits your needs.

Case Studies
Country: UK

The Big Lemon started with sending out news to their mailing list every month, updating people on the development of their community bus service. News items included the grant of the operator’s licence, establishment of the first bus route, purchase of the first bus, recruitment of the first driver... it was all very exciting and people wanted to stay in the loop all the way!  Now that their community bus service is well-established, email news is sent out less frequently, but instead The Big Lemon’s Facebook group ( and Twitter page (@thebiglemon) are updated every few days with the latest news, views and other stories.

Source: Community-Led Transport Initiatives action pack

Country: UK

Southend in Transition use Gmail and the Android app Go SMS to send out monthly updates to their mailing list. When someone is added to the mailing list, both their email address and mobile phone number are stored alongside their name in the group’s Gmail contacts. These Gmail contacts are then synced with the contact list on a smartphone, allowing the Go SMS app to send text messages to the Gmail contacts. As the app is limited to sending 100 SMS per hour, text updates are set up to be sent in batches of 100 using the scheduling function of the app. This allows them to send their updates during a defined time period, usually between 9am and 8pm so as not to be intrusive, and a few days before an upcoming event to provide a useful reminder. This system proved easy and convenient once set up, and it takes them around 15 minutes to write and schedule messages each month. Feedback from those receiving the messages has indicated that the text messages are particularly helpful for people to keep track of the group’s events.